Chinese President Xi Jinping has called on members of the Eurasian Economic Union to strengthen their ties with Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), as China seeks to expand its influence in the traditionally Russia-influenced region.
Speaking as an invited guest at the opening ceremony of the second Eurasian Economic Forum in Moscow via video link on Wednesday, Xi also reiterated that the path towards a multipolar world was “irresistible”, Xinhua reported.
“The ultimate goal of [the belt and road programme] is to explore new ways for countries from near and far to achieve common development and to open up a ‘path of happiness’ that benefits the whole world,” Xi was quoted as saying.
“It is China’s sincere hope that the synergy between the Belt and Road Initiative and the Eurasian Economic Union will be deepened, and all countries will work together with unity and dedication to open up new prospects for Asia-Europe cooperation,” he said.
The Eurasian Economic Forum is organised by the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), a five-member bloc launched in 2014 which also includes post-Soviet states Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
All five members of the EAEU are signatories to the Belt and Road Initiative, China’s global infrastructure and economic development push which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.
The theme of this year’s Eurasian Economic Forum was “Eurasian integration in a multipolar world”, which Xi addressed by renewing his calls for all countries to work together towards “common prosperity” and the “shared future of humanity”.
“The historical trend toward multipolarity and economic globalisation is irresistible,” he said. “It is the broad consensus of the international community to uphold genuine multilateralism and promote coordinated development across regions.”
The remarks came as Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin visited Beijing for scheduled talks with Xi and other Chinese officials, including for a raft of new agreements on trade and agriculture.
Mishustin said he expected their bilateral trade to reach US$200 billion in 2023, while hailing China-Russia relations as being at an “unprecedented high” while the two countries confront growing tensions with the West and crippling sanctions on Russia over its war with Ukraine.
In the meantime, China has also made increasing political and economic inroads in countries that have historically been under Russia’s sphere of influence.
Last week, Xi hosted the leaders of EAEU members Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, alongside other post-Soviet states Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan for the inaugural China-Central Asia Summit.
Over the two-day summit Xi pledged 26 billion yuan (US$3.7 billion) in financial support for the development of Central Asian nations, while calling for increased energy and security ties with the region.
China is set to host the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation this year. (SCMP)