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Eurasianet is an independent news organization that covers news from and about the South Caucasus and Central Asia, providing on-the-ground reporting and critical perspectives on…

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Russia's Trade Rivalry With China in Central Asia is Heating Up

  • China has surpassed Russia as the top trade partner for all five Central Asian states.
  • Russia's trade turnover with Uzbekistan, a key regional market, lags behind China's by a significant margin.
  • Russian officials' reluctance to acknowledge the trade reality with China is evident in their unsubstantiated claims of equal trade shares.

It seems that the Kremlin is having a hard time accepting that Russia is playing second fiddle to China when it comes to trade in Central Asia.

The reluctance of Russian officials to acknowledge trade reality was on display at a late April trade fair, held in the Uzbek capital Tashkent. In a speech at the exhibition, Igor Kamynin, Russia’s deputy trade representative, claimed, at least in the case of Uzbekistan, that Russia and China were "equal partners with an equal share in trade turnover" in the eyes of Uzbek leaders, according to a TASS news agency report.

Kamynin’s reasoning literally rests on wishful thinking. To put Russia and China on the same trade level, he cited aspirational trade targets for 2030, in which Uzbekistan hopes to increase annual trade turnover with both Moscow and Beijing to $20 billion each.

Official Uzbek trade figures for 2023 take a pin to Kamynin’s bubble world, showing a wide trade-turnover gap between Russia and China at present. Uzbek-Russian trade turnover last year amounted to $9.8 billion, almost 30 percent lower than the Uzbek-Chinese total of $13.7 billion.

China is holding its lead so far this year, according to Uzbek official sources. Bilateral trade turnover with China during the first quarter of 2024 amounted to $3.01 billion, while Russia trailed at $2.5 billion. If the existing pattern holds for the rest of the year, the value of Uzbek bilateral trade with Russia will remain flat while China’s total will experience a decline.

Uzbekistan is not an anomaly in the Russian-Chinese regional trade rivalry. Official statistics for 2023 show China surpassed Russia in trade turnover with all five regional Asian states.

By Eurasianet.org

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Leave a comment
  • Mamdouh Salameh on May 04 2024 said:
    Central Asia has a great trade and economic potential capable of accommodating two friendly giants China and Russia.

    Whatever their rivalry is, it strengthens further their strategic alliance which is already shaping the world and brining a New World Order and a Global financial system away from the dollar.

    Therefore, it is a win-win situation.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Global Energy Expert

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