10/31/2008, 00.00
CHINA - CENTRAL ASIA - RUSSIA
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China wants to be stabilizing force for central Asia

Prime Minister Wen, in Astana for the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, proposes more cooperation and the creation of an extensive infrastructure network, including for energy. On the strength of its currency reserves, it wants to expand its connections with neighboring states, and take advantage of their resources.

Astana (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Prime Minister Wen Jiabao says that China's financial market will remain stable, and will be able to help Russia and the countries of central Asia to overcome the global crisis. Meanwhile, he is proposing increasingly close relations and the creation of an extensive infrastructure and energy trade network.

Wen has been in Astana since Octobr 29, to participate in the 7th meeting of the prime ministers of countries belonging to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO, founded in 2001 for the purpose of internal security policy, but with an increasing role as a forum on global collaboration). The Chinese prime minister insists that "it is necessary to exercise greater interaction between our financial and business communities. SCO members must work . . . to enhance the coordination of monetary policies and improve financial controls."

In fact, Beijing is proposing itself as the central point of reference for this "coordination" of the response to the global financial crisis, and is proposing more investment to create an interconnected system of infrastructure, transportation, and energy. With the largest reserves of liquid currency in the world, China wants to guarantee its access to the major energy sources in Central Asia and the Caspian Sea, but also to foster a market in which there is no single dominant reserve currency, but a variety of currencies of reference. It is prepared to finance economic projects for SCO members, above all to guarantee food safety.

Representatives of Pakistan, Mongolia, India, and Iran are also in Astana as "observers," and as possible future members. Yesterday, Wen met with Mongolian prime minister Sanj Bayar. Sandwiched between Russia and China, Mongolia has in the past sought closer relations with the United States, calling it "our third frontier." But now Beijing is insisting on closer relations and more infrastructure, with priority given to searching for and extracting Mongolia's rich mineral resources.

Wen also spoke with Parviz Davoodi, first vice president of Iran, a country boycotted by the West because of its nuclear program. He also spoke with him about closer cooperation, in order to ensure stability in the region.

In the meantime, today China and Kazakhstan issued a joint statement in which they praise the expansion of cooperation, and confirm their desire to increase this during the current period of global crisis, partly in order to create stability and development in the region and in the world. Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are rich in natural gas and oil.

Moscow agrees that the West should be kept out of the region, but is vying with Beijing for the leading role, although in this phase it is compromised because the financial crisis has affected its companies as well. Yesterday, Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin, speaking from Astana about the financial crisis,  blasted the "economic egoism" of those who caused it, without naming the United States.

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