JAN. 6 2023 (The Bulletin) — Turkmen Pres. Serdar Berdymukhamedov travelled to Beijing for the first time since he took over last year from his father as Turkmenistan’s leader.
China bankrolls Turkmenistan, buying up most of its gas, and the visit was an opportunity for Mr Berdymukhamedov to effectively pay homage to Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
The two men inspected a large honour guard of Chinese soldiers, took a 21-gun salute and signed various documents in the Chinese government’s Great Hall. China’s foreign ministry said the meeting promoted China-Turkmenistan relations to a “comprehensive strategic partnership”.
“Natural gas cooperation is the cornerstone of China-Turkmenistan relations, and greater cooperation in this area serves the strategic and long-term interests of both countries,” it said.
With Europe thirsty to replace Russian gas with more supplies from Central Asia, Turkmenistan has been discussing the option of sending gas across the Caspian to link up with Azerbaijan’s pipeline system running west, but China will remain its main client.
As well as boosting China-Turkmenistan gas relations, Turkmen state media reported that the leaders had also agreed to increase Chinese cultural influence in Turkmenistan through TV, radio and language learning.
China has shifted its focus slightly over the past few years, following up its business and logistics drive by increasing its focus on cultural issues.
— This story was published in issue 532 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on Jan. 16 2023
— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2023