September 15, 2022, 06.55 PM

For Xi -- on his first trip abroad since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic -- it is an opportunity to shore up his credentials as a global statesman ahead of a pivotal congress of the ruling Communist Party in October.

The summit is also a chance for both leaders to thumb their noses at the West, especially the United States, which has led the charge in imposing sanctions on Russia over Ukraine and angered Beijing with recent shows of support for Taiwan.

Entry to Samarkand, a city of grand tiled mosques that was one of the hubs of Silk Road trade routes between China and Europe, has been restricted for days, with its airport shut to commercial flights.

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Security was tight across the city, with a huge police presence on the streets and armored vehicles parked downtown.

Residents told AFP of their joy at hosting the meeting, pointing to Samarkand’s long history as an international crossroads.

“We are proud that so many leaders of various countries are gathering in our city. Samarkand from ancient times was a legendary city,” said 26-year-old Shakhboz Kombarov.

The SCO -- made up of China, India, Pakistan, Russia and the ex-Soviet Central Asian nations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan -- was set up in 2001 as a political, economic and security organization to rival Western institutions.

Much of the focus, however, will be on bilateral talks.

‘No-limits’ friendship

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Source AFP


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