Xi leaving for Central Asia to attend summit, possibly to meet Putin

Chinese President Xi Jinping is set to visit Central Asia on Wednesday, to attend a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization -- a security and economic framework led by China and Russia.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry says Xi is scheduled to visit Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan from Wednesday to Friday.

This will be Xi's first trip outside China since he visited Myanmar in January 2020, at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

On Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said, "This will be China's most important event of head-of-state diplomacy on the eve of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China."

Asked if Xi plans to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mao said she has no information to offer at the moment.

If Xi meets Putin in person, this will be the first time since Russia started its invasion of Ukraine in February. They met in early February.

Analysts say Xi hopes to produce some diplomatic achievements before the Communist Party National Congress. He is expected to seek an unprecedented third term as party leader at the Congress.