China's political ability and economic strength could play an important role in Central Asia's development, said former Kyrgyz president Roza Otunbayeva.
"Every one of the Central Asian countries welcomes China's positive role in the region," she said in an exclusive interview with China Daily.
Otunbayeva made her remarks while attending a high-level forum in East China's Zhejiang province marking the 20th anniversary of the establishment of relations between China and Central Asia.
She said countries could benefit from China's latest round of investment in the nation's northwestern Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. They are also encouraged to cooperate with China's more-developed areas and economic growth hot spots.
Moreover, "China is gradually getting involved and succeeding in solving some very problematic issues in the region."
She gave an example of two states in Central Asia that built up "deadly" tensions last year until China's efforts brought them back to the negotiating table.
"There are some issues in which no country would mediate or bring the two sides together. In last year's case. In last year's case, neither the West nor Russia has the intention to defuse the tension."
"China then stepped forward and sort of eased this matter successfully."
Otunbayeva said some unions and political alliances in the region exhaust themselves and their mandate fast, so they just last 20 or 30 years. Then "all of the capacity, the strength of the organization just disappears", she said.
But China has the ability to play a positive role because it provides real help, she said.
China was one of the first countries to recognize the independence of the Central Asian countries that broke off from the Soviet Union 20 years ago.
Otunbayeva became president of the country of 5 million after opposing and overthrowing the former regime in 2010. She stressed that "statehood in the region is fresh but also fragile and challenging".
"Central Asian states are newly independent and gaining experience. Twenty years sounds like just a drop in the bucket compared to big countries, such as Russia, China, the United States and India."
Some citizens of Kyrgyzstan - especially doctors and teachers - left the country after the collapse of Soviet Union because "they didn't feel they belonged to this country", she said.
Roza said the number of hotly contested issues is also on the rise among Central Asian countries, which sometimes harm each other's interest.
The cluster of five - Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan - face challenges and threats from the outside.
"We are going through transition, transition is painful and difficult."
"All these issues make us fragile."
Otunbayeva said many large actors, such as Europe, the US, Russia, Japan and India, offer her country and Central Asia experience. However, drawing on such a broad range of experience means many of the lessons learned are contradictory.
There are also conflicts among the great powers about stabilizing regional stability. One example is the recent dispute between the United States and Russia over closing a transfer center for moving troops in and out of Afghanistan.
"For a young country such as mine, it is important to chose assistance according to our national interests."