High hopes voiced for China-Central Asia Summit

By Xu Wei in Xi'an | China Daily | Updated: 2023-05-18 07:20
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Drilling machines work at an oil plant in Uzbekistan. XINHUA

Strong commitment

The gathering in Xi'an follows a virtual summit last year to mark the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations being established between China and the Central Asian countries. At this event, Xi announced a plan to provide grant assistance of $500 million to the five nations to support livelihood programs.

The two sides pledged at the virtual summit to build an even closer China-Central Asia community with a shared future to promote the nations' high-quality development and the region's prosperity and stability.

Last month, a meeting of foreign ministers from China and the Central Asian countries underlined interconnectivity as the priority for cooperation between the two sides and agreed to build a multidimensional and comprehensive network featuring the integration of roads, railways, airlines and ports.

The ministers also agreed to expand cooperation in areas such as trade, investment, agriculture, new energy and e-commerce, and to take steps to enable easier customs clearance and quarantine procedures in promoting trade facilitation.

Ivona Ladjevac, deputy director of the Institute of International Politics and Economics in Belgrade, the Serbian capital, said Central Asia is a pivotal region for world peace and security, and is known for its huge deposits of natural gas, oil reserves and other mineral wealth.

The region has great potential for economic growth, and widening infrastructure links between the five landlocked countries and China will deliver win-win results, she said.

"There is no doubt that every effort will be put into building a closer China-Central Asia community with a shared future, which will contribute to regional and world peace, stability, development and prosperity," Ladjevac added.

Azamat Sulimanov, a researcher at the Institute for Strategic and Interregional Studies under the President of Uzbekistan, said unleashing transportation potential in Central Asia remains one of the top priorities for China and the five countries in bolstering their BRI cooperation.

He highlighted the significance of the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan Railway project in unleashing the potential for regional growth. During Xi's visit to Uzbekistan in September, the three nations signed a memorandum of understanding, or MOU, on cooperation in constructing the Kyrgyzstan section of the railway. They are scheduled to complete feasibility research on the rail link in the first half of this year, the MOU states.

Implementation of this project will significantly shorten the route from East Asia to countries in the Middle East and southern Europe by up to 900 kilometers, and the delivery time for goods by seven to eight days, Sulimanov said.

"This will undoubtedly have a positive impact on the growth of China's mutual trade with Central Asian countries, in particular with Uzbekistan," he said.

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