President calls for building ‘green, healthy and peaceful’ Silk Road in speech in Uzbekistan
A Chinese-made tractor plows a 2,000-hectare field as spring stirs in Bukhara, southwestern Uzbekistan, preparing the land for a new type of mung bean developed by Chinese researchers.
It is a corner of Luoyang-Bukhara Comprehensive Agricultural Demonstration Area, which has a planned area of about 100 square kilometers. The zone is one of the joint projects of Bukhara and Luoyang cities to be launched since President Xi Jinping proposed the Belt and Road Initiative in 2013.
The initiative refers to the construction of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. It aims to foster a trade and infrastructure network linking Asia with Europe and Africa along the region’s ancient trade routes.
In 2016, Xi visited Bukhara, whose history dates back 2,500 years. It is one of the oldest cities in Central Asia and a center of commerce and culture on the ancient Silk Road. Luoyang is 3,000 years old and was the capital of 13 dynasties. The two cities were connected by the Silk Road.
Addressing the Uzbek parliament, Xi called for building a “green, healthy and peaceful” Silk Road. It is committed to the principle of broad consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, as well as development plans among the countries participating in the BRI.
“On this basis, we will carry out bilateral and regional collaboration and create a new model of cooperation underpinned by the liberalization and facilitation of trade and investment, focusing on connectivity, collaboration in production capacity and exchanges between peoples, and made possible by mutually beneficial financial collaboration,” Xi said.
This collaboration between China and Uzbekistan now meets the requirements of both sides, said Li Xiangchen, chairman of Mingyuan Silu, a Chinese company that has invested in a flat glass manufacturing and processing plant in the city of Jizzakh. in central Uzbekistan.
China-Uzbek ties are getting closer under the Silk Road Economic Belt after Xi’s two visits, and the country’s market has become more attractive than ever, Li said.
The value of trade between China and Uzbekistan was $3.2 billion in the first four months of this year, up 45.8 percent from the same period last year, data shows. official.
Abdumalik Bektemirov, an Uzbek economist, said more Chinese-made products have been used and accepted in Uzbekistan since the government decided to back the BRI.
“Now the Uzbek manufacturing industry is looking to develop its own brand made in Uzbekistan, and we need to learn from our Chinese partners.”
Light industry has become a pillar industry and the country has seen an 8 percent annual increase in gross domestic product over the past two years, he said. All this could be achieved within the framework of good bilateral relations and frequent visits by the leaders of the two countries, Bektemirov said.
China has signed production capacity collaboration agreements with 20 countries and jointly set up 46 overseas economic cooperation zones in 17 BRI countries, with cumulative Chinese investment exceeding $14 billion and establishing 60 000 local jobs, Xi said.
The Pengsheng Industrial Park in Jizzakh, for example, is the result of Sino-Uzbek collaboration and has attracted investment from Chinese companies.
The park, approved in 2013, the year Xi made his first visit to the country, was turned into a free economic zone by the Uzbek government. It produces goods valued at more than $90 million a year and has created 1,300 jobs.
During Xi’s second state visit to Uzbekistan in 2016, he signed a joint statement with then-President Islam Karimov to elevate China-Uzbek relations to a “comprehensive strategic partnership”.
The upgrade was based on “the unprecedented high level of high-level interaction between China and Uzbekistan, political mutual trust and win-win cooperation” they have enjoyed since the establishment of the strategic partnership. in 2012, according to the document.
Addressing parliament in 2016, Xi highlighted the role of Uzbekistan and other Central Asian countries in building the BRI. China is keen for Uzbekistan and other countries to seize the historic opportunity to jointly pursue greater progress of the BRI in its breadth and depth, Xi said.
The Silk Road has been the site of peaceful and harmonious interaction between Chinese and Uzbeks for over 2,000 years.
Xi stopped in the famous historical and cultural city of Bukhara, which he called “a shining pearl on the ancient Silk Road”.
Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan, accompanied by then-Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev, now President of Uzbekistan, toured the UNESCO World Heritage Site in south-central Uzbekistan.
After asking detailed questions about Bukhara’s history and traditions, Xi said the visit gave him a deep understanding of the deep-rooted historical ties between China and Uzbekistan.
Qodir Djuraev, a member of the Uzbek parliament, said after Xi’s speech that he was impressed by his deep knowledge of Uzbek culture and his respect for it. In his speech, Xi said Uzbekistan has a rich and proud cultural heritage.
“This land has produced a galaxy of world-renowned eminent scholars,” Xi said. The “precious gems of Uzbek culture” continue to exude wisdom and truth today like never before, he said.
During Xi’s visit to the country in 2016, he expressed support for advancing projects in BRI’s priority areas, including infrastructure networks, and collaboration on generation, l financial innovation and people-to-people exchanges.
In recent years, China and Uzbekistan have maintained close cultural and people-to-people exchanges. In 2005, Uzbekistan opened the first Confucius Institute in Central Asia, in Tashkent. A second such institute was established in 2014 in Samarkand, a historic city visited by Xi during his first state visit to Uzbekistan.
In June 2004, Lanzhou University in Gansu Province and the State Institute of Oriental Studies in Tashkent signed contracts for the construction of the first Confucius Institute in the Uzbek capital, with the help of the Chinese National Bureau for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language.
The institute, which opened in 2005, had 30 to 50 first-year students. Back then, few Uzbeks knew anything about China, its language and culture, said Di Xiaoxia, the Chinese director of the Confucius Institute in Tashkent.
“At the beginning, we had to put a lot of effort because the Uzbeks had no idea what we were or what we were teaching. We had to place many advertisements and promotions in the community before the parents bring their children to the institute,” Di said.
Things have changed a lot since Xi’s visits. More than 1,200 students, young and old, now attend the institute’s Chinese classes every year, said Saodat Nasyrova, director of the institute.
Nasyrova visited China when she was 17 and began teaching the language in 2003. Chinese study has become increasingly popular in Central Asia, she said, and two high schools in Tashkent offer language courses.
Having studied Chinese for three years, 14-year-old Nozima Komijonova speaks the language fluently. When she decided to study the language, her mother fully supported her decision, she said.
“A lot of people say Chinese is hard to learn, but I don’t think so. I started learning Chinese because I’m fascinated by the country’s culture. My biggest dream is to visit China one day. “
Ismatulla Bekmuratov, vice president of the Uzbekistan-China Friendship Society, said Xi’s visits to Uzbekistan had a positive influence on China-Uzbek relations as well as Uzbekistan’s internal development.
“Many friends ask me what foreign language their children should learn,” he said. “My answer is always ‘Chinese’. Not only because China has the largest population and has experienced rapid economic growth, but also because I believe China will become one of Uzbekistan’s biggest trading partners. .”