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Visible gains mark 30 years of Sino-Uzbek ties

Source: China Daily | 2022-01-29

By Nuriddin Ubaydullaev

[Photo by Ma Xuejing/China Daily]

Jan 2, 2022 marked the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Republic of Uzbekistan and the People's Republic of China. During the last three decades, Uzbek-Chinese relations have been brought to the level of comprehensive strategic partnership, and the two countries have established mutually beneficial cooperation in almost all spheres.

The history of bilateral relations dates back centuries-to the epoch of the ancient Silk Road. The centuries-old relations have built a favorable ground for the formation of comprehensive cooperation between Uzbekistan and China. History tells us that Uzbekistan has served as a bridge between world civilizations and religions. Today, it plays an active role in the implementation of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative.

Contacts promote practical cooperation

Regular meetings between the leaders of the two countries have played a guiding role in the development of bilateral relations. The first state visit of Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev to China in May 2017, and his constructive and fruitful talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2018 within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit in Qingdao, Shandong province, as well as the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing in 2019 strengthened multifaceted cooperation between the two sides.

During their conversation on the telephone on May 7, 2020, and April 29 and Oct 27, 2021, the two presidents reached a consensus on active cooperation in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as on deepening cooperation in the fields of trade, investment, and the economy.

On Oct 25, 2021, the Chinese president congratulated President Mirziyoyev on his victory in the presidential election on Oct 24, 2021.

Along with the meetings between the two top leaders, official contacts at other bilateral levels have promoted practical cooperation.

While inter-parliamentary contacts, exchanges of experiences in lawmaking and public administration are steadily developing, the new mechanism of regional partnership-the meetings between the foreign ministers in the "China-Central Asia" format-has become an important platform for discussing topical issues for strengthening mutual trust, and further promoting mutually beneficial cooperation.

Uzbekistan and China, along with other SCO founding states, have played an important role in the organization's institutional development and strengthening cooperation among the member states in priority areas.

The speeches of the leaders of the two countries at the SCO Summit in 2020 once again confirmed the similarity in the positions of Tashkent and Beijing on how to ensure security and development in the vast Eurasian region.

In recent years, Uzbekistan has pro-actively participated in the SCO's activities. Since 2017, Uzbekistan has put forward more than 30 initiatives and proposals in a number of important areas, including security, transportation, telecommunications, trade, economy, innovation, digitalization, advanced and green technologies, poverty reduction, pandemic containment, environmental protection, cultural and humanitarian issues, and tourism.

Moreover, Uzbekistan chairs the SCO from September 2021 to September 2022.

Uzbekistan and China have accumulated significant experiences in cooperation within the Belt and Road framework, and both countries attach special importance to transportation and economic interconnectedness.

Booming trade and investment

On the economic front, China has maintained its position as Uzbekistan's largest trading partner for the past few years. Before the pandemic broke out, bilateral trade was growing by 30-40 percent per year, and by the end of 2021, it had exceeded $7.4 billion.

Also, China is the largest export market for Uzbek goods. In 2021, China's share in Uzbekistan's total foreign trade was 17.7 percent, and there has been both quantitative and qualitative change in the structure of bilateral trade. This positive trend is primarily due to an increase in the volumes and numbers of finished products and agricultural goods supplied by Uzbekistan to the Chinese market.

As for Chinese investments in Uzbekistan, they have been growing at an average rate of 40-50 percent per year. Today, China's direct investment covers almost all sectors of the Uzbek economy, including oil and gas, chemicals, construction materials, pharmaceuticals, agriculture, and light industry. And the total volume of Chinese direct investments from 1992 to 2021 exceeded $8 billion, with 2021 alone accounting for $1.53 billion.

Chinese technicians pose for a photo with Uzbek drivers on an electric locomotive in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Dec. 17, 2020. [Photo by Zafar Khalilov/Xinhua]

Joint fight against COVID-19 pandemic

China's successful experience in the fight against the pandemic has created objective conditions for the development of fruitful cooperation between the two countries in this area. The two countries have supported each other from the early days of the pandemic. And the launch of joint production of the Uzbek-Chinese vaccine-called ZF-UZ-VAC 2001-in September last year is the result of the fruitful cooperation between the two countries.

Poverty reduction has become another new area of practical cooperation between the two sides. Since China eradicated absolute poverty at the end of 2020, Uzbekistan considers close practical cooperation with China very important in such areas as rural industrial development, agricultural sector modernization and rural infrastructure improvement.

Besides, the high-level bilateral strategic partnership has created favorable conditions for strengthening cooperation between the two sides in the cultural and humanitarian fields, as well as tourism.

While the partnerships between the leading universities of the two countries are being strengthened, Uzbek youths' enthusiasm to learn Chinese is increasing with each passing year. And thousands of Uzbek youths have been receiving education in Chinese universities.

Health crisis bolsters bilateral relations

The COVID-19 pandemic has, in fact, played a key role in strengthening the close, effective cooperation between Uzbekistan and China in the field of healthcare and medicine as part of the joint fight against the pandemic.

In recent years, bilateral cooperation has been enriched with a new dynamism, one of its key factors being the large-scale reforms in all spheres of Uzbekistan's economy. In fact, the liberalization of the Uzbek economy has opened the doors to more investment and trade cooperation between the two countries. As a result, the number of Chinese companies operating in Uzbekistan increased from about 700 to about 2,000 in 2021.

Therefore, it can be safely said that Uzbekistan and China are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations against the background of visible achievements, and the strengthening of bilateral strategic partnership and practical cooperation.

Thanks to these positive developments, we are confident about the fruitful prospects of Uzbek-Chinese relations, which have been developing steadily for the benefit of the peoples of both countries.

The author is counselor at the Embassy of the Republic of Uzbekistan to the People's Republic of China.