TASHKENT, June 18 (Xinhua) -- China and Uzbekistan have ushered in a new chapter in bilateral cooperation thanks to the Belt and Road Initiative, an international development drive brought up by China in 2013.
Many in the two countries are expecting a state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to the Central Asian country from Tuesday to Friday.
Sitting on the route of the ancient Silk Road and a crossroad in Central Asia, Uzbekistan has a unique strength in its geographical location. The Belt and Road Initiative came as a timely proposal, offering a desired opportunity for Uzbekistan to improve its inter-connectivity with the outside world and play a greater role in wider regional development.
The Belt and Road Initiative, proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt that links China with Europe through Central and Western Asia by inland routes, and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road connecting China with Southeast Asia, Africa and Europe by sea routes.
In recent years, China and Uzbekistan have achieved consensus on many major cooperation projects as efforts have been made to align the Belt and Road Initiative with the development plans of Uzbekistan.
Earlier this year, the construction of the 19.2-km Qamchiq Tunnel, a cooperation project between China and Uzbekistan and the longest railway tunnel in Central Asia, was completed. It is part of the 169-km Angren-Pap railway line, a major state project connecting the capital city of Tashkent with the eastern city of Namangan.
The construction of the tunnel, undertaken by China Railway Tunnel Group, began in 2013. The project is expected to significantly improve the transport network of Uzbekistan and inject fresh impetus into local economic development. After the completion of the rail line, some domestic transport will no longer have to go through foreign territories.
Cooperation on other projects such as the China-Central Asia gas pipeline and the China industrial park is going well, covering energy, transport, and chemical and high-tech sectors. Flights connecting Tashkent with Chinese cities such as Beijing, Guangzhou and Urumqi have been inaugurated. Chinese enterprises, led by industrial leaders like Huawei, PetroChina, Peng Sheng and ZTE, have been active investors in Uzbekistan.
Investment by the Chinese enterprises has created jobs and helped drive local economic development.
Bilateral trade has remained stable amid challenges, Chinese investment has been growing and inter-connectivity projects are being completed with implementation of bilateral industrial capacity cooperation by both sides, the government of Uzbekistan said during a visit by a Chinese government-led economic and trade delegation earlier this month.
Such cooperation has "produced visible results in Uzbekistan and the region," it added.
Since the establishment of strategic partnership between China and Uzbekistan in 2012, the two countries have seen a leap forward in the development of bilateral relations, with political mutual trust, economic cooperation and cultural exchanges all promoted to a new stage.
Exchange of visits by national leaders have been frequent between China and Uzbekistan in recent years. China has been Uzbekistan's second largest trade partner and the largest source of foreign investment for three years in a row.
It is a consensus shared by the two countries that their cooperation should be led by the Silk Road Economic Belt Initiative.
Cooperation between the two countries is bringing in early harvest in such areas as infrastructure constructions and industrial parks.
Meanwhile, efforts have been underway to promote cultural exchanges between the two countries. There are now two Confucius Institutes in Uzbekistan, and the interest in learning the Chinese language and studying the Chinese culture in Uzbekistan is growing, with some educational institutions there offering Chinese language courses. Scholarships offered by the Chinese government funding studies in China are popular in Uzbekistan. So are art performances from China.
The two countries are expanding cooperation in security, too.
Guo Shengkun, a Chinese state councilor, met with top security officials of Uzbekistan in Tashkent in April this year. The two sides vowed to boost practical cooperation in the fight against the three evil forces of terrorism, separatism and extremism, narcotics control, cyber security and the fight against organized transnational crimes, and make joint efforts to safeguard national and regional security and stability.