Bright future for Sino-Uzbek ties
MA XUEJING/CHINA DAILY
China and Uzbekistan's collaborative efforts to combat the novel coronavirus outbreak and vaccinate their populations have shown tangible successes. As a result, Uzbekistan hopes to lift pandemic-related restrictions in the near future.
When deemed safe, the two countries should resume in-person interactions involving economic and trade discussions alongside the development of interpersonal relationships, via exchanges and the promotion of mutual learning.
The crisis precipitated by the deadly disease has served as a catalyst for the two countries to seek new opportunities for collaboration and to enrich existing cooperative projects. In Uzbekistan, social issues including entrepreneurship support, assistance to vulnerable populations, and poverty and unemployment reduction have received special attention as political reforms are progressing and the market economy is developing.
China's successful insight and experience in tackling these issues continue to be of great value to Uzbekistan's policymakers. The Communist Party of China has successfully achieved its goal of eliminating extreme poverty and building a moderately prosperous society in all respects by the 100th anniversary of its founding.
There is no doubt that the remarkable achievements of the People's Republic of China are the result of its reform and opening-up policy. China's economic reforms, especially under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, have served as an example for Uzbekistan's economic modernization.
The Strategy of Action of the Republic of Uzbekistan for 2017-21, proposed by Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, has achieved qualitative breakthroughs and remarkable progress with regard to its internal and foreign affairs over the past five years, an accomplishment recognized by the international community.
If we evaluate the impact of economic reform on GDP growth, it is clear that Uzbekistan, like China, was one of the few countries in the world that maintained positive economic growth at the peak of the pandemic in 2020. Further, Uzbekistan's economic performance in the first half of 2021 shows that the country's growth rate returned to pre-pandemic levels with its GDP reporting a growth rate of 6.2 percent, due to the development of industry, investment and services. Specifically, the mining, metallurgy, electric power and textile industries grew at a rapid pace.
These achievements were possible due to both Uzbekistan's continuing economic development and improvements in the external market along with the implementation of a series of foreign policies. During this period, 5,246 projects were carried out within the framework of the regional investment plan. Additionally, Uzbekistan welcomed 53,000 new business entities, with a 14 percent year-on-year increase.
It is necessary for both countries to evaluate the prospect of China-Uzbekistan cooperation under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative. Important decisions regarding future development of the Belt and Road Initiative were made during the Fourth Session of the 13th National People's Congress of China.
It is particularly noteworthy that China continues to carry out international anti-pandemic cooperation with the construction of a Health Silk Road. This initiative is in line with Uzbekistan's strategic focus on improving its medical system and international cooperation. Uzbekistan is currently implementing its national plan of supporting youth and promoting physical fitness.
China plans to further improve the Belt and Road infrastructure conditions to strengthen the transport corridor and expand the Digital Silk Road, so as to integrate countries into a unified transport logistics network and allow them entry to the world market.
These issues are also being considered by Uzbekistan while establishing new economic corridors, including the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway and the Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar railway projects. President Shavkat Mirziyoyev's initiative to promote regional connectivity between Central Asia and South Asia also offers an important opportunity to China.
Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi attended a high-level international conference themed "Central and South Asia: Regional Connectivity, Challenges and Opportunities" in Tashkent on July 16. He attached great importance to these projects. Both nations also need to study issues related to the implementation of joint investment projects.
Uzbekistan, like other countries, is willing to revive its economy through high-quality investments. China is also devoted to implementing investment promotion policies to restore global economic recovery and create new value chains in countries involved with the Belt and Road Initiative.
The current situation has created a unique opportunity for both sides to expand bilateral economic and trade relations to allow exchanges to be more balanced and mutually beneficial. If Uzbekistan can join the World Trade Organization at an early date, it will also be conducive to bilateral relations and exchanges. China's support to the negotiations on this issue will help accelerate the process and bring long-term benefits to bilateral ties.
Thus, the joint efforts of Belt and Road construction in the past-pandemic era will fundamentally foster China-Uzbekistan cooperation. We hope to deliberate specific projects and practical measures to deepen cooperation under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative in the next stage.
The author is deputy director of the Institute of Strategic and Regional Studies under the President of Uzbekistan. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.