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Uzbekistan backs Silk Road Economic Belt

2014-06-10 13:06 China Daily Web Editor: Wang Fan

China and Uzbekistan should maintain their level of cooperation as relations have reached an all-time high, according to the Chinese ambassador to the Central Asian nation.

Sun Lijie also said the Chinese proposal for a Silk Road Economic Belt has been supported by Uzbek President Islam Karimov and the Uzbek society.

"Uzbekistan has shown great interest in the Silk Road Economic Belt and emphasized that it is willing to take part in the construction of related projects," Sun said.

The ambassador said figures from Chinese customs authorities show that trade between China and Uzbekistan exceeded $4.5 billion in 2013 and that China has become Uzbekistan's second-largest trading partner and largest investor.

Uzbekistan plays significant roles in China's energy supply, Sun said.

Wu Hongwei, a researcher at the Institute of Russian, Eastern European and Central Asian Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said although the energy sector is a highlight, China and Uzbekistan also have trade ties in other areas, such as agriculture.

Sun feels that both countries have their own strengths - Uzbekistan has abundant natural resources and a highly qualified labor force, while China has financial strength, powerful technological advantages and rich experience in management.

The two countries have a friendship dating back more than 1,000 years and both governments have made considerable efforts on education, culture, technology and tourism, Sun said.

Uzbekistan backs Silk Road Economic Belt

More of Uzbekistan's young people are starting to learn Chinese due to their interest in Chinese history and culture. More than 3,000 Uzbek youngsters have studied Mandarin at the Confucius Institute in Tashkent, the Uzbek capital, over the past 10 years.

Meanwhile, more Chinese tourists are visiting Uzbekistan. The two governments have signed tourism deals and Chinese cultural groups are traveling to Uzbekistan for music festivals and fashion events in Samarkand.

However, Sun said there is much to be done to improve bilateral cooperation.

"Take the construction of transportation facilities for example," the envoy said. "Cooperation on rail transportation has been somewhat delayed amid the increasing trade volume."

Wu said: "The main barrier to cooperation on railways is the difference in gauges. We have to redesign tracks and locomotives to fix the Uzbek standard if this cooperation is to be accomplished."

Ding Peihua, a researcher at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, said that although such a barrier exists, there is great potential for cooperation in the railways sector.

Uzbekistan's "backward" railway infrastructure keeps it from being a transportation hub connecting China and Central Asia, but China has great experience in rail construction. "Therefore, I believe we can do more in the rail sector," Ding said.  

Uzbekistan backs Silk Road Economic Belt

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