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Xi proposes reviving Silk Road glory

2013-09-09 09:12 Global Times Web Editor: qindexing

Chinese President Xi Jinping concluded his three-day visit to Kazakhstan on Sunday and arrived in Uzbekistan to continue his ongoing four-nation Central Asia tour that is intended to boost regional economic and security cooperation.

The tour was highlighted on Saturday during a speech at Nazarbayev University in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, in which Xi proposed that China and Central Asia build a Silk Road economic belt to revive trade and exchange on the ancient route.

Xi said that the Silk Road would boast a 3-billion population and a market that was unparalleled both in scale and potential. To beef up trade, countries along this route should work harder to coordinate policies and laws, remove trade barriers, build better transport systems, improve free convertibility of local currency as well as promote grass-roots exchange.

In a joint declaration inked by Xi and his Kazakh counterpart, Nursultan Nazarbayev, the two sides vowed to keep on tapping potential economic and trade cooperation and working toward the goal of increasing bilateral trade volume to $40 billion by 2015.

According to the Xinhua News Agency, China National Petroleum Corporation would become a shareholder of the Kashagan oil field in Kazakhstan, the world's largest oil discovery in five decades, amid the cooperation. Under the Kashagan deal, Kazakhstan will sell 8.33 percent of the offshore oilfield in the Caspian Sea to China for about $5 billion, Reuters reported.

"The speech is very important for Xi's state visit, of which calling on the establishment of the Silk Road economic belt is the most highlighted part. The speech has stipulated the blueprint of regional development," said Chen Yurong, director of the Department for European-Central Asian Studies with the China Institute of International Studies, adding that the call means that China is seeking ways to play a more important role in Central Asia's economy.

During the speech, Xi said that China respected the development paths and policies chosen by the peoples of regional countries, and would never interfere in the domestic affairs of Central Asian nations. He pledged that China would never seek a dominant role in regional affairs, nor try to nurture a sphere of influence.

"These are clear expressions of the Chinese position towards regional development. It can be regarded as a move to fight back at some Western voices, which claimed that China was seeking a dominant position in regional affairs," Chen said.

Compared to Turkmenistan, which owns a rich gas resource, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are better known for their oil resources, meaning that China would enhance oil cooperation with these countries, according to Xia Yishan, a researcher at the China Institutes of International Studies.

China signed a deal last week to purchase 25 billion cubic meters of gas per year from Turkmenistan.

China and Kazakhstan reached consensus on cooperation in fighting terrorism, separatism and extremism, as well as transnational organized crime, including illegal arms, drug trafficking and economic crime. Following the Uzbekistan trip, Xi is scheduled to pay a state visit to Kyrgyzstan, where he will attend a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

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