China and five Central Asian countries on Thursday kicked off a first-ever forum on industry and investment cooperation in Qingdao, East China’s Shandong Province, eyeing greater collaboration in digital economy, energy and agriculture.
Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a congratulatory letter to the China + Central Asia (C+C5) industry and investment cooperation forum, lauding the strategic partnerships between China and the five countries of Central Asia, which have established a new path with a friendly neighborhood and win-win cooperation and a new paradigm for international relations, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
Xi said that China is willing to share with the Central Asian countries its super-large market, complete industrial system and advanced technologies, deepen pragmatic cooperation, achieve mutual benefit and win-win results, work together to promote the high-quality development of the regional economy, and build a closer community with a shared future, according to Xinhua.
He Lifeng, head of the National Development and Reform Commission, which organized the forum along with the provincial government of Shandong, said at the forum via video link that President Xi’s congratulatory letter reflects the great importance attached to the forum. He called for fully using the platform to achieve fruitful results in industry and investment cooperation between China and Central Asian countries.
President Xi first announced the launch of the forum in a speech at the virtual summit to commemorate the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and Central Asian countries on January 25, 2022.
The two-day forum was attended by 300 representatives from embassies of the five Central Asian countries, namely Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, and Chinese and foreign businesses, and vice prime ministers of the five Central Asian countries addressed the forum via video link.
The forum will include separate sessions focusing on industrial internet, energy cooperation and global agricultural cooperation, the local Qingdao Daily reported. Also, during the forum, the Qingdao international energy trading center and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) agricultural industry development alliance will be launched, according to the report.
The forum will provide another crucial platform for cooperation between China and Central Asia in a wide range of areas, Chinese businesses and analysts noted.
“From a practical perspective, the forum will promote cooperation between China and the five Central Asian countries in energy, food, climate change and other areas under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI),” Zhu Yongbiao, executive director of the Research Center for the Belt and Road at Lanzhou University, told the Global Times on Thursday.
In terms of energy cooperation, all the Central Asian countries have their own advantages, Zhu said, adding that Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are rich in fossil fuel, while Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have abundant hydropower resources.
“So, energy cooperation involves cooperation of the whole industry chain, involving new energy, fossil energy, climate governance and so on,” he said.
Energy cooperation between China and the Central Asian countries has been expanding. For example, there are several major projects for energy trade, including the China-Central Asia natural gas pipeline and the China-Kazakhstan crude oil pipeline. The countries are also eyeing faster construction of Line D of the China-Central Asia Gas Pipeline.
Agriculture has also become a major area for cooperation between China and Central Asian countries.
“In the field of agriculture, the climate in our country’s northwestern regions, including Gansu and Xinjiang, is relatively close to that of the five Central Asian countries. Some agricultural technologies, seed provenance, seed production and other technologies have strong cooperation potential,” Zhu said.
Another area of growing cooperation between China and Central Asian countries is transport connectivity. Given its location, Central Asia is a key link of the BRI and the China-Europe Railway Express.
Growing trade cooperation between China and the Central Asian countries will further boost regional connectivity, according to Ma Lei, head of the clearance department of Alashankou Essent International Freight Forwarding Co in Alashankou City in Xinjiang.
“Under the support of such cooperation forums and national policies, China’s trade cooperation with Central Asian countries will rebound,” Ma told the Global Times on Thursday, adding that cross-border transport has seen significant improvement after the adjusted anti-COVID measures.
China’s trade with Central Asian countries reached $70.2 billion in 2022, an increase of about 100 times over the past 30 years since the beginning of the establishment of diplomatic ties, according to official data.
Qingdao is also home to the China-SCO local economic cooperation demonstration zone, which has seen a steady rise in trade with Central Asian countries. Since its establishment, the demonstration zone has seen more than 1,400 freight trains depart for the five Central Asian countries and 19 routes for China-Europe freight train services open, China Media Group reported on Thursday.