With the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) approaching, experts said the China-Central Asia Summit, the first summit held on-site by the heads of state of the six countries since establishing diplomatic ties 31 years ago, will boost the relationship between China and Central Asia on BRI cooperation. In the first quarter of this year, bilateral trade between China and the five Central Asian countries went up 22%, getting off to a robust start, according to China's Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM). In 2022, bilateral trade between China and the five Central Asian countries reached a record high of USD70.2 billion, an increase of about 40% year-on-year. The trade structure also became more optimized last year. China's imports of agricultural, energy and mineral products from Central Asian countries increased by more than 50% year-on-year, while exports of mechanical and electrical products to Central Asian countries rose 42% from a year earlier.
Officials and businesspeople from China and Central Asian countries said they are upbeat about future industrial and commercial cooperation between the two sides. The setting up of the China-Central Asia Business Council in Xian, Shaanxi province, on May 19 heralds more win-win results in trade, agriculture, energy and other areas, they said. Speaking at the inauguration ceremony of the council, Vice Premier He Lifeng said China and Central Asian countries have set an example for a new type of international relations that, over the years, have come to symbolize deep strategic mutual trust, expanded pragmatic cooperation and growing friendship. The implementation of major projects like roads, bridges, gas and oil pipelines under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative has significantly enhanced people’s well-being, he said. “The Business Council, which serves as a specialized platform for business dialogue under the China-Central Asia mechanism, will pave the way and provide the institutional guarantee for deepening industrial and commercial cooperation in the region,” the Vice Premier said.
China will increase flights to and from the five countries of Central Asia in a bid to strengthen regional connectivity and economic exchanges, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC). China Southern Airlines launched air routes from Xian, capital of Shaanxi province, to Dushanbe, capital of Tajikistan, and Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, both via Urumqi in Xinjiang last week. Xian has passenger air routes to all Central Asian countries – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Central Asia is located along the ancient Silk Road, and all countries in the region have participated in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in different ways. The CAAC and the Central Asian countries have been discussing and preparing to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to jointly develop an “Air Silk Road”, and to improve cooperation in the civil aviation sector. So far 10 airlines have launched flights between China and the Central Asian countries, which have played an important role in benefiting the people on both sides and promoting the development of China's western region and opening up to the outside world.