China-Uzbekistan economic and trade ties deepen amid presidential visit

Chinese industry insiders and experts are hailing the fruitful achievements between China and Uzbekistan as bilateral ties experience a historic high against the backdrop of the state visit of Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev to China, scheduled from Tuesday to Thursday.

There will be more potential in bilateral cooperation, as connectivity between Uzbekistan and Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region is expected to strengthen under the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), experts said.

"My company is increasing exports of fruits and vegetables such as apples, nectarines and grapes from Xinjiang to Central Asia, including Uzbekistan, and it is estimated that the company's export value to Central Asia climbed to $1.2 billion in 2023, almost doubling from $683 million in 2022," Yu Chengzhong, chairman of local trading agency Horgos Jinyi International Trade Co, told the Global Times.

Besides, "China's new-energy vehicle and large-scale wind power equipment sectors have expanded exports to Uzbekistan in recent years," Yu said.

Yu's booming business with Uzbekistan is expected to continue, as Xinjiang's role as a trade hub and corridor to Central Asian countries - including Uzbekistan - is being further highlighted.

On Monday, just ahead of the Uzbek president's visit, a forum for China-Uzbekistan cooperation promotion was held in Urumqi, capital city of China's Xinjiang, attracting more than 1,300 guests from both sides.

Speaking at the forum, Ma Xingrui, Party secretary of the Communist Party of China Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Regional Committee, said that Xinjiang is accelerating the construction of the core area of the BRI, actively building the China (Xinjiang) Pilot Free Trade Zone with high quality, continuously deepening exchanges with five Central Asian countries, and establishing a bridgehead for China's opening up to the West.

Chinese and Uzbek officials signed 20 cooperation agreements at the opening ceremony of Monday's forum.

Xinjiang has played an important role in strengthening connectivity with the Central Asian region, from political interactions to trade and infrastructure development, said Liu Yu, executive chairman of the Uzbek Chamber of Commerce for Chinese Entrepreneurs.

More than 2,400 Chinese companies are doing business in Uzbekistan, covering various fields including petroleum, railways, agriculture and mechanical equipment, Liu told the Global Times.

In 2023, bilateral trade stood at 98.85 billion yuan ($13.93 billion), a year-on-year increase of 53.2 percent, data released by the General Administration of Customs showed. China's exports to Uzbekistan saw a whopping growth of 76.8 percent year-on-year.

Xinjiang has become a key gateway to the Central Asian countries including Uzbekistan.

"Uzbekistan is a populous country and important economic power in the region… strengthening interactions with China under the BRI, in the growing complexity of the world situation today, has become increasingly important to Uzbekistan, especially when it comes to helping the country play a greater role in world governance," Zhang Hong, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Uzbekistan is enhancing its economic and trade connectivity with China by transitioning from being landlocked to becoming land-linked. How to effectively navigate its ties with the development of Xinjiang is the key to this transformation, experts said.

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