China, Central Asia further cooperation urged

Updated: 2012-05-09 07:47

By Wang Huazhong in Tongxiang, Zhejiang and Wang Chenyan in Beijing (China Daily)

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China, Central Asia further cooperation urged 

A woman looks at souvenirs from Kyrgyzstan at the China-Eurasia Expo in Urumqi, capital city of Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, on Sept 1, 2011. Wang Fei / Xinhua 

Experts and former leaders from China and Central Asian countries called on Monday for the expansion of cooperation beyond ties in the energy sector.

"Energy is fundamental, but the economic ties between China and Central Asia are wide-range and multi-form," said Xing Guangcheng, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

China should "broaden the thinking" in its collaboration with Central Asia, Xing emphasized.

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Trade between China and its five neighbors is growing rapidly. The total volume increased from $465 million in 1992 to $23.77 billion in 2010, according to customs statistics.

Chinese energy enterprises have participated in oil and gas development in Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

China's role in Central Asia's energy sector remains small compared to Russia and the European Union.

Former leaders from five Central Asian countries and China vowed to diversify cooperation beyond the core sphere of fossil fuel on Monday at the China-Central Asia Cooperation Forum in Zhejiang Province.

Cooperation potential with "common interests" is especially huge in agricultural products, renewable energy technologies and transnational land transport, the former leaders said.

They also expressed the expectation of extending cooperation coverage from Northwest China - the place closest to Central Asia - to the economically powerful eastern and coastal parts of China.

"We can restore the glory of the ancient Silk Road," said Roza Otunbayeva, former president of Kyrgyzstan.

Zhanibek Karibzhanov, former deputy spokesman of the lower house of the Kazakhstan parliament, said his country, as one of the biggest exporters of flour and wheat in the world, can provide China with agricultural products.

Both the former foreign minister of Tajikistan, Talbak Nazarov, and Deputy Consul General of Uzbekistan in Shanghai, Makhmudov Shukhrat, said China can share its knowledge of solar and wind energy with the Central Asian side.

The two countries have favorable climates for solar energy. According to official estimates, the gross potential of renewable energy resources in Uzbekistan is equivalent to nearly 51 billion tons of oil.

Bilateral cooperation has been enhanced in educational, cultural and humanitarian areas, but "unfortunately" the focus of China and Uzbekistan cooperation in previous years has been around fossil fuel resources, Shukhrat told China Daily.

Chinese pro-communication organizations agreed and spoke highly of the potential of cooperation diversification beyond the traditional energy sphere with Central Asia.

The organizer of the forum, the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, said such cooperation is mutually beneficial.

Zhang Deguang, president of the China-Central Asia Friendship Association and former ambassador to Kazakhstan, said "increasing agricultural cooperation is especially important as it can safeguard food security and poverty relief to maintain stability".

Some groups in the West are suspicious about the motives behind Beijing's interest in the region.

"When we look at ties between China and Central Asian counties, we should start with the good-neighborly relations. And Beijing has relied on economic exchanges to benefit all of its partners while strengthening foreign relations," Xing said, adding that such principles are the foundation of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

Xing refuted what some western media have alleged, that "China is widening its muscular diplomacy".