From January 23 to 25, the Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, will embark on an official visit to the People’s Republic of China at the invitation of President Xi Jinping. The purpose of this visit is to discuss the enhancement of comprehensive cooperation.
Relations between the two nations have reached a new level since Mirziyoyev assumed office in Uzbekistan in 2016 and initiated policies aimed at opening the country to foreign investors and increasing foreign trade. As of now, China has become Uzbekistan’s largest trading partner. Trade between the two countries grew by 45% last year, reaching $14 billion.
Chinese Investments in Uzbekistan
Currently, there are approximately 2,000 enterprises in Uzbekistan with Chinese capital involvement. Last year, three Chinese automobile brands – Chery, Exeed, and BYD – established assembly plants in Uzbekistan. Chinese companies have also built new production facilities for construction materials (Sofcor, Toshkent Conch cement, Angren insulation, Hongrum wallpaper), metallurgy (Azia Metall Prof), and medical products (Jiza Pharmatech) within the country.
During Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s visit to China last year, agreements were reached on implementing new industrial, trade, and investment projects worth more than $25 billion. Mirziyoyev, who was re-elected as President of Uzbekistan until 2030 last year, aims to double the country’s GDP through the attraction of foreign investments by that time. Projects involving Chinese companies are expected to play a pivotal role in achieving this goal.
Mirziyoyev’s Emphasis on Green Energy
Uzbekistan’s population is growing by almost 1 million people annually, and the GDP has been increasing by 5-6% annually in recent years. This growth necessitates additional energy capacity. However, Uzbekistan does not possess as abundant hydrocarbon and water resources as some of its neighbors. Therefore, Shavkat Mirziyoyev is focusing on developing renewable energy in the country, with the goal of increasing its share in the country’s energy balance to 40% by 2030.
China, as a global leader in renewable energy capacity deployment and equipment production, actively supports Uzbekistan in this endeavor. Currently, 22 new solar and wind power plants are under construction in Uzbekistan, including with the participation of Chinese companies such as China Energy, China Gezhouba, SEPCO, Dongfang Electric, and others.
Mirziyoyev and the Silk Road
In addition to economic cooperation, Uzbekistan is also an important political partner for China. Since becoming President, Shavkat Mirziyoyev has improved relations with Central Asian neighbors. As a result, all five countries in the region with a combined population of over 75 million – including Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan – now act as a unified bloc on the international stage. Last year, a China-Central Asia summit was held in Xi’an. Summits between Central Asian countries and the United States (C5+1) and the European Union are also being conducted. With the diminishing influence of Russia in the region, Central Asia is emerging as an independent player on the political stage and an attractive destination for foreign investments.
Central Asia constitutes an integral part of the historic Silk Road, an ancient trade route facilitating the movement of goods between Europe and Asia. As part of the One Belt, One Road initiative, China is endeavoring to revitalize this route in a modern form by constructing roads, railways, and pipelines in Central Asian countries to promote the transit of goods and the development of adjoining territories.
Even a railway project known as the Termez – Mazar-i-Sharif – Kabul – Peshawar is being discussed, which will facilitate the transit of goods between Uzbekistan and Pakistan through Afghanistan’s territory. The involvement of Afghanistan in economic cooperation is expected to reduce political tensions in the region.
Expectations from the Meeting Between Mirziyoyev and Xi Jinping:
Shavkat Mirziyoyev has become a frequent visitor to China. Last year, he visited China twice, including the important Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. In 2022, Mirziyoyev attended the Winter Olympic Games in Beijing and hosted the summit of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a significant regional organization created by China/ in Samarkand.
Political experts believe that these frequent visits underscore not only the high level of cooperation between China and Uzbekistan but also the excellent personal relationship between the two Presidents. It is expected that this time, the leaders will discuss the progress of China’s investment projects in Uzbekistan and potential new projects. Mirziyoyev and Xi Jinping will also discuss cooperation in culture, tourism, sports, education, and regional security issues.