Special report: 10 years - bright pages of the Belt and Road Initiative in Uzbekistan
Tashkent, Uzbekistan (UzDaily.com) -- Uzbekistan’s accession to the Belt and Road Initiative has provided enormous opportunities for economic development and improving the well-being of the country’s population. An expert on international relations at the non-governmental scientific institution Bilim Karvoni / “Caravan of Knowledge” /, Professor Tulanbay Kurbanov, stated this in a recent interview with Xinhua.
“So, over 30 years, the volume of mutual trade between Uzbekistan and China has increased more than 140 times. In 2022, trade turnover between the two countries reached US$9 billion for the first time. During the first quarter of this year, China became Uzbekistan’s main trading partner, with a total trade volume of US$2.3 billion. The total volume of disbursed Chinese investments in 2017-2022 amounted to about US$11 billion, of which US$2.2 billion /disbursed/ only in 2022,” he noted.
Next, Xinhua’s interlocutor spoke about a number of key projects that have been implemented in Uzbekistan as part of the Belt and Road initiative over the past 10 years.
Among them, we can particularly highlight the construction of the Angren-Pap electrified railway line, which was launched in June 2016. The US$1.6 billion project includes a 123.1 km railway through the Kamchik mountain pass, as well as a 19.2 km tunnel, which ranks eighth in the world and is considered the longest in Central Asia .
Previously, passenger flow and freight transportation to the Ferghana Valley passed by rail through Tajikistan, it was necessary to overcome two customs and border checkpoints and spend from 12 to 24 hours. The Angren-Pap railway line made it possible to connect the regions of the Ferghana Valley with other regions of the country, and thus completed the creation of a unified national railway network. Currently, you can get from Tashkent to Andijan in 7-8 hours. In addition, with the start of operation of the railway, new jobs were created for about 1.5 thousand people, social infrastructure along the route was improved, which significantly influenced the improvement of the standard of living of the local population.
An equally important project is the launch in 2018 of a new transport corridor “Tashkent-Andijan-Osh-Irkeshtam-Kashgar”, passing at an altitude of more than 3.5 thousand meters above sea level. In a pilot rally with the participation of trucks from Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and China, a distance of a total length of 920 km was covered in 31 hours, of which 16 hours were spent in motion.
If along the previously existing corridor cargo was delivered from Uzbekistan to China in 8-10 days, then along the new route it takes only two days. At the same time, if necessary, urgent cargo can be delivered within 24 hours. A flexible and transparent system of tariffs for the transportation of containers and groupage cargo allows you to save from US$300 to US$500 for the delivery of each shipment. Overall, this provides an opportunity to reduce costs by US$2.5 million per year.
Within the framework of the Belt and Road, cooperation between Uzbekistan and China is actively developing in the implementation of investment projects in the field of gas and hydropower. One of the key projects in this area is a unique facility - the Navoi complex for the production of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), built by Chinese companies China SAMC Engineering Co., Ltd. and HQC Shanghai Company and launched in December 2019.
The enterprise produces 100 thousand tons of PVC, 75 thousand tons of caustic soda and 300 thousand tons of methanol per year. These products are in demand in the automotive, textile, metallurgical, chemical and oil and gas industries, electrical industry and building materials industry.
The implementation of the project brought great benefits to the country’s economy and local businesses. Until now, chemical raw materials were imported using foreign exchange. Now the manufactured products fully satisfy the demand in the country’s domestic market and are exported to dozens of countries around the world. In addition, more than 1 thousand new jobs were created.
In recent years, 11 new hydroelectric power stations have been put into operation in the country, and another 9 have been modernized with the help of China. For example, in 2018, a resolution was adopted to modernize the Aktepinskaya hydroelectric power station in the Tashkent region, which was built in 1943. The modernization project was implemented with a loan from the Chinese Exim Bank and put into operation in 2020.
In September of this year, with the help of Chinese specialists, the modernization of the Tupalang hydroelectric power station in the Surkhandarya region in southern Uzbekistan was completed. After completion of the tests, the installed capacity will be 175 MW. Consumers will receive 467 million kWh of electricity annually, which will save 126.2 million cubic meters of natural gas.
Currently, Uzbekistan and China are actively implementing 14 joint investment projects in the field of hydropower. This should contribute to the implementation of an ambitious plan - to increase the hydropower capacity of Uzbekistan by 1.7 times by 2030, i.e. up to over 3.4 thousand MW.
Within the framework of the Belt and Road, significant projects have also been implemented in the cultural and humanitarian sphere. One of the striking evidence is the Chinese-Uzbek joint restoration work in the city of Khiva, which is considered the pearl of not only the Central Asian region, but also the entire East.
Today Khiva is blooming every day. Chinese specialists who participated in a joint restoration project in Ichan-Kala, the walled interior of Khiva, also contributed to this.
In 2014, Uzbekistan and China decided to jointly restore the city. Specialists from the Chinese Academy of Cultural Heritage, together with Uzbek colleagues, carried out repair and restoration work at the Amir-Tura madrasah and the Hasan-Murad-Kushbegi mosque in Ichan-Kala. The project began in 2016 and was successfully completed in 2019.
Among the significant projects in the humanitarian sphere is the joint research of Uzbek and Chinese archaeologists during the excavation of the ruins of the ancient city of Minggepa, located in the southeast of the Ferghana Valley.
Archaeologists from the two countries have excavated the city five times since 2012. The results obtained indicate that more than 2000 years ago Minggepa was not just a temporary garrison fortress of nomads, but a full-fledged castle city and, moreover, the largest in the Ferghana Valley.
Archaeological finds indicate that the ancient city played an important role on the route of transcontinental transport systems connecting Bactria, Ustrushana, Chach with China. For a millennium, Mingtepa was a center of crafts and trade, as evidenced by Chinese coins, silk and bronze mirrors found in the area, and belonged to the territory of the ancient Central Asian state of Davan. The successful joint work of Chinese and Uzbek archaeologists has shed new light on the study of the ancient state of Davan.
Thus, participation in the Belt and Road Initiative has provided Uzbekistan with opportunities to develop and modernize its transport infrastructure, railways and ports, improve logistics and facilitate transit, expand trade relations and attract foreign investment. Cooperation with China has strengthened in the fields of trade and economics, infrastructure and energy, social and humanitarian spheres, and new horizons are opening up for the joint construction of the Belt and Road.
“The historical and cultural heritage, the similarity of the goals and objectives facing the participants of the Belt and Road Initiative, as well as the unity of aspirations allow us to look into the future with optimism. Ultimately, the peoples of not only the two countries, but also the inhabitants of the space of the modern Great Silk Road will feel the pleasant fruits of joint efforts to implement this global initiative,” concluded T. Kurbanov.