A Trip that Pointed the Way Forward in Turbulent Times and Reinvigorated the Ancient Silk Road

– State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi on President Xi Jinping’s Attendance at the Samarkand Summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and State Visits to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan

From September 14 to 16, 2022, President Xi Jinping attended the 22nd Meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Samarkand and paid state visits to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan upon invitation. As the visit came to a conclusion, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi briefed the accompanying journalists on the visit.

Wang Yi said that in the mid-autumn season, President Xi Jinping embarked on the trip to Central Asia, which has received international attention. The visit takes place at a time when the world is undergoing accelerating changes unseen in a century, a protracted COVID-19 pandemic, profound adjustments in major-country relations, the spread and spill-over of geopolitical conflicts and mounting difficulties and challenges facing humanity at large. Domestically, the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) is soon to be held. The vast land of China is brimming with vigor and vitality. The Chinese people are united in a common effort and ushering in bright prospects for China’s national rejuvenation. Being the first overseas visit by President Xi Jinping since COVID-19 began, the visit is of major significance and the timing of the visit is rather special. It is a major diplomatic action of the CPC Central Committee vis-à-vis Eurasia in light of both domestic and international imperatives, and an important landmark visit undertaken at a crucial and historic juncture. The global media have closely followed the visit with intense coverage. Cooperation, security, development, openness, mutual trust, and respect became the key buzzwords in international mainstream media coverage. International commentary described the choice of Central Asia as President Xi Jinping’s first overseas visit since COVID-19 as one of major strategic significance and a strategic step China has taken to unite with its SCO friends in order to penetrate the attempted encirclement by the United States. It fully shows the strong confidence and influence of President Xi Jinping, and the growing international standing and influence of China.

Over three days and two nights, President Xi Jinping flew to Nur-Sultan and then Samarkand and, within a 48-hour stay, attended nearly 30 multilateral and bilateral events with a twin focus on security and development. Despite its brevity, the visit has had many highlights and created fruitful outcomes. With the visit’s facilitation, the expansion of the SCO took a new step forward. The visit also successfully steered China’s relations with relevant countries to new levels. It is a visit that pointed the way forward in turbulent times and reinvigorated the ancient Silk Road. Against the overarching backdrop of turbulence and mounting risks and challenges in today’s world, President Xi Jinping’s visit to Central Asia has added vigor and vitality to the Silk Road connecting Asia and Europe and stabilizing factors to the regional and international landscape that are currently at a crossroads. The visit has created more favorable international conditions for China’s new journey toward building a modern socialist country in all respects and fully demonstrated the extraordinary vision and sense of responsibility of a major country and a major political party that care about the world and stay at the forefront of the trend of the times.

I. Carry forward the Shanghai Spirit and open a new phase of development of the SCO

Wang Yi said that this year marks the 20th anniversary of the signing of the SCO Charter, and the 15th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty on Long-term Good Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation Between SCO Member States. Over the past years, the SCO has carried forward the Shanghai Spirit featuring mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, consultation, respect for the diversity of civilizations and pursuit of common development, and played an active role in and made contributions to Eurasian and international affairs. Meanwhile, today’s world has witnessed the rising challenge of unity vs division and cooperation vs confrontation.  The SCO is faced with various tests in safeguarding regional peace and security. Its member states face serious challenges in upholding their own security and stability. Bearing in mind the new circumstances, tasks and difficulties facing the SCO and its member states, President Xi Jinping delivered an important speech at the Samarkand Summit. The speech focuses on the importance of this milestone year to the SCO in the course of its development, provides insights and guidance on the future of the SCO from a strategic and overall perspective, and puts forward major initiatives and proposals on greater unity among the member states and the future development of the SCO.

President Xi Jinping gave an insightful review of the success of the SCO, attributing it to the organization’s commitment to political trust, mutually beneficial cooperation, equality, openness and inclusiveness, and equity and justice, and said these five points fully embody the Shanghai Spirit, which is the source of strength for the development of the SCO, and the fundamental guide that the SCO must continue to follow in the years to come. The commitment to these five points is a practice of true multilateralism that rises above traditional bloc politics. It is an answer to the question of what new type of regional cooperation is required in the new era and how to advance it, offering significant guidance for the SCO’s development and the sound and equitable development of international relations.

As for the future development of the SCO, President Xi Jinping pointed out that under the new circumstances, the SCO, as an important constructive force in international and regional affairs, should keep itself well-positioned in the face of changing international dynamics, ride on the trend of the times, constantly enhance strategic independence, consolidate and deepen solidarity and cooperation and build a closer SCO community with a shared future. To this end, President Xi Jinping put forward five suggestions, emphasizing that we need to enhance mutual support, expand security cooperation, deepen practical cooperation, enhance people-to-people and cultural exchanges, and uphold multilateralism. These suggestions echo the common aspirations of every member state to seek unity, stability and development, and draw a road map for the progress of the SCO and a new blueprint for its cooperation.

Through concerted efforts of President Xi Jinping and other participating leaders, the summit adopted over 40 outcome documents covering economy, finance, technology, culture, institution-building, external exchanges and so on. Particularly, under the initiative of the Chinese side, heads of state of the SCO member states adopted four major statements on international energy and food security, tackling climate change, and keeping supply chains secure, stable and diversified. The Chinese side also announced that it is ready to establish a China-SCO base for training counter-terrorism personnel, host a forum on industrial and supply chains, set up a China-SCO Big Data Cooperation Center, and provide developing countries in need with emergency humanitarian assistance of grain and other supplies worth 1.5 billion yuan. These tangible measures meet the needs of various countries, and show that China not only presented the Global Development Initiative and the Global Security Initiative, but also carried out the initiatives with real actions. At the summit, President Xi Jinping called for continued efforts to achieve the complementarity of the Belt and Road Initiative with national development strategies and regional cooperation initiatives, expand sub-multilateral cooperation and sub-regional cooperation, and create more growth drivers in cooperation. The other countries responded positively, saying that they will continue to tap into the potential of cooperation in various fields, build the SCO into an anchor of regional security and stability, and make greater contributions to world peace and development.

It is particularly noteworthy that before the summit, an increasing number of countries had applied for joining the SCO. China and other member states of the SCO together adopted a holistic approach to these applications and conducted equal-footed consultations. At the summit, the SCO accepted Iran as a member state, supported the starting of the procedure for the accession of Belarus, granted Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar the status of SCO dialogue partners, and reached agreement on admitting Bahrain, the Maldives, the UAE, Kuwait and Myanmar as new dialogue partners. This is a new and the largest round of expansion for the SCO. It helps consolidate the standing and influence of the SCO as an organization for regional cooperation with the largest population and the largest landmass in the world, and demonstrates once again the dynamism, ability to unite, and appeal of the Shanghai Spirit. The expansion also fully shows that the SCO is not an isolated and exclusive “small circle”, but an open and inclusive “big family”. The SCO, as a new type of international organization consisting of 26 countries, has shown stronger vitality and more promising prospects, and will definitely inject more positive energy and new impetus into safeguarding peace and prosperity of the Eurasian continent and the world, and play an exemplary role in promoting the building of a new type of international relations and a community with a shared future for mankind.

Samarkand, renowned as the pearl on the Silk Road, witnessed the glory and splendor of the ancient Silk Road. Today, the famous historic city has borne witness to yet another landmark and important moment for the Eurasian continent. Through the concerted efforts of all the parties, the Samarkand Summit had more participating leaders and more outcome documents than any previous summit in the history of the SCO. Uzbekistan, as the rotating chair of the SCO and host country of the summit, attached great importance to the summit and made it a national priority. The Chinese side provided staunch political, logistic and COVID-response support and made positive contributions to the success of the summit. This is an example of how China works with other SCO members in the spirit of solidarity and coordination by means of giving each other support when needed. At the summit, the Samarkand Declaration of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization was signed and released, which fully absorbed the main elements of the series of important initiatives China had made.

II. Write a new chapter of good-neighborly friendship between China and Kazakhstan, and between China and Uzbekistan under the guidance of building a community with a shared future

Wang Yi said that both Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are major Central Asian countries, as well as China’s key neighbors to the northwest and comprehensive strategic partners. The two countries are also among the first group of countries to support and jointly contribute to the Belt and Road Initiative. During his visit to Central Asia nine years ago, President Xi Jinping proposed the Silk Road Economic Belt initiative in Kazakhstan, the first time for him to come up with this Initiative, and made a special trip to Samarkand, hence a “Silk Road bond” with the two countries. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Kazakhstan, and between China and Uzbekistan. Next year will be the tenth anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative. China’s relations with Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan relations are at a fresh historic starting point. Visiting Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan again after those years and the fact that both countries are on President Xi Jinping’s first overseas trip since the onset of COVID-19 fully shows the high level and uniqueness of China’s relations with the two countries, as well as the close friendship and deep trust between him and the heads of state of these two countries.

The heads of state of both Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan attached great importance to the visit and treated President Xi Jinping as their most honored guest by personally directing and planning the visit and extending full diplomatic protocol and the highest level of reception. President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev personally went to the airport to greet him and bid him farewell. He held a grand welcome ceremony at the Ak Orda Presidential Palace and awarded President Xi Jinping with the Order of the Golden Eagle, or “Altyn Qyran” Order, the highest order of Kazakhstan awarded to individuals, and personally invited a famous Kazakh meritorious artist to sing in Chinese the song “Ying Shan Hong”, which is known to every household in China. Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev took time from his busy schedule of receiving more than 10 leaders attending the SCO Summit to greet President Xi Jinping at the airport with a spectacular ceremony. He awarded President Xi Jinping the first Order of Friendship, the highest honor conferred by Uzbekistan on foreign individuals, and invited him to plant an oak tree symbolizing the evergreen friendship between Uzbekistan and China. President Mirziyoyev also designated the prime minister of his government to oversee the entire reception. These special and heart-warming arrangements demonstrate the political will of the two heads of state for friendship with China and the profound goodwill of the people of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan towards China.

President Xi Jinping held warm and friendly talks with President Tokayev and President Mirziyoyev, which produced a broad range of practical results. President Xi Jinping signed and issued joint statements respectively with the two presidents, which comprehensively summarize the achievements and experience accumulated during the past 30 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations and chart the course for future growth of relations. As announced, China and Kazakhstan will work for the goal and vision of building a community with a shared future defined by lasting friendship, a high degree of mutual trust and sharing weal and woe, while China and Uzbekistan will, bearing in mind the long-term development of China-Uzbekistan relations and the future welfare of the two peoples, implement the vision of a community with a shared future at the bilateral level and give bilateral relations a whole new characterization. President Xi Jinping outlined the essential components of what makes a community with a shared future, putting firm mutual support before all else. In Kazakhstan, President Xi Jinping stressed that the unbreakable friendship between China and Kazakhstan will contribute to the growth of positive and progressive forces in the world and the building of a community with a shared future for mankind. He stressed that China is ready to work with Kazakhstan to be each other’s strong supporters for development and rejuvenation. President Tokayev said that President Xi Jinping’s visit demonstrates the two sides’ commitment to opening another 30 golden years of Kazakhstan-China relations, which is of special and great significance in the current volatile and complex international environment, Tokayev noted, adding that this will make a new milestone in the history of Kazakhstan-China relations and that Kazakhstan will continue to firmly uphold the one-China policy and be a good partner and good friend that China can always rely on under all circumstances. In Uzbekistan, President Xi Jinping pointed out that China and Uzbekistan have always respected each other, enjoyed good neighborliness and worked in partnership for mutual benefits and that China is ready to work with Uzbekistan to implement the vision of a China-Uzbekistan community with a shared future and deepen all-round cooperation for mutual benefit. Mirziyoyev said that President Xi Jinping’s historic state visit to Uzbekistan will elevate the Uzbekistan-China comprehensive strategic partnership to a new height and that China is a reliable friend and comprehensive strategic partner of Uzbekistan, adding that Uzbekistan is firmly and unequivocally committed to the one-China principle, and firmly supports China’s position on matters concerning its core interests and that Uzbekistan will always be trustworthy as well as a good neighbor, good friend and good partner for China.

During the tour, China reached wide-ranging consensus on the future direction and priorities of cooperation with Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan respectively and agreed with them to continue to engage in high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, speed up the alignment of development strategies, and promote pragmatic cooperation in the fields of trade and economy, energy, railway and connectivity. Nearly 30 bilateral cooperation documents across a broad range of areas, including finance, water conservancy, digital economy, green development, culture, and sub-national cooperation, have been signed. Among them, the memorandum of understanding on cooperation in the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway project marks important progress in the construction of a major transport route in the Eurasian continent. In addition, the completion of the restoration project of historical and cultural sites in Khorezm region, which was commenced during President Xi Jinping’s visit to Uzbekistan in 2013, has become another highlight of cultural cooperation between the two sides.

Wang Yi said that the launch of the concept of a community with a shared future between China and Kazakhstan and between China and Uzbekistan at the bilateral level is an integral part of the building of a community with a shared future for mankind. It will certainly enable their millennia-old traditional friendship to brim with renewed vigor and vitality and better benefit the Chinese people and the people of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, while making China-Kazakhstan and China-Uzbekistan contributions to regional peace and stability and development.

Ⅲ. Deepen strategic communication with all parties to inject positive energy into the peaceful development of the Eurasian continent

Wang Yi said that President Xi Jinping also held bilateral meetings in Samarkand with the leaders of 10 countries attending the SCO Summit at their request and attended the trilateral meeting between China, Russia and Mongolia. Among them are both old friends with whom President Xi Jinping has met several times in recent years and new friends met for the first time. The meetings covered many topics, reached significant depth and produced substantive results, which play an important role in guiding the growth of bilateral relations and promoting regional peace and stability by setting the direction and outlining the priorities.

President Xi Jinping held his second face-to-face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin this year, which was also the first meeting between the heads of state of China and Russia on the international occasion since the outbreak of the pandemic. The two heads of state positively evaluated the fruitful strategic communication maintained between the two countries this year, and said that they will continue to strongly support each other on issues concerning each other’s core interests, strengthen coordination and cooperation within multilateral frameworks, promote the enhancement of solidarity and mutual trust among all parties, and safeguard the common interests of vast developing countries and emerging markets.

The heads of state of China, Russia and Mongolia held an in-person meeting for the first time after three years. President Xi Jinping fully recognized the achievements of trilateral cooperation among China, Russia and Mongolia, and put forward four proposals on promoting the trilateral cooperation, stressing the need to firmly grasp the right direction of the trilateral cooperation, elevate cooperation within the framework of the SCO, implement well the projects under the China-Mongolia-Russia Economic Corridor, and cultivate more deliverables of the trilateral cooperation.

President Xi Jinping met with Kyrgyz President Sadyr Zhaparov, Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov and Tajik President Emomali Rahmon respectively. This is the third time this year that President Xi Jinping and the heads of five Central Asian countries have met, fully reflecting the close ties between China and Central Asian countries. President Xi Jinping reiterated his support for Central Asian countries in safeguarding national independence, sovereignty and security, opposition to any external forces’ interference in the internal affairs of Central Asian countries, and support for Central Asian countries in strengthening integrated cooperation. All parties agreed to expand and strengthen the China+Central Asia (C+C5) Meeting mechanism to maintain security and stability in Central Asia and promote common development in the region.

President Xi Jinping also met with the leaders of Iran, Belarus, Pakistan, Mongolia, Türkiye and Azerbaijan separately, reaching many new and important common understandings on advancing the development of bilateral relations. They also exchanged views and formed synergy on promoting the political settlement of regional hotspot issues such as Iranian nuclear issue, Afghanistan and the Middle East issues. The Chinese and Belarusian heads of state issued a joint statement and unanimously decided to upgrade China-Belarus relations to an all-weather comprehensive strategic partnership.

I would like to point out in particular that in response to the recent attempts by certain countries to undermine China’s sovereignty and interfere in China’s internal affairs, the leaders of the above-mentioned countries took the initiative to reiterate during their meetings that they will continue to firmly abide by the one-China principle and firmly support China’s position on issues related to Taiwan, Xinjiang, Hong Kong and other core interests. This shows once again that it is clear to all who stands for fairness and justice. China enjoys abundant support for its just cause.

Wang Yi said that so far this year, from the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 to the BRICS Summit, from the High-Level Dialogue on Global Development to the 22nd Meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the SCO in Samarkand, each time we can strongly feel the international community’s firm support for China and eager expectation for deepening friendship and cooperation with China. President Xi Jinping, with his far-sighted strategic vision, open and inclusive broad-mindedness, and charismatic personality of valuing goodwill and friendship, has won China more and more understanding, respect and recognition internationally. Under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, China has become a constructive force in international relations for dialogue and cooperation, for unity and openness, and for peace and development, and has played an increasingly important role for the long-term stability and sustainable development of the Eurasian continent and the world at large.

IV. Expound on the bright future of China’s development and look forward to the new journey of a major country and a major political party.

Wang Yi said that last year we celebrated the centenary of the founding of the CPC, and many countries were impressed by the CPC’s remarkable achievements over the past century. They hoped to find out about the secret of China’s “two miracles” of rapid economic development and long-term social stability, and they had profound interest in China’s system, path, theory and culture. Next month, the 20th National Congress of the CPC will be convened, which will draw a magnificent blueprint for China’s future development. The international community will focus more on China and the CPC.

The leaders of the countries who met President Xi Jinping during his visit took the initiative to wish the 20th National Congress of the CPC a full success. They expressed confidence in China’s development prospects and the hope to strengthen mutually beneficial cooperation with China on all fronts. They said they looked forward to China playing a greater role in international affairs. President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said that President Xi Jinping is a truly great leader, who enjoys the heartfelt support of the Chinese people, and that China will surely achieve its magnificent goal of building a modern socialist country in all respects as scheduled. President Shavkat Mirziyoyev said that President Xi Jinping is a great statesman in today’s world, and Uzbekistan is convinced that under President Xi Jinping’s wise leadership, China will have not only a bright today but also a brighter tomorrow.

On various occasions during this visit, President Xi Jinping shared stories about China and the CPC by presenting China’s history and reality, and theories and practices, and shared experience in state governance with leaders of other countries. It showed the image of a confident, open and progressive major country and major Party on a new journey, and further enhanced understanding of, support for and recognition of the CPC.

President Xi Jinping expounded on the significance and overall goals of the 20th National Congress of the CPC. He pointed out that at this national congress, the CPC will fully review the major achievements made and valuable experience gained in China’s reform and development endeavors. It will also formulate programs of action and overarching policies to meet China’s new development goals on the journey ahead in the new era and the new expectations of the people. President Xi Jinping stressed that we will continue to follow the Chinese path to modernization to achieve the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, and we will continue to promote the building of a community with a shared future for mankind. By doing so, we will create new opportunities for the world with new advances in China’s development and contribute our vision and strength to world peace and development and human progress.

President Xi Jinping introduced China’s reform and development, stressing that China has continued to respond to COVID-19 and promote economic and social development in a well-coordinated way. The fundamentals of China’s economy, characterized by strong resilience, enormous potential, ample room for policy adjustment and long-term sustainability, will remain sound. This will greatly boost the stability and recovery of the world economy and provide more market opportunities for other countries. President Xi Jinping pointed out that China has entered a new development stage and is making active efforts to foster a new development paradigm. China stands ready to continue to share development achievements with other parties and learn from each other’s development experience. All parties are welcome to board the express train of China’s development. China’s door of opening-up and friendly cooperation will always be open to the world.

President Xi Jinping made an insightful explanation of China’s diplomatic visions and propositions. He pointed out that human society “has both sunny and rainy days in its development”, described the GSI and the GDI with a clear focus, and called on all countries to stay true to the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security and build a balanced, effective and sustainable security architecture. He called on all parties to foster global development partnership, and achieve more robust, greener and more balanced global development. Regarding certain countries that are obsessed with geopolitical games and bloc confrontation, President Xi Jinping clearly pointed out that we should remain firm in safeguarding the UN-centered international system and the international order based on international law, practice the common values of humanity, uphold true multilateralism, jointly improve global governance, reject zero-sum game and bloc politics, and work together to ensure that the international order is more just and equitable.

Leaders congratulated China on its outstanding achievements in economic and social development under the strong leadership of President Xi Jinping, particularly the victory of the battle against extreme poverty and the completion of the building of a moderately prosperous society. They spoke highly of the two great initiatives proposed by President Xi Jinping, namely the Belt and Road Initiative and the building of a community with a shared future for mankind. They believed that the GDI and the GSI put forward by China are of important strategic significance for solving the risks and challenges facing the world today.

Wang Yi said that President Xi Jinping’s visit, which covers neighboring Central Asia, focuses on the Eurasian continent and reflect global changes, is yet another successful practice and vivid embodiment of Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy. Over the past ten years since the 18th National Congress of the CPC, under the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core, China, through vigorous and determined endeavor, has overcome difficulties and made pioneering and historic achievements in its diplomatic work. In the new era, China has pursued its development in the context of human development, and constantly pooled the greatest common denominator of the interests of the Chinese people and the people of other countries. China has firmly stood on the right side of history and followed the trend of the times. We have pursued the right path, brought benefits to the world, and enjoyed popular support. The 20th National Congress of the CPC soon to be held will sound a new clarion call, and China’s diplomatic cause will also embark on a new journey. We must unite more closely around the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core, follow Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, especially Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy, strive to break new ground in major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics in the new era, and continuously make new contributions to building a modern socialist country in all respects and promoting world peace and development!

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