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Spotlight: Xi's upcoming trip to CEE countries, Central Asia to boost Belt & Road Initiative

Editor: Chen Yue 丨Xinhua

06-14-2016 22:06 BJT

Full coverage: President Xi Visits 3 Nations, Attends SCO Summit

BEIJING, June 14 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping's upcoming trip to Central and Eastern European Countries (CEE) and Central Asia from June 17 to 24 is expected to significantly boost the Belt and Road Initiative.

During his trip to CEE countries as well as Central Asia, two key regions under the framework of the initiative, Xi will pay state visits to Serbia, Poland and Uzbekistan from June 17 to 22, and attend the 16th meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent on June 23 and 24.

The visits are also seen as a fresh move to enhance regional and international cooperation as the SCO member states are expecting new proposals from China on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of its establishment.

TO IMPROVE PRACTICAL BILATERAL COOPERATION

The trip to CEE countries comes within three months after Xi's last one, or his first visit to the Czech Republic as China's head of state and his first multilateral diplomatic trip in 2016.

Such frequent visits to countries in the region demonstrate the great significance of bilateral cooperation in efforts by both sides to shape regional and state diplomacy.

Liu Zuokui, an expert from the Institute of European Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, believed that promoting bilateral cooperation with Serbia and Poland will "play an exemplary and positive role in propelling China-CEE relations."

In 2009, Serbia became the first CEE country to establish a strategic partnership with China. In September last year, Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic brought along a column of soldiers to attend China's landmark parade marking the 70th anniversary of the World Anti-Fascist War victory.

Increasing political mutual trust and accelerating cooperation over recent years have worked to usher in another occasion to further bilateral ties, Chinese Ambassador to Serbia Li Manchang said.

Poland, among the first countries to establish diplomatic ties with new China, elevated the bilateral relationship to a strategic partnership in 2011. Poland remains China's largest trading partner in Central and Eastern Europe, while China is Poland's largest trading partner in Asia as well as its third-largest importer.

As the third leg of Xi's upcoming trip after Serbia and Poland, Uzbekistan has witnessed rapid development in its relations with China since the establishment of a bilateral strategic partnership in 2012, boosted by many mutual visits and meetings by the leaders.

During the visits, Xi is scheduled to meet heads of state and attend signing ceremonies for cooperation agreements in such fields as energy, finance, infrastructure construction, technology and tourism.

TO LEAD SCO MEMBERS OUT OF DIFFICULTY

Marking the 15th anniversary of its establishment, the SCO summit this year is expected to have a significant and positive influence on its growth, said Chen Yurong, a director at the China Institute of International Studies.

Currently, the SCO needs to make its "two wheels" run well, she said.

Regarding security cooperation under the SCO framework, combating the "three evil forces" of terrorism, separatism and extremism remains an urgent task for all. In the meantime, increasing economic cooperation is necessary for member states currently under the pressure of an economic slowdown.

A Kazakh political analyst at the Al-Farabi Kazakh National University said that at the upcoming SCO summit, "many countries hope China can work to bring them out of difficulties," since "China is an important driving force for the SCO development as well as a major engine of the world economy."

Apart from discussing SCO future plans, member states are expected to approve at the summit a memorandum for India and Pakistan to join the organization, a key step closer to their SCO membership. Leaders from China, Russia and Mongolia will hold their third tripartite conference on the sidelines of the summit to be held in Tashkent.

FRESH IMPETUS FOR BELT AND ROAD INITIATIVE

Xi's trip is expected to focus on the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative, given the relevance of the countries for the initiative, and importance of the SCO as a platform to dovetail China's Silk Road Economic Belt Initiative with Russia's aspiration under the Eurasian Economic Union framework.

During the state visits, Xi is expected discuss new measures with leaders of Serbia, Poland and Uzbekistan.

The three countries were among the first to respond to China's Belt and Road Initiative, proposed by Xi during his 2013 trips to Central Asia and Southeast Asia. They also have a strong desire to cooperate with China.

At present, Serbia is pushing forward a re-industrialization strategy,trying to attract more foreign investment, while Poland, as the sole member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in the region, hopes to provide a gateway for China to enter Europe.

As for Uzbekistan, whose economy relies mainly on energy and agriculture, there is great potential for capacity cooperation with China.

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