Serdar Berdimuhamedov, President of Turkmenistan
First of all, let me thank the leadership of the People’s Daily newspaper for offering to speak from its pages on the eve of my state visit to the People’s Republic of China. The appeal to millions of readers of such an authoritative and respected publication, of course, is of the utmost importance and will contribute to even greater mutual understanding between the two countries, strengthening friendly, fraternal and good-neighborly Turkmen-Chinese relations.
Relations between Turkmenistan and China have a long history. Throughout its length, a beneficial process of mutual knowledge, penetration of cultures, traditions, and worldviews took place between our peoples. The “Silk Road”, which connected our countries, was a bridge not only for mutually beneficial trade exchange, but also for broad civilizational communication. And in this sense, assessing the history of our relations from today’s standpoint, I believe that it has played a huge positive role in the fate of the two peoples, has become the strong support on which we, the heirs and continuers of this unique experience, ensure its continuity, development and enrichment.
The current relations between Turkmenistan and China are broad and multifaceted. They cover all major areas – politics, economics, trade, culture, science, education. Efficient mechanisms of intergovernmental cooperation have been established and are operating, a solid bilateral legal framework has been created, fruitful contacts are being maintained along parliamentary and party lines, between business structures, public organizations, cultural and scientific figures. There is a lively, creative process of mutual rapprochement of the two states and peoples, laying a solid foundation for Turkmen-Chinese cooperation for decades to come.
And therefore, of course, there are many topics for discussion during the upcoming meeting with the President of the People’s Republic of China and other Chinese leaders. The main thing is that they all have a positive context, that very favorable background, when the basis of negotiations, their starting positions on both sides are complete mutual understanding and trust, equality and respect.
The Turkmen-Chinese cooperation is of a long-term nature and is built in full accordance with the Agreement on the establishment of strategic partnership relations signed by our countries in 2013. And this means that they do not depend on the international conjuncture, time or situational factors, and are not subject to outside influence.
In foreign policy, the key characteristic is the similarity or coincidence of the approaches of Turkmenistan and China to the problems of ensuring universal stability and security, countering political, national and religious extremism, separatism, and terrorist threats. Both countries stand for equality and justice in international affairs, for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, and support the measures taken by the world community to effectively respond to global challenges.
In this regard, an important factor in the Turkmen-Chinese cooperation is the high level of mutual understanding and mutual support, which is inherent in our relations on the world stage. The proximity of worldviews, basic values, goals and objectives allows the two countries to successfully interact within the framework of major international organizations, primarily the United Nations, support each other, coordinate political and diplomatic efforts to promote and implement constructive initiatives.
We highly appreciate the respectful attitude of China to the neutral status of Turkmenistan and the foreign policy of our country based on this. In turn, Turkmenistan always clearly and unambiguously formulates its approaches to issues relevant to the Chinese partners, including those related to the territorial integrity and unity of the People’s Republic of China, and firmly adheres to the “One China” policy.
Particular attention in the agenda of the Turkmen-Chinese dialogue is occupied by the discussion of the situation in Central Asia. Here, the positions of the two countries are also close: both Turkmenistan and the People’s Republic of China stand for the creation of an equal, strong and long-term security system in the region based on a multilateral balance of interests and commitment to political and diplomatic methods of solving emerging problems. By making a noticeable practical contribution to this process, our states act as responsible members of the world community.
As for trade and economic cooperation, here, in addition to the steady growth in the volume of trade, the activity of Chinese companies in the Turkmen market is noticeably manifested. China today is the largest economic and investment partner of Turkmenistan.
Cooperation between Turkmenistan and China is carried out in such areas as energy, transport, communications, chemical industry, textiles, agriculture, medicine, and high technologies. At present, the parties are working on the implementation of projects in the field of communications, modernization of the domestic telecommunications network, in the field of services for the launch of communication satellites in Turkmenistan. Opportunities for cooperation in the field of remote sensing satellites and their applications are being explored.
The fuel and energy sector should be singled out separately. Commissioned at the end of 2009, the Turkmenistan-China gas pipeline has become the largest joint energy project implemented on the Asian continent. To date, over 350 billion cubic meters of natural gas have already been delivered through it. And this is far from the limit.
The gas pipeline has become an example of political responsibility, economic realism, and the far-sighted approach of the leadership of the two countries to solving global issues of energy development. In this regard, it is deeply logical that the People’s Republic of China has provided and continues to provide effective support to the initiatives of Turkmenistan to create international mechanisms for reliable protection and security of energy supplies. I am convinced that in this context, the successful implementation of the Turkmenistan-China gas pipeline project becomes a prototype of the entire future architecture of the international energy partnership. No less important is the fact that it has a great positive impact on the general situation in Asia, is a serious factor in stability and security,
We see special prospects for cooperation with China in the development of transport and communications. In the conditions of the global world, the optimization of transport communication, the creation of transit corridors are of increasing importance, acquiring the status of a key factor in the development of the world economy. I am convinced that today Turkmenistan and China have all the opportunities and prerequisites for building a joint transport strategy, the basis of which would be the use of the combined geographic, resource, economic potential and advantages to enter new directions and markets. The creation of the Eurasian transport and transit line East-West with the participation of Turkmenistan, China, all interested states and international organizations is an objective need for the economy of the continent, the most important element of its stable and long-term development, maintaining a stable balance of interests not only in economic but also in political terms. Here I would like to note with gratitude the active participation of the PRC delegations in the international forums held in Turkmenistan in recent years, dedicated to the role of transport and transit corridors in international cooperation and sustainable development.
In this sense, we emphasize the ideological and practical proximity and compatibility of China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative with the strategy of Turkmenistan “Revival of the Silk Road”. Both of them are aimed at uniting vast expanses from the Pacific to the Atlantic Oceans on modern principles, forming interconnected production and technological cycles and industrial belts, contributing to the solution of many social problems, and improving the quality of life and well-being of peoples.
Today, together with China, we are opening another area of cooperation – the study and use of outer space for peaceful purposes. We are grateful to the Chinese side for their assistance in creating this new industry for us, which, we hope, will allow us to successfully apply modern achievements of world science and technology in the interests of the socio-economic development of Turkmenistan and strengthening the country’s security.
At the current stage of strategic partnership, we welcome the establishment of direct ties and cooperation between the velayats of Turkmenistan and the provinces of China, between our cities. An example of this was the signed agreements on the establishment of sister city relations between the province of Shandong and the Lebap velayat, between the cities of Xi’an and Mary.
This is evidence of the expansion of the scale and forms of interstate interaction, the participation of an ever wider number of subjects in strengthening and deepening comprehensive ties in trade and the economy, culture, and people’s diplomacy.
We note with satisfaction the active and fruitful development of bilateral ties in the humanitarian field. First of all, this concerns cooperation in the field of education. Now, not hundreds, but thousands of students from Turkmenistan have received and are receiving higher education in China. This is the same generation of Turkmen citizens who will continue the noble cause of bringing the two peoples and states closer together, reviving and strengthening centuries-old ties dating back to ancient times. We are grateful to the Chinese Government for providing our young people with the opportunity not only to learn Chinese, but also to receive qualified education in a variety of specialties.
Next year, the 300th anniversary of the birth of the great Turkmen poet, thinker and philosopher Magtymguly Fragi will be celebrated in Turkmenistan and widely beyond its borders. We hope that a number of events in honor of this anniversary will be held in China, where they also especially revere their great thinkers – Confucius, Lao Tzu and many others.
Concluding this article, I cannot fail to mention a historical event – the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of China that took place in October 2022. He reaffirmed the inviolability of China’s policy of maintaining and ensuring global peace, stability and security, asserting the principles of equality, justice and mutual respect in interstate relations. This gives us even greater confidence and conviction in the correctness of the choice to develop a strategic partnership with the People’s Republic of China, opens up new broad horizons for bilateral cooperation. The potential of this interaction is huge, and together with China, shoulder to shoulder with this great country, we are determined to use it to strengthen friendship, brotherhood and cooperation between our peoples, in the name of peace and progress. /// nCa, 6 January 2023