Two pedestrians walk on the street with protective masks against the COVID-19 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, December 14(XINHUA)
Uzbekistan is one of China’s most important partners along the Belt and Road Initiative. Both countries have closely cooperated in terms of trade and economy, cultural exchange, as well as social development. Recently, Beijing Review interviewed Bakhtiyor Saidov, the Uzbek Ambassador to China, in which he shares some insights on bilateral ties and cooperation in the post-COVID era plus his take on China’s poverty alleviation efforts:
Beijing Review: China and Uzbekistan are key trade partners. In 2019, China became the biggest trade partner of Uzbekistan. The two countries also work closely together in the fight against the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). What is your viewpoint on their bilateral ties in recent years?
Bakhtiyor Saidov: In recent years, cooperation between the two countries has become mutually beneficial, multi-faceted and long-term. There was a trend of stable growth in the volume of mutual trade in the range of 30 to 40 percent. In recent years, China has become not only the largest trading partner, but also the largest export market for Uzbekistan.
A qualitative change occurred in the structure of trade turnover between the two countries due to an increase in export items, primarily finished products. This is because dozens of joint projects to establish collaborative enterprises aimed at increasing the export potential of Uzbekistan is underway with the participation of Chinese companies.
One of the key factors behind this change is the large-scale economic reforms being carried out in Uzbekistan under the leadership of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev. The country is creating favorable conditions and new opportunities for the business circle, as well as improving its business environment for foreign partners.
These facts show how dynamically the cooperation between Uzbekistan and China is developing. Despite all challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, we believe we can achieve significant results by the end of 2020, given the huge potential at hand.
The collaboration outcome between Uzbekistan and China achieved in recent years allows us to look into the future of bilateral relations with both optimism and confidence. In a short period of time, we managed to raise the multifaceted cooperation between the two countries to a new level. There is no doubt that today Uzbek-Chinese ties, which have deep historical roots, have developed a mature, mutually beneficial, and multifaceted spirit.
I would like to highlight the cooperation between Uzbekistan and China in the fight against COVID-19, which has in 2020 become a key issue on the global agenda.
In fact, since the beginning of 2020, the fight against a new coronavirus infection has been the focus both Uzbek and Chinese leaders. Our countries and peoples have given their mutual support for one another.
In April and August 2020, specialists and doctors from Jiangxi Province were sent to Uzbekistan to work with their Uzbek peers on joint prevention, epidemic control, and the treatment of COVID-19. The two groups included experienced doctors, epidemiologists, infectious disease specialists, pulmonologists, neuropathologists, therapists, and surgeons who all had previously participated in medical care across China.
This event was another evidence of the comprehensive strategic partnership between Uzbekistan and China, a vivid manifestation of solidarity between the peoples of our countries.
It is obvious that the cooperation between our countries in the fields of medicine, pharmaceuticals and healthcare comes with some huge, untapped potential. Teamwork in these areas has become a most pressing issue in the context of the spread of the COVID-19 and will remain so for a long time in the so-called post-pandemic period.
The pandemic has posed many challenges to global social development. China did eventually manage to reach its poverty alleviation target on schedule in 2020 after years of poverty alleviation campaigning. What is your opinion on that? Is there anything that China and Uzbekistan can do together around poverty alleviation?
The main thing is that the fight against poverty is a priority for the government, and the policy to eradicate it is carried out systematically.
The funds deployed in the anti-poverty campaign cover several areas, including rural infrastructure financing, agricultural subsidies and soft loans. The broad purpose is to promote self-development and empower the poor, not to provide gifts from the government.
If in previous decades the main way was to move the poor from rural areas to new cities, where jobs were created for them as well as social infrastructure, including hospitals, schools and kindergartens, now everything is aimed at providing additional income sources to those who remain in the villages and are not covered by industrial agriculture.
I also highly appreciate the policy that encourages businesses to invest in poverty-relief development projects. Mass entrepreneurship and innovation brought additional market elements to the campaign, offering rural residents incentives and loans for self-employment and setting up small businesses.
In addition, the role of the Internet in helping people in need, providing them with jobs and opportunities in education and health, as well as facilitating the sale of agricultural products via e-commerce should be noted.
Studying China's experience, I saw many similarities with the poverty reduction program implemented in Uzbekistan, particularly, the measures aimed at training the population in professions, improving financial literacy, encouraging people to engage in entrepreneurship, improving infrastructure and the quality of education and medical services, introducing targeted benefit systems and ensuring the rights and interests of women and children.
The Uzbek Government is working on developing a national methodology for determining poverty, taking into account the best international practices. One of the most obvious examples is China, where impressive results have been achieved in overcoming poverty.
The obvious tasks Uzbekistan faces are improving the standard of living, reducing unemployment, encouraging entrepreneurship and raising the income of residents. These have been done successfully by China in the past decades, making the Chinese economy the world's second largest. Drawing on the Chinese experience will help Uzbekistan achieve its goals more successfully.
Copyedited by Elsbeth van Paridon
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