| Global Times | 2013-9-4 1:18:01
By Bai Tiantian
Visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) meets with his Turkmenian counterpart Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov in Ashkhabad, capital of Turkmenistan, September 3, 2013. Photo: Xinhua
Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived at Turkmenistan on Tuesday on the first stop of his maiden trip to Central Asia, with analysts believing that he aims to secure ties as China's new top leader in an area where security concerns have become increasingly significant.
Calling China and Turkmenistan friendly neighbors and important strategic partners, Xi said in a written statement upon his arrival that the timing and conditions for a strategic upgrade of bilateral relations are mature, as the ties enjoy a solid foundation and increasingly rich content while the bilateral cooperation mechanism is constantly improving.
"I hold the belief that my visit will push China-Turkmenistan relations to a new level," Xi said.
During his two-day stay in Turkmenistan, Xi is expected to hold talks with his Turkmen counterpart Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov on lifting bilateral relations and furthering cooperation.
Xi's visit is aimed at deepening strategic cooperation between China and Turkmenistan, and advancing their cooperation in various fields such as trade, economy, energy, transportation, law enforcement, security and culture.
During a media interview before his tour, Xi said China, a major energy consumer, and Turkmenistan, a major energy producer, have huge potential in energy cooperation.
"China is ready to expand the current pipeline construction and natural gas trade with Turkmenistan in line with the principle of equality, mutual benefit and win-win cooperation," said Xi.
Turkmenistan is the first leg of Xi's four-nation Central Asian trip, which will also take him to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. He will expound China's foreign policy towards Central Asia in a speech he is scheduled to deliver in Kazakhstan.
Analysts believe Xi's visit is of great importance as it will reassure these nations that China's diplomatic policy for the Central Asian area remains unchanged with its new leadership as both sides face the same tasks of safeguarding stability and promoting development.
"China has always kept friendly relations with these Central Asian countries and Xi's first state visit sends an important signal of how much China values this friendship especially when security concerns continue to haunt the area," Chen Yurong, director of the Department for European-Central Asian Studies at the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times.
Chen noted that China has always attached great importance to collaboration in economy, energy and security with countries in Central Asia.
Coinciding with Xi's visit, representatives from the four Central Asian countries are also attending the China Eurasia Expo in Urumqi, Xinjiang, to talk about business cooperation. The Expo announced Tuesday that 55 projects, involving 198.7 billion yuan, were signed among banking institutions from China and the participating Eurasian countries.
Xi will also attend the 13th Meeting of the Council of Heads of Member States of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, for the first time since taking office, on September 13. Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan are members of the SCO.
"Regional security, especially collaboration in fighting against terrorism, will likely be one of the top topics on Xi's agenda," said Xia Yishan, a Central Asia scholar from the China Institute of International Studies.
China has stepped up its anti-terrorism efforts in recent years, especially following an increasing number of terrorist attacks in Xinjiang.
"The stability in Xinjiang is directly impacted by the stability of Central Asia as many terrorists have tried to infiltrate Xinjiang through this area," said Xia. "China wants to work with these countries to promote regional economic prosperity and social stability since doing so would greatly weaken the foundation for terrorists."
President Xi will also attend the eighth Leaders' Summit of the Group of Twenty (G20) in St Petersburg on Thursday and Friday.
The G20 summit will focus on global economic growth and financial stability, employment and investment, development and trade, said China's Vice Foreign Minister Li Baodong at a previous press conference.
Xinhua contributed to this story
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