May China-Kyrgyzstan Friendship Thrive Like an Evergreen Tree
Strewn with blooming flowers and lush grass, the Tianshan Mountains offer an enchanting view at this time of the year. I am pleased that in such a lovely season, I will come to Kyrgyzstan at the kind invitation of President Sooronbay Jeenbekov to make my second state visit and attend the 19th Meeting of the Council of Heads of Member States of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). I first visited this beautiful country six years ago. The discussions I had with Kyrgyz leaders on the friendship and cooperation between our two countries and on the future growth of the China-Kyrgyzstan relationship ushered this relationship into a new era of strategic partnership. Now six years on, it is heartening to see that this relationship has been upgraded further to a comprehensive strategic partnership, and that our friendship and cooperation are brimming with vigor and vitality like the mountains and grasslands in the prime of summer.
The people of China and Kyrgyzstan are close neighbors sharing a long tradition of friendship. More than 2,000 years ago, Zhang Qian, the imperial envoy of China's Han Dynasty, traveled west and extended the ancient Silk Road to Central Asia via the ancient city of Suyab (near present-day Tokmok). That visit was reciprocated several hundred years later by Kyrgyz envoys trudging all the way to Chang'an, the capital of the Tang Dynasty. On their return trip, they brought back not only exquisite silk and porcelain but also a brotherly friendship. The great poet Li Bai, living some 1,300 years ago in the Tang Dynasty, is a household name in our two countries and his poems are widely quoted by the Chinese and Kyrgyz alike. In the course of over two millennia, interactions like these have forged an unbreakable bond of amity between our peoples.
Since the establishment of diplomatic ties, China-Kyrgyzstan relations have withstood the vicissitudes of the international landscape. The solidarity and mutual assistance that we have demonstrated in times of difficulty have proven that we are good neighbors, good friends, good partners, and good brothers. As a fine example of a new type of state-to-state relations featuring mutual respect, equality and win-win cooperation, the China-Kyrgyzstan relationship is defined by the following features:
Stronger mutual political trust. Shortly after the establishment of diplomatic ties, we found lasting solutions to all boundary issues left from history, turning the 1,000-km border line into a true bond of friendship between our peoples. Having no outstanding issues in our bilateral ties, we firmly support each other on issues concerning each other's core interests. China strongly supports the Kyrgyz people's independent choice of a development path suited to their national realities, and all policy measures taken by the Kyrgyz government to safeguard national independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. Likewise, Kyrgyzstan has rendered China full support and cooperation on issues related to Taiwan, Xinjiang and the fight against terrorism, separatism and extremism.
Deepening results-oriented cooperation. Kyrgyzstan is one of the earliest supporters and participants of Belt and Road cooperation, and major outcomes have been achieved through our cooperation in economy and trade, energy, infrastructure development and connectivity. China has become Kyrgyzstan's top trading partner and source of investment, with bilateral trade exceeding US$5.6 billion in 2018, a 150-fold increase from the early days of diplomatic engagement, and cumulative Chinese investment in Kyrgyzstan approaching US$3 billion. Thanks to the Datka-Kemin power transmission and transformation project jointly undertaken by our two countries, uneven power distribution and patchy supply have become a thing of the past in Kyrgyzstan; the Osh Hospital is providing the local community with the best medical services in Central Asia; and the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan highway, defying the many high mountains on its route, has become a transnational transport artery. As Kyrgyzstan continues to increase its export to China, green and quality Kyrgyz agro-products like honey and fruits can be found more often in ordinary Chinese households. Similarly, many Kyrgyz people have taken to online shopping, as e-commerce platforms give them a shopping experience like never before.
Closer people-to-people exchanges. In 2018, more than 70,000 people traveled between our two countries and over 4,600 Kyrgyz students were studying in China. Four Confucius Institutes and 21 Confucius Classrooms are operating in Kyrgyzstan, and the Bishkek No. 95 Middle School built with Chinese assistance has become the most popular school in the local area. Commemorative events have been jointly hosted by our two sides for the 90th anniversary of the birth of the celebrated Kyrgyz writer Chingiz Aytmatov, receiving enthusiastic responses from various quarters. At the invitation of President Jeenbekov, the China National Opera House will present a Chinese opera Manas in Kyrgyzstan. I believe this new rendition of our shared cultural heritage will wow the audience and help renew the friendship between China and Kyrgyzstan in this new era.
As a Kyrgyz saying goes, “Brotherhood is more valuable than all the wealth in the world.” Likewise, the Chinese often say, “When brothers are of the same mind, they can cut metal through.” In a world undergoing changes unseen in a century, it is important for China and Kyrgyzstan to join hands and meet challenges together to ensure the sustained, steady and healthy growth of our bilateral relations. That is a historical responsibility we share. On my forthcoming visit, I look forward to working with President Jeenbekov to draw up an ambitious blueprint for China-Kyrgyzstan comprehensive strategic partnership and bring our bilateral ties and all-round cooperation to a new height.
China wants to enhance strategic trust with Kyrgyzstan. We will increase high-level exchanges and step up interactions and cooperation at various levels between our governments, legislatures, political parties and local authorities. We will continue to give each other firm support on sovereignty, security, territorial integrity and other issues concerning each other's core interests. We will work together amid a fast-changing global landscape to advance our common strategic security and development interests and achieve prosperity of our two nations.
China wants to deepen Belt and Road cooperation with Kyrgyzstan. Specifically, we will push for greater complementarity between our development strategies, work on the follow-ups to the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, deepen cooperation in such areas as agriculture, infrastructure development and connectivity, and promote trade and investment facilitation. China welcomes the active participation of Kyrgyz companies in the China International Import Expo and stands ready to buy more quality agricultural produce from Kyrgyzstan. In addition, China will continue to do what it can to help and support Kyrgyzstan in its effort to grow its economy and better the lives of its people.
China wants to strengthen security cooperation with Kyrgyzstan. We will follow the vision for common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security in our joint fight against terrorism, separatism and extremism and against drug-trafficking and transnational organized crime to protect the life and property of our people and foster a regional security environment defined by harmony and stability.
China wants to expand people-to-people exchanges with Kyrgyzstan. Affinity between friends and neighbors grows as exchange of visits increases. Our two sides need to elevate our cooperation in education, science and technology, culture, health, youth, media and joint archaeological exploration in a bid to bring our two peoples closer to each other.
China wants to step up international cooperation with Kyrgyzstan. We will strengthen communication and coordination at the United Nations, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) and other multilateral frameworks, uphold basic norms governing international relations based on the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, support multilateralism, advance economic globalization, and promote a new type of international relations and a community with a shared future for mankind.
Over the past 18 years since the inception of the SCO, members have followed the Shanghai Spirit of mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, consultation, respect for diversity of civilizations, and pursuit of common development, and observed the purposes and principles enshrined in the SCO Charter and the Treaty on Long-Term Good-Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation Between the Member States of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. As a result, the SCO has served as a good example of a new type of international relations featuring mutual respect, fairness and justice, and win-win cooperation, and played an irreplaceable role in promoting stability and prosperity in our region.
The SCO has prioritized cooperation in security, economy, people-to-people exchanges, and outreach to non-SCO members. It has taken tough measures to crack down on terrorism, separatism and extremism. With a focus on deepening the synergy between Belt and Road cooperation, development strategies of individual countries, and regional cooperation initiatives, the SCO has kept scaling up cooperation in trade, investment, connectivity, energy, innovation and people-to-people exchanges. It has also been expanding partnerships with observer states, dialogue partners, and international organizations like the United Nations. All these efforts have contributed to our vision of a closer SCO community with a shared future.
Since assuming the SCO presidency, Kyrgyzstan has made a great deal of productive efforts for the further development of this organization. I am convinced that, with the collective efforts of all sides, the Bishkek Summit will produce fruitful results, bring about greater development of the SCO, and deliver even more benefits to the people across the region.
I believe that as long as we stay committed to our longstanding amity and cooperation, the friendship between China and Kyrgyzstan will endure and thrive like the mighty, evergreen spruce trees on the majestic Tianshan Mountains.