LONG TERM STRATEGY
The state visit by President of Turkmenistan Serdar Berdimuhamedov coincided with the tenth anniversary of the most important event in the history of bilateral relations – the signing of the Joint Declaration on the establishment of strategic partnership relations in September 2013.
The importance of this document cannot be overestimated. In fact, it is the supporting framework of relations between Turkmenistan and China, defining their meaning and direction in foreign policy, economy, trade and humanitarian sphere, ensuring the independence of bilateral cooperation from the international situation, temporary or situational factors, outside influence.
Following the spirit of the Joint Declaration, Turkmenistan and China reached mutual understanding in their views on the priorities and prospects of bilateral partnership and global development trends. The most important factor is the closeness or convergence of the approaches of the two countries to ensuring universal stability and security, countering political, national and religious extremism, separatism and terrorist threats. In this sense, Turkmenistan’s firm and unwavering support for the unity and territorial integrity of the PRC, the policy of “one China” is indicative.
Turkmenistan together with China stands for equality and equity in international relations, achievement of sustainable development goals and supports measures taken by the international community to effectively respond to global challenges.
During the talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, President Serdar Berdimuhamedov emphasized the role of China as one of the main guarantors of international stability, whose constructive influence largely determines the stability of the entire global security architecture, the progressive course of international processes and the positive development of human civilization in the 21st century. And in this sense, the two countries are united by the similarity of worldview, goals and objectives in foreign policy that allow them to successfully interact in the international arena through major international organizations, primarily the United Nations, support each other, coordinate political and diplomatic efforts for promotion and implementation of constructive solutions.
Indicative in this sense is China’s clearly respectful attitude to Turkmenistan’s neutral status and foreign policy guided by this status, support for Ashgabat’s international initiatives on a number of key issues of global development. A very recent example is the UN General Assembly resolution initiated by Turkmenistan declaring 2023 the International Year of Dialogue as a Guarantee of Peace. China not only supported the draft resolution but was also one of the cosponsors of the document.
Discussion of the situation in Central Asia occupies a special place in the agenda of the Turkmen-Chinese dialogue. The positions of the two countries are also close. Turkmenistan and China stand for the establishment of a strong security system in the region based on a multifaceted balance of interests and commitment to political and diplomatic methods of resolving emerging problems.
The leaders of the two countries confirmed a strong linkage between China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative and the strategy of Turkmenistan “Revival of the Silk Road”. It was emphasized that in modern conditions the objective mutual interests allow Turkmenistan and China to successfully build up partnership in the context of the implementation of these major projects. They are designed to give a powerful impetus to the economic development in Eurasia, uniting vast expanses from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean on modern principles, forming interconnected production and technological cycles and industrial belts, contributing to the solution of many social problems, improving the quality of life and well-being of people.
In this context, the sides pay great attention to the development of transport cooperation. China is reasonably regarded by Ashgabat as the most important partner in the Asia-Pacific region, largely taking into account the fact that this direction is currently a strategic priority for all foreign economic activities of Turkmenistan. The efforts of the two countries should be aimed at the full implementation of the functionality of transportation from China through Turkmenistan to Europe, the Middle East by all modes of transport, including railways and roads, air traffic, and other infrastructure systems, Serdar Berdimuhamedov noted. These systems should also include logistics terminals at hubs, one of which could be the port of Turkmenbashi on the Caspian Sea.
The fuel and energy sector is the most important priority of cooperation between Turkmenistan and China. This was evidenced by the construction and commissioning at the end of 2009 of the strategic gas pipeline Turkmenistan – China, through which about 350 billion cubic meters of natural gas have already been supplied.
Turkmenistan has always emphasized the historical aspect of bilateral relations as a solid foundation for their development in the modern times. In the course of his meetings with President Xi Jinping and other leaders of China, Serdar Berdimuhamedov stressed that for many centuries the two peoples had enjoyed a beneficial process of mutual understanding, penetration of cultures, traditions and worldviews. The Silk Road was a bridge not only for mutually beneficial trade exchanges but also for broad civilizational communication. And in this sense, assessing the history of relations between the two peoples from the standpoint of present day, the head of Turkmenistan noted that it played a huge positive role in the fate of the Turkmens and the Chinese, became a solid foundation on which the heirs and successors of this unique experience develop cooperation in the current conditions, deepen their ties, ensure their continuity.
The current state and prospects of relations in the trade and economic sphere was the subject of talks between the President of Turkmenistan and Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China Li Keqiang. They emphasized the mutual readiness to further expand and deepen partnership, give it an innovative character and translate it into major joint projects.
Energy and transport are the strategic areas. Serdar Berdimuhamedov confirmed that Turkmenistan has every opportunity to increase natural gas supplies to China and stands ready for a substantive discussion of this issue. We are talking about the construction of the fourth branch of the Turkmenistan – China gas pipeline.
The sides noted the importance of the Turkmen-Chinese cooperation in the transport segment which is destined to become one of the most promising areas, the most important factor in the successful economic integration and partnership along the North – South and East – West corridors.
Following the commissioning in 2014 of the 677-kilometer North – South railway line, the railway container transportation route along the China – Kazakhstan – Turkmenistan – Iran line was developed.
As for trade and economic cooperation, in addition to the steady growth in trade turnover the Chinese companies have noticeably increased their operations in the Turkmen market. China is the largest foreign trade and investment partner of Turkmenistan. The country has registered more than 100 projects and contracts with the participation of Chinese companies worth billions of dollars.
Turkmenistan and China also cooperate in such areas as the chemical industry, textiles, agriculture, medicine and high technologies. At present, the sides work for the implementation of projects in the field of communications, modernization of the telecommunications network, in the field of services for the launch of communication satellites in Turkmenistan. Opportunities for cooperation in the field of remote sensing of satellites and their application are being explored.
Turkmenistan together with China is working on another area of cooperation, namely the study and use of outer space for peaceful purposes. Joint work is underway to create this new industry for Turkmenistan that will make it possible to successfully apply modern achievements of world science and technology in the interests of the country’s socio-economic development and security.
Strengthening inter-parliamentary cooperation was also duly reflected in the program of the state visit. It should be noted that thanks to the efforts of Chairman of the Halk Maslakhaty Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov special attention has been paid to this area in recent years. At a meeting with Chairman of the Standing Committee the National People’s Congress Li Zhanshu, the President of Turkmenistan noted the close, proactive interaction between the legislative bodies of Turkmenistan and China and offered to strengthen this direction. In particular, he put forward an idea of creating an inter-parliamentary council “Central Asia – China” and holding a joint forum “Turkmenistan – China: women and youth”.
It can be said without exaggeration that the state visit by the President of Turkmenistan to China became a landmark event in the modern history of bilateral relations. The sides reaffirmed the unchanging and firm mutual commitment to the comprehensive and all-inclusive development of cooperation in all areas. This is evidenced by the impressive set of documents signed in Beijing.
In his article, published on the eve of the visit in the most popular Chinese newspaper “People’s Daily”, President Serdar Berdimuhamedov emphasized confidence that Turkmenistan is on the right path for development of strategic partnership with the People’s Republic of China and its determination to work “shoulder to shoulder with this great country” to direct this potential to the benefit of the peoples of the two states. The talks held in Beijing and their results provide compelling evidence for such statement.