Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan welcome Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and her husband before a banquet for the Belt and Road Forum (BRF) for International Cooperation in Beijing, capital of China, May 14, 2017. (Xinhua/Yao Dawei)
Watermelon and green tea once again figure in a revival of the Silk Road extending from China to Uzbekistan, a land-locked country in Central Asia.
In her keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation held May 14-15 in Beijing, Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, highlighted the role of tea as a link between regional countries of different cultures.
It's certainly true that, today, the multiple and ubiquitous tea culture is once again serving as a symbol of the ties that extend over many paths from China to countries such as Uzbekistan, as it did centuries before.
According to Mirzohid Rahimov, head of the Department of Contemporary History and International Relations of the Institute of History of the Academy of Science of Uzbekistan, most Uzbeks love to drink green teas imported from China in exchange for watermelon exports. Yet, the trade between the two countries today extends far beyond fruits and beverages.
"In 2014, trade between Uzbekistan and China reached over US$ 4 billion, and Chinese investment in the country totaled almost US$8 billion, which shows China is one of Uzbekistan's most important trade partners," Rahimov said.
Taking advantage of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF), Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev paid an official visit to China bringing with him a slew of documents designed to promote enhanced bilateral partnerships in such sectors as infrastructure, energy, agriculture and tourism.
"This is of course a good way to show countries can work and need to work together. This will also give chance to expand the traditional friendship between the countries," Rahimov said.
While attending the BRF, Rahimov was impressed by the inclusiveness of the Belt and Road Initiative.
"Uzbekistan supports the idea because there is a philosophy treating this historical road as a consensus based on win-win approaches." He went on to observe that the Initiative is not about exporting values, but of respecting different values.
"In the past three years since the initiation [of the B&R Initiatives], Chinese President Xi Jinping has proposed five priorities the years and decades ahead, including, specific issues, such as an economic partnership, infrastructural development, cross-cultural understanding, technological innovation and, of course, educational and academic propositions," Rahimov said.
Additionally, China and Uzbekistan have already begun enhancing their cultural and people-to-people exchanges in order to consolidate the cooperation.
The Uzbek edition of "Xi Jinping: The Governance of China" was published on May 14, with the foreword and recommendation of Uzbek President Mirziyoyev.