Since 2013, President Karimov and I have stayed in close touch by way of meetings, phone calls and correspondence, and have developed good working relations and deep personal friendship. Our two sides have signed such important documents as the Treaty on Friendly Cooperation and the Development Plan for the Strategic Partnership (2014-2018), thus cementing the political and legal foundation of bilateral relations. We are jointly building the Belt and Road, synergizing our national strategies, seeking innovative drivers for cooperation, and enhancing international coordination and security cooperation. With bilateral cooperation growing in both breadth and depth, China-Uzbekistan relations have entered a golden era of rapid development.
Jointly building the Belt and Road is a highlight and priority in our bilateral cooperation. In policy communication, our two countries have signed the cooperation document on jointly building the Belt and Road and are working on an outline of cooperation plan. China appreciates that Uzbekistan was one of the first countries to express interest in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and has joined it as a founding member.
In 2015, our two-way trade reached 3.5 billion U.S. dollars, up by more than 70-fold compared with the early days of our diplomatic relations. China has been Uzbekistan's biggest source of investment and second largest trading partner for three years. All four pipelines of the China-Central Asia natural gas pipeline system run through Uzbekistan. In February this year, our two sides completed the construction of the Angren-Pap railway tunnel, the longest of its kind in Central Asia and a new link in the transportation corridor connecting China and Central Asia. Both sides support the building of a railway linking China, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan and will reach out to the relevant country to make progress in the project. Our two countries have jointly established plants for the production of tire, PVC and soda, carried out cooperation in cotton processing, and registered initial success in the production of ceramic tiles, smart phones, leather products and shoes in the China-Uzbekistan Industrial Park. It is fair to say that important "early harvests" have been achieved in our cooperation on the Belt and Road.
Both China and Uzbekistan have a long history and splendid culture. People-to-people and cultural exchanges have been part and parcel of our bilateral relations. In recent years, the two sides have made fresh progress in student exchange programs, Chinese language training, sub-national exchanges, joint archaeological projects and translation of literary works. As a result of these, the friendship between our peoples has deepened. Cultural cooperation has brought our peoples closer. Thanks to our good collaboration, the first Confucius Institute in Central Asia was opened in Tashkent 11 years ago and has since produced more than 3,000 "ambassadors" promoting China-Uzbekistan friendship. The State Administration of Cultural Heritage of China, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and the Northwest University of China have worked actively with Uzbekistan on joint archaeological research and restoration, making important contributions to restoring the historical sites of the Silk Road. Just recently, the Uzbek edition of the Cat Country, a novel written by renowned Chinese writer Lao She and translated by a Uzbek sinologist, has been published. I trust it will open another window for people in Uzbekistan to know more about Chinese literature.
China and Uzbekistan are a community of common interest and shared future featuring equality, solidarity and win-win cooperation. To pursue development and national renewal is the dream of both our peoples. Given the deep changes in the international landscape, slow recovery in the world economy and daunting tasks of development for all countries, to enhance our bilateral cooperation in all respects meets the trend of history and serves the fundamental interest of our two countries and peoples. We hope that China and Uzbekistan will make greater achievements in the pursuit of common development and prosperity.