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President Xi Jinping and Tajik President Emomali Rahmon attend a grand welcome ceremony for the Chinese president on Friday in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan. AP

China and Tajikistan underlined on Friday their shared commitment to developing a comprehensive strategic partnership in the new era, as the two neighboring nations reached key consensuses to build up cooperation on trade, connectivity, cross-border transport, critical minerals and new energy.

President Xi Jinping, who is on a three-day state visit to the Central Asian country which started on Thursday, signed a joint statement with Tajik President Emomali Rahmon on developing the partnership after meetings at the presidential palace in Dushanbe.

Rahmon held a grand welcoming ceremony for the Chinese president before the meetings, including a 21-gun salute, a red carpet and a guard of honor.

The two presidents jointly witnessed the exchange of over 20 intergovernmental and interdepartmental documents covering cooperation in areas such as trade, security and people-to-people exchanges.

"China will always remain a trustworthy friend, a reliable partner, and a close brother to Tajikistan, regardless of the shifting dynamics of the international landscape," Xi said when jointly meeting the media with Rahmon.

The two nations have agreed that high-quality Belt and Road cooperation will be the main focus in promoting the alignment of their development strategies to support each other's modernization efforts, he said.

China is willing to expand imports of high-quality products from Tajikistan, continuously enhance the quality and scale of bilateral economic and trade cooperation, and deepen cooperation on connectivity, said the Chinese president.

China was the second-largest trading partner of Tajikistan in 2023, with bilateral trade reaching $3.92 billion, an increase of 53.5 percent year-on-year, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry. Among this, China's exports to Tajikistan amounted to $3.68 billion, while imports from Tajikistan totaled $249 million.

According to Tajik authorities, the inflow of investment from China to Tajikistan totaled $4.1 billion between 2007 and 2023, with over 700 Chinese companies now operating in the Central Asian country.

"China will continue to unwaveringly advance friendly and mutually beneficial cooperation with Tajikistan. We firmly support Tajikistan in pursuing a development path that suits its national conditions, and we firmly support Tajikistan's efforts to safeguard its national independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity," Xi said.

He stressed Beijing's readiness to build up people-to-people exchanges with Dushanbe, saying that greater official support will be extended to cooperation over youth, media, think tanks and education.

"We are determined to further strengthen security cooperation, jointly combat the 'three forces' of terrorism, separatism, and extremism, safeguard the security of our borders, and firmly oppose any third-party interference in our internal affairs to jointly maintain regional security and stability."

As for the Afghan issue, Xi said the two nations have agreed to continue enhancing communication and coordination, and to encourage the Afghan interim government to be inclusive and moderate in governance, focus on development, improve livelihoods, resolutely combat terrorism-related criminal activities, and pursue good-neighborly relations.

Addressing Xi as "my dear friend", Rahmon highlighted the visit by the Chinese president as "a key event and a milestone" in bilateral ties.

"As the great Confucius believed, loyalty is the cornerstone of friendship. In you, we see a loyal friend and reliable partner of our people," he said.

The Tajik president said he was gratified to see that the total value of business contracts and agreements signed at the Tajikistan-China trade and investment forum, held on the sidelines of Xi's visit, exceeded $600 million.

"Our transportation links and cultural and humanitarian exchanges are expanding. The number of Tajik students studying Chinese at Chinese higher education institutions has almost tripled," Rahmon said, adding that over 5,000 Tajik youths are now receiving an education in China.

"Based on all these achievements, we can view Tajikistan-China relations as a model of relations between two friendly sovereign states," he said, expressing his belief that the visit will open up new horizons for the long-term development of bilateral cooperation in the new era.

Tajikistan firmly adheres to the one-China principle, opposes any form of "Taiwan independence", and steadfastly supports all efforts by China to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity and achieve national reunification, he emphasized.

"Tajikistan hopes to attract more Chinese investment across various industrial sectors, especially in light industry, food, energy, agriculture, the digital economy and artificial intelligence," he continued.

After their talks, Xi and Rahmon jointly inaugurated the new Tajik parliament building and government building, built with aid from China.

The two buildings will be new landmarks symbolizing the friendly cooperation between China and Tajikistan, Xi said at the inauguration ceremony.

"China is willing to continue working with Tajikistan based on the principles of extensive consultation, joint contribution, and shared benefits, to carry out more cooperative projects in Tajikistan and make greater contributions to Tajikistan's economic and social development," said the Chinese president.

Jiao Jie in Dushanbe contributed to this story.

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