President Xi Jinping and his Turkmen counterpart Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov agreed yesterday to upgrade the status of their diplomatic ties to a strategic partnership.
Turkmenistan would boost its natural gas shipments to China by an additional 25 billion cubic metres (bcm) annually to up to 65 bcm a year by 2020, senior Turkmen officials said.
Xi arrived in Turkmenistan's capital, Ashgabat, on his way to the G20 summit in St Petersburg, Russia. He will visit neighbouring Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan on the way back.
In a written statement delivered upon his arrival, Xi said China and Turkmenistan were important neighbours with a strategic energy relationship.
"The Sino-Turkmen relationship has a solid foundation and rich content," Xi said. "The co-operation between our two nations has been continuously improving. It is time for our two nations to upgrade our strategic partnership."
Xi and Berdimuhamedov signed a joint declaration raising each other's diplomatic status, Xinhua reported. They also oversaw the signing of a purchase-and-sale agreement for 25 bcm of Turkmen gas a year between China National Petroleum Corporation and TurkmenGas.
China has imported 60 bcm of natural gas from Central Asia since 2009, Deputy Foreign Minister Cheng Guoping said ahead of Xi's trip. China has become the largest trade partner of Turkmenistan, with bilateral trade reaching US$10.3 billion last year, up from US$4.5 million in 1992.
The two nations opened the world's longest natural gas pipeline in 2009, which extends more than 8,000 kilometres and serves Hong Kong. By June, Turkmenistan had attracted US$3.3 billion in Chinese investments.
In an interview with Central Asian and Russian media, Xi said energy co-operation between China and Turkmenistan serves as a role model for global energy co-operation. China is ready to expand the pipeline construction and natural gas trade with Turkmenistan.
China would continue to develop an equal and mutually beneficial partnership with Turkmenistan, CCTV reported.
On Thursday, Xi will travel to St Petersburg for the summit of the Group of 20 developed and major developing nations, where a major topic of discussion is expected to be the slowing economic growth in China and other major emerging economies such as Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa. Emerging-market economies have issued a raft of gloomy data, leading to concerns that their boom days are over.
After the summit, Xi will visit three other Central Asian countries. In Kyrgyzstan, he will attend a meeting of regional security body the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation.
Additional reporting by Reuters