China and Tajikistan have begun construction of the longest stretch of Beijing's first gas pipeline to run deep into central Asia.
During a ceremony in Tajikistan on Saturday, Chinese President Xi Jinping said the construction project was part of a new era of cooperation between Beijing and its neighbors in central Asia.
“We should carry on the ancient Silk Road spirit, pass on our friendship, deepen cooperation and jointly build a brighter future for the relations of our two nations,” Xi said, according to China's Xinhua news agency.
Tajik president Emomalii Rahmon welcomed the initiative, stating the pipeline will bring a boom to the local economy. Its construction will create 3,000 jobs in Tajikistan, Rahmon explained.
He also said he hopes to see the pipeline attract more Chinese investment.
The Turkmenistan Connection
The China-Central Asia Gas Pipeline (CCAGP) is expected to be completed in 2016, and will run from Turkmenistan through Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to China.
The longest section of the line will run through Tajikistan. It will be the first direct gas line between Turkmenistan and China; Beijing is already a major purchaser of the central Asian nation's gas. Turkmenistan boasts the world's sixth largest gas reserves, but limited pipeline infrastructure has restricted the country's access to international markets.
Currently, most of the country's gas exports travel through Russian pipelines, though Rahmon has pushed for export diversification in recent years.
However, proposals for a pipeline from Turkmenistan to Europe via Azerbaijan have met fierce resistance from Russia and Iran.
Along with cooperating to construct the CCAGP, Xi also vowed to redouble efforts to support Tajikistan's agricultural sector and deepen security ties.
“Facing a complex and grave regional security situation, our two countries should deepen cooperation in border control and the fight against terrorism, drug trafficking and transnational organized crime,” he said.