TASHKENT, Sept. 8 (Xinhua) -- A craze for the Chinese language is sweeping Uzbekistan, where a growing number of people are attracted to the rich culture of China, said the Vice President of the Uzbekistan-China Friendship Association, Bekmurodov Ismatulla.
During a recent interview, Ismatulla told Xinhua that for Uzbekistan, China is a great neighbor and reliable partner, and that bilateral cooperation in various areas has been growing continuously since the two countries forged diplomatic relations.
Relations were elevated to a strategic partnership in 2012, which marked the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Uzbekistan.
Ismatulla said that leaders of the two countries have been meeting frequently, and have signed a series of documents aimed at promoting bilateral ties, as well as friendship between the two peoples.
Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Uzbekistan proves that relations are sound and healthy, Ismatulla added, going on to say that over recent years, cooperation and exchanges between the two sides have been developing rapidly, especially with regards to culture.
In 2005, Central Asia's first Confucius Institute was established in the capital Tashkent, and a second is expected to open in the country soon. In 2013, China's Shanghai University also opened a research and exchange center in Uzbekistan.
China is offering 120 scholarships to Uzbekistan this year, and a growing number of schools and institutes in Uzbekistan are teaching Chinese. The annual "Chinese Bridge" Chinese language proficiency competition for foreign students has become an important platform for Uzbek youngsters learning Chinese to showcase their talents.
In 2012, while celebrating the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties, a series of cultural exchange activities were organized to deepen mutual understanding, advance people-to-people cooperation to a record-high level, and consolidate the cultural and public basis of mutual friendship.
To help Uzbek people better understand Chinese culture and history, the Uzbekistan-China Friendship Association works with the Chinese embassy each year to hold various activities introducing China's traditional festivals, music, food and famous people, according to Ismatulla.
In addition, he said both countries should also make a greater effort to translate the movies, books and songs of each.