XI'AN, May 24 (Xinhua) -- Around 2,000 years ago, caravans of camels carrying goods followed specific routes across Eurasia, overcoming deserts and mountains and linking the continent's east and west sides with silk, jewelry and spice.
Now the journey's eastern destination, the world's second largest economy, is devoting itself to rejuvenating the ancient route named the Silk Road and bringing economic impetus to countries along the path.
Businessmen, scholars and government officials thronged to northwest China's Xi'an city, the route's easternmost end, for an ongoing forum on investment and trade held this weekend, seeking business opportunities and cooperation.
Masimov Kazimham, deputy dean of the UN International Information Academy in Kazakhstan and international economic consultant of the Xi'an government, hoped for agreements on several investment projects.
One of his projects was an agricultural cooperation program in the area around Almaty, commercial center of Kazakhstan, where 10,000 hectares of farmland is in need of funds from Chinese enterprises.
Meanwhile, merchants from other central Asia countries including Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan have occupied quite a few booths in the exhibition center, their products on display ranging from flour to tapestries embroidered with the pattern of the Ferghana horse.
The Silk Road International Exposition, or the 18th Investment and Trade Forum for Cooperation between East and West China, which started on Friday and ends on Monday, has attracted officials, corporate executives and economists from countries along the route to discuss how to build the Silk Road economic belt and promote common development.
The concept of the economic belt was first proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping on a visit to Kazakhstan in September, who called for joint efforts from relevant countries to build the belt and boost cooperation.
He proposed that China and central Asian countries work to improve traffic connectivity, trade and monetary cooperation, and people-to-people exchanges.
The Silk Road is a series of routes for trade and cultural exchange connecting China and European countries since around 100 B.C., with central Asia as the intermediate station. The route became prosperous in China's Tang Dynasty, the capital of which, Chang'an (today known as Xi' an), was opening up and hosted envoys from over 70 countries, foreign merchants and overseas students.
Sasco Baeva A.A., deputy speaker of the Kyrgyzstan Parliament, believes the Silk Road economic belt should continue to be developed in the 21st century, as the rapidly growing Chinese economy has driven investment and trade in central Asia.
In 2013, trade volume between China and four central Asian countries increased 13 percent year on year to 40.2 billion U.S. dollars, nearly 100 times than that of 1992, data from China's Ministry of Commerce showed. China is now the largest trading partner of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan and the second largest of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.
Zhang Wei, vice president of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, said the belt will make economies along the route more closely connected, prompting deepening cooperation.
China National Petroleum Corporation, the country's largest oil and gas producer, has initiated 18 energy cooperative projects in central Asia, covering pipeline building, oil and gas exploration and oil refinery. By the end of 2013, its investment in the region totaled 30 billion U.S. dollars, paying taxes of over 20 billion U.S. dollars and creating more than 3,000 jobs.
Zhang encouraged more Chinese enterprises to "go out" and increase investment in central Asia in areas of finance, research and development and IT to form a community of interests, which will boost local economies and accelerate enterprises' international drive.
Reviving the economic belt is likely to bring about hopes of a fresh economic growth point, while China's economy is experiencing a slowdown amid restructuring and reform.
The Silk Road economic belt will provide opportunities for China to unleash its economic growth potential, as regional cooperation of this kind is expected to stimulate domestic demand and prop up exports, said Zhang Junkuo, deputy head of the Development Research Center of the State Council.
He believes enterprises will find their common interests through the forum and initiate cooperative projects that will benefit both sides, which is expected to lay solid foundation for further bilateral development.
"We should expand economic and trade cooperation to more fields and build a new platform with a fresh cooperative model," Sasco Baeva A.A. said, while expressing her hopes that countries involved will make a greater contribution to the prosperity of the belt.