Premier Wen Jiabao invited Eurasian nations on Sunday to join Beijing in exploring the region's growth potential, amid the sluggish global economy and China rapidly opening up its interior.
Wen issued the invitation during his address at the opening ceremony of the second China-Eurasia Expo in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.
Faced with various challenges, "especially the global financial crisis that has lasted four years", countries in Eurasia should target development, Wen said.
Wen also noted that Beijing upgraded the regional fair last year. It used to be called China Urumqi Foreign Economic Relations and Trade Fair, one of the biggest of its type.
The upgrade was viewed as an important part of the country's opening-up.
"It paved a new passage for China to open up toward the West. Xinjiang has spearheaded China's cooperation with Eurasian countries, especially our neighbors," Wen said.
Xinjiang, which covers one-sixth of China's landmass, borders key regional players including Kazakhstan and Pakistan. But poor infrastructure has hampered economic activity.
However, the first expo witnessed the signing of 178 contracts worth 185 billion yuan ($29.14 billion), from domestic companies, to invest in Xinjiang. This represented a surge of 77.9 percent from the Urumqi fair in 2010, according to organizers.
Foreign trade contracts at the 2011 expo stood at $5.5 billion.
In the first half of 2012, Xinjiang's GDP rose 10.7 percent, 2.9 percentage points higher than the national average.
Statistics also point to a notable leap in the autonomous region's foreign trade, with the US this year becoming Xinjiang's third-largest trading partner. Xinjiang's exports to the EU, Malaysia and South Korea also doubled. Organizers have confirmed that 55 countries and regions will attend the second expo which will last until Friday. The number is nearly twice the figure for 2011.
Wen called on countries involved to further open up their markets and build a transportation network covering the whole region.
Nearly 90 leading political figures, from Eurasia and international organizations, were present at the event, which also drew more than 180 ministerial-level officials from home and abroad.
"Xinjiang is rich in natural resources, but natural recourses alone don't bring prosperity unless they are used as a foundation for further development," Tony Blair, the former UK prime minister, said.
"Development also depends on a harmonious society. The expo helps people respect each other and understand what they have in common.
"The future belongs to the open-minded and the expo helps to translate the attitude into substance. The expo is saying to neighboring countries 'let's work together' and let outsiders see what has been created."
Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Karim Massimov said that he was happy to see numerous trade achievements between China and his country in the past year. The special regulatory zone, the China-Kazakhstan Khorgos International Center of Boundary Cooperation, went into operation in December.
Last year also saw the building of a second railway linking the two neighbors.
"We hope we can build a promising partnership between China and Eurasia to ensure the progress and wellbeing of Chinese and Eurasian people," he said.
Vice-President of Afghanistan Karim Khalili said that his country looks forward to expanding ties with China to a strategic level.
Xing Guangcheng, a researcher of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said that "it was smart to launch the expo in Xinjiang, a region at the heartland of Eurasia and of great strategic importance to China". It is no coincidence to see the ancient Silk Road once again being used, via Xinjiang, he said.
He Weiwen, co-director at the China-US-EU Study Center of the China Association of International Trade, said China should use the event to boost trade and establish new areas for growth.
Contact the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org