Dina Mahmoud, Abdullah Abu Deif, and Ahmed Atef (Cairo, London)
If the age of diplomatic relations between the Arab countries and China has been more than 66 years, since the first of these ties were inaugurated from Egypt in 1956, then the communication between these two pivotal spots of the world has not been interrupted for more than two thousand years, through the Silk Road that brought together various ancient civilizations, and laid the foundations for the human renaissance in the modern era.
The visit initiated by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Saudi Arabia, during which he will hold meetings with senior officials in the Kingdom, in addition to his participation in two Gulf-Chinese and Arab-Chinese summits, is a reminder of these solid relations that have withstood the stormy transformations that the world has witnessed over the past few decades. .
The intense diplomatic movement that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will be an arena for over three days, according to analysts, seems to be an indication of the keenness of China on the one hand, and the Arab countries, and the Gulf region in the heart of them, on the other hand, to strengthen the growing ties between them, in an increasingly international context. The importance of consolidating relations between the pivotal countries in the world.
Ahmed Suleiman, a researcher in Asian affairs, told Al-Ittihad that the relations between China and the Arab countries are rooted and mutual since ancient times, and have roots since the ancient Silk Road, but their real breakthrough in the modern era was in 2004 at the China-Arab Cooperation Forum in 2004, adding What distinguishes Arab-Chinese cooperation is that it is based on the idea of joint gain, meaning that all parties will emerge victorious.
Observers unanimously agree that Arab-Chinese cooperation, which now appears to be on the verge of entering a new starting phase, represents a unique model of its kind on the international scene, thanks to its flexibility, which allowed it to transform from coordination of an almost purely political nature since the end of the fifties of the twentieth century. Until the early eighties, to relations in which the political and economic paths paralleled, in the decades that followed.
Ahmed Salam, former media advisor at the Egyptian Embassy in Beijing, believes that there is a rapid and growing development, pointing out that the past decade is, in fact, an exceptional decade in relations.
Salam added to Al-Ittihad that relations developed gradually after the important speech of Chinese President Xi during his visit to Egypt on January 22, 2016 in front of the Arab League in Cairo. Then, the most important document was China’s policy towards the Arab countries issued in January 2016, which stipulated that China Ready to coordinate development plans with Arab governments.
Along the course of these historical relations, certain years stand out that constituted pivotal stations, in which more blood was pumped into the arteries of the Arab-Chinese partnership. In 1963, during his first Arab tour, Chinese leader Zhou Enlai put forward what was known as the five principles that govern relations between the two sides, which are based on Beijing’s support for the efforts of the Arab world to ensure its political and economic independence, its respect for its policies without interference in its affairs, and its invitation as well. To the various countries of the world, to show similar respect for the sovereignty of the Arab countries.
Also among these crucial dates is the year 2004 during which the Chinese-Arab Cooperation Forum was inaugurated, just nine years before Beijing placed the Arab region on the list of priority areas within the framework of its strategic vision, which was followed by the launch of the Chinese Communist Party in 2016, which It was known as the “Document of China’s Policy towards Arab Countries”.
This document, which was issued on the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of the establishment of Sino-Arab relations and coincided with a tour conducted by President Xi in the region at the time, is based on what analysts describe as (1 + 2 + 3 equation), in which the energy field is the main focus, and the fields of infrastructure and trade facilitation are represented. The investment has two wings, while taking three points of fulcrum for it; They are nuclear energy, space and satellites, and new energy.
This document confirms that the Arab world is an important partner for China, which in turn seeks to expand its cooperation with it in various fields, in pursuit of mutual benefit, whether in traditional sectors such as industry and agriculture, or in areas that rely more on modern technologies, such as space exploration and precision technology.
In light of this comprehensive vision, it is not difficult for experts and analysts to point out the most important factors that consolidate the foundations of Arab-Chinese relations, especially in light of the emergence of China as a force that cannot be ignored on the international scene, especially as it is one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. This is in tandem with the increasing strategic importance of the Arab world, which is referred to in the literature of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs as the “West Asia and North Africa region.”
China, which aspires to become the largest economy in the world by 2030, is seeking to deepen its partnership with the Arab region, which is rich in energy resources, and which is located in the heart of what is known as the “old world”, which gives it the ability to control the most important trade routes between the Far East and Europe. .
In addition to the oil and gas on which the huge Chinese economy relies to manage the engines of its rapid growth, the Arab world is distinguished by its enormous human weight, with a population of more than 430 million people, which makes it an attractive market for Beijing’s exports and investments, in various fields, on top of which are infrastructure facilities, high-tech enterprise, energy and chemical engineering, pharmaceutical and equipment manufacturing, and so on.
“The Belt and Road”
In light of the mutual interest in strengthening economic and investment relations, China has become the largest trading partner of the Arab countries, surpassing the United States, Britain and the countries of the European Union, as the volume of trade exchange between the two sides reached 330 billion US dollars in 2021, after it did not exceed 36.7 billion in 2004. It is the year of the inauguration of the bilateral cooperation forum between them.
In addition, China has become either a major trading partner or a major source of investment for more than a dozen Arab countries, which parallels Beijing’s current endeavor to strengthen its international alliances, through organizations and groupings such as BRICS, Shanghai, and ASEAN, as well as the African Union and the League of Arab States, especially after it completed its internal arrangement, and its President Xi Jinping was re-elected for a third term.
As for the Arab countries, on the other hand, they play a prominent role, within the framework of the “Belt and Road” initiative launched by Beijing in 2013 to enhance cooperation and coordination between different countries spread over a number of continents of the world.
The initiative includes 20 Arab countries, a number of which did not hesitate to work on aligning their development strategy with the initiative that extends until 2049, coinciding with the centenary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
Ahmed Salam, former media advisor at the Egyptian embassy, pointed out the importance of the Belt and Road Initiative as a basis for strengthening modern Chinese strategic relations.
He said that there are great opportunities that can be worked on between the Arab countries and China, especially in light of the global development initiative that China recently put forward to achieve sustainable development for the year 2030, in order to achieve the goals of green development, an initiative that the Arab countries expressed their support for.
He added that among these opportunities is joint investment in the fields of mining, especially in Egypt, Sudan, Algeria and Mauritania, and the establishment of industrial zones in which both Arab and Chinese technological and manufacturing capabilities will be exploited. He stressed the importance of exploiting the raw materials that Arab countries possess in manufacturing, especially those that are exclusively found in some Arab countries, such as black sand in Egypt, as well as gum arabic, from which Sudan produces 80% of the world’s production.
Peace and development
Both China and the Arab countries value peace and security as a prerequisite for development, and while China embarks on a new journey to transform itself into a great modern socialist country in all respects, it remains committed to sharing growth opportunities with other countries, especially the Arab countries that are in There is an urgent need for development, security and stability, according to the official Chinese news agency, Xinhua, in a special report on the occasion of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Saudi Arabia.
According to the report, President Xi said in his speech at the Arab League headquarters in 2016 that the key to addressing thorny problems is to accelerate development, stressing that China and Arab countries should strengthen cooperation and jointly strive for peace and development for mankind. In a congratulatory message sent by President Xi on the occasion of the 31st Arab Summit in Algiers last month, Xi said the Arab League, committed to seeking strength through unity in the Arab world, is actively promoting peace and stability in the Middle East, and making unremitting efforts to safeguard Pluralism and the common interests of developing countries.
Experts believe that China’s role and experience in self-development, including industrialization and modernization, are particularly needed in the reconstruction of devastated countries such as Syria, Libya and Yemen. Samer Khair Ahmed, a Jordanian writer and expert specializing in Arab-Chinese relations, pointed out, “It is important for China to provide its expertise in developing infrastructure in the Arab world in ports and international transport that connects the Arab region with the world, which will help make the Arab region regain its position.” As a link between Asia, Europe and Africa.
“China is willing to work with Arab countries to enhance mutual support and expand cooperation in a joint effort to build a Chinese-Arab community with a shared future for the new era, so as to create a bright future for Chinese relations,” Xi said in a congratulatory message on the occasion of the 31st summit of the League of Arab States on Nov. 1. Arabia and make contributions to world peace and development.
Nasser Abdel-Aal, professor of Chinese language and deputy dean of the Faculty of Al-Alsun at Ain Shams University in Egypt, said that the global development initiative gives China and its partners a platform to achieve its development goals in light of the United Nations Agenda for Sustainable Development for the year 2030.
Ahmed Kandil, head of the International Studies Unit at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, said that the Chinese initiatives are characterized by impartiality, objectivity and respect for the internal conditions of developing countries, with a focus on raising the standard of living of peoples, and for this reason they have received a great welcome from developing countries.
The Arab Gulf states contribute strongly to advancing the locomotive of Arab-Chinese relations, as the volume of trade exchange between them and Beijing in 2019 amounted to 180 billion US dollars, in addition to the interest of the two sides in strengthening cooperation between them in areas such as trade in goods and services, and fifth-generation communications. green economy, and artificial intelligence technologies.
The Gulf countries are also at the top of the list of Arab countries that attract Chinese investments. Between 2005 and 2021, Saudi Arabia acquired 21 percent of these investments, followed by the United Arab Emirates with approximately 17 percent.
With regard to the UAE in particular, in 2020 China ranked third on the list of the largest investing countries in the country, with investments exceeding $5.4 billion. Also, two years ago, the volume of non-oil trade between the two countries amounted to $74.4 billion.
A combination of factors
Dr. Yasser Jadallah, former director of the Chinese Research Center, considered that the current global conditions highlight the importance of enhancing cooperation and activity between China on the one hand and the various Arab countries on the other.
He explained that there are common interests between China and the Arab markets, expecting a boom in various fields between China and the region, especially energy, trade and investment, as well as joint investments in satellite technology and renewable energy.
Since 2005, China has signed contracts with Arab countries worth nearly $148 billion, more than 30 percent of which has been allocated to energy projects, as well as construction projects, and the supply of goods, ranging from machinery and heavy equipment to clothing.
According to data and studies, by the middle of the decade, the value of Chinese funds allocated for development purposes in the Arab world increased by ten times more than it was before, contributing to the creation of hundreds of thousands of new job opportunities, in societies many of which suffer from exacerbating unemployment rates.
The combination of political, economic and historical factors that unite the Arab region and China enhances the prospects for relations between them to gain more momentum and strength in the coming years, in light of the great care on the part of the two parties to respect the privacy of each of them, and to adopt balanced policies based on diversifying partnerships and alliances.
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