Sino-Arab cooperation highlights mutual benefits

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Wu Haoze / For China Daily
Wu Haoze / For China Daily

Published: Mon 27 Mar 2023, 10:21 AM

From the camel caravans travelling along the ancient Silk Road routes, to Egypt becoming the ÿ rst Arab country that established diplomatic ties with China in 1956, to the giant cargo ships and trains running along the routes of the Belt and Road Initiative, China and Arab countries enjoy a long-standing history of friendship.

By Li Chengwen

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In recent years, China has proposed many initiatives to promote peace and development in the Middle East, a move welcomed by Arab states, and Arab countries firmly support China in safeguarding its independence and sovereignty. So far, China has established a consultation mechanism with most Arab countries and has forged comprehensive strategic partnerships or strategic partnerships with 12 Arab states as well as the Arab League. Since China entered the new era, China-Arab practical cooperation has accelerated and yielded fruitful results. In 2012, the trade volume between China and Arab states totalled about $222 billion, which increased to about $330 billion in 2021. Over the past decade, China has grown to be the largest trading partner of the Arab world, while the Middle East has become China’s largest source of crude oil imports. The two sides have also expanded their cooperation in various areas, from aerospace and the greening of deserts to culture and technology. China and Arab countries are natural partners in building the Belt and Road. Since China proposed the Belt and Road Initiative in 2013, it has signed cooperation documents with 20 Arab states as well as the Arab League, the first regional organisation to sign a cooperation document with China under the framework of the initiative. Connectivity of infrastructure has made great progress. The Phase II container terminal of the UAE’s Khalifa Port has been put into use, and the light rail transit system jointly built by Chinese and Egyptian companies has started trial operations in Cairo. Trade cooperation has gained steam in recent years.

Many Arab states have participated in the China International Import Expo, and a wide range of Chinese products have been delivered to Arab consumers through the booming e-commerce sector. In addition, investment cooperation has expanded. China’s Fujian province has signed a deal with Saudi Basic Industries Corp to build a 40 billion yuan ($5.9 billion) petrochemical complex, and Saudi Aramco is teaming up with China’s Baosteel to build a world-class steel plate mill in Saudi Arabia. People-to-people exchanges have become closer. Nine editions of the China-Arab Dialogue on Civilisation have been held, and countries such as the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Tunisia have included the Chinese language in school curriculums.

In a world fraught with uncertainties and changes, China and the Arab world should deepen their cooperation to jointly advance the Belt and Road Initiative, make more contributions to preserving regional peace and security, and jointly tackle global challenges such as climate change, with a view to building a human community with a shared future.

The author is former ambassador for China-Arab States Cooperation Forum affairs for China’s Foreign Ministry and former ambassador to Sudan and Saudi Arabia. This is an abridged version of an article that appeared in China Daily. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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