“Arab states, as important participants and co-creators of the ancient Silk Road civilization located at the juncture of the land and maritime Silk Roads, are natural partners in Belt and Road cooperation.”
This is how Chinese President Xi Jinping described Arab states and their relation to the Belt and Road Initiative at the opening ceremony of the eighth ministerial meeting of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum, which was held on July 10 in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
It’s Xi’s third time to articulate China’s policy to the Arab world following President Xi’s participation in the sixth CASCF ministerial meeting in 2014 and his visits to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Arab League headquarters in 2016.
The CASCF, founded 14 year ago with ever increasing size and influence, has facilitated China’s cooperation and communication with the Arab states as a whole.
China and Arab countries have always maintained an enduring friendship and are important trade partners. China-Arab countries economic and trade cooperation has achieved fruitful results.
At the opening ceremony of the eighth ministerial meeting, President Xi announced that China and the Arab countries had agreed to establish a “Sino-Arab future-oriented strategic partnership of comprehensive cooperation and common development,” which marks a new historical starting point and has opened a new chapter in China-Arab countries cooperation. At the same time, China and Arab countries also approved the Beijing Declaration, a Declaration of Action on Sino-Arab Belt and Road Cooperation, and an action plan guiding the development of the CASCF from 2018 to 2020, which depict a clear and systematic blueprint for the development of Sino-Arab countries relations in the coming period.
As President Xi Jinping said at the opening ceremony of this ministerial meeting, “the Arab world is strategically located and blessed with abundant energy resources. With our strong complementarity and converging interests, China and Arab states must synergize our development strategies in pursuit of our respective dreams of rejuvenation.” President Xi also announced that China supports establishing a financial platform for manufacturing cooperation to diversify sources of funding for the construction of industrial parks and to see that financial support goes together with the provision of services and growth of enterprises in these parks.
During the opening ceremony, Chinese President Xi said that by “leveraging our respective strengths and pursuing win-win results, we have delivered benefits to people both in our region and beyond. As various projects attest, a dynamic situation has been created and many fruits harvested in our Belt and Road cooperation.”
Four years ago, at the sixth ministerial conference of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum, President Xi Jinping attended the opening ceremony and delivered an important speech stressing the importance to promote Silk Road spirit and deepen China-Arab cooperation and issued an invitation to the Arab world to build the Belt and Road .
President Xi said that through the ancient Silk Road, the ancestors of the Chinese and Arab peoples took the lead in the friendly exchanges among nations in the ancient world. Currently, both China and the Arab states face the common mission and challenge of achieving national rejuvenation. He hoped that the two sides will promote the Silk Road spirit and take the joint construction of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the Maritime Silk Road of the 21st Century as a new opportunity and new starting point to constantly deepen China-Arab strategic cooperative relations of comprehensive cooperation and common development.
The speech received wide support and active participation from the Arab world and the international community. Over the past four years, the construction of the “Belt and Road” has comprehensively promoted the development of China-Arab countries relations and upgraded China-Arab countries comprehensive cooperation to a new stage.
China-Arab countries collective cooperation has been upgraded in an all-round way, and trade and investment cooperation between the two sides has entered a new era of accelerated development. In 2014, at the sixth ministerial conference of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum, President Xi proposed to establish a “1+2+3” cooperation pattern, namely, to take energy cooperation as the core, infrastructure construction and trade and investment facilitation as the two wings, and three high and new tech fields of nuclear energy, space satellite and new energy as new breakthroughs.
In recent years, the quality and efficiency of China-Arab countries economic and trade cooperation have been steadily upgraded with continuously expanding scope. In 2017, the bilateral trade volume between China and the Arab states was nearly 200 billion U.S. dollars, 11.9% up over the previous year. At present, Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Sudan, and Bahrain have become members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. There are promising spaces in terms of China-Arab financial cooperation.
Sharing common development strategies, China and Arab states are highly complementary in economic and trade and have a broad prospect for cooperation. In the next five years, China will import products worth more than 8 trillion U.S. dollars, and the total foreign investment will exceed 750 billion U.S. dollars, which will bring more cooperation opportunities and concrete benefits to Arab countries.
Well illustrated by the ministerial meeting, China-Arab economic and trade cooperation had achieved fruitful results. On July 9, during the Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Al-Sabah’s visit to China, the Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry of Kuwait signed a MOU on E-Commerce Cooperation between the Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry of Kuwait witnessed by the heads of state of China and Kuwait.
Apart from deepening cooperation in traditional areas such as bilateral trade and project contracting, China and Kuwait are also actively exploring and expanding new areas of cooperation. China and Kuwait will jointly cooperate in e-commerce projects, especially in promoting the import and export trade of quality products and services, and opening up new ways and new areas via e-commerce to continuously improve trade facilitation and cooperation. It will also build a platform for investment cooperation between Chinese and Western businesses, and further promote the sustained and stable development of Sino-Kuwait economic and trade investment cooperation.
On July 12, the China-Arab Bank Consortium, which was founded by four Chinese banks, including the China Development Bank and the National Bank of Egypt and the Lebanese French Bank, was formally established to provide financing support and financial services for major projects in China and Arab countries.
In summary, the convening of the China-Arab Cooperation Forum has laid a solid political foundation for China-Arab economic and trade cooperation and formed a unique China program. It is foreseeable that the scope of China-Arab economic and trade cooperation will continue to expand with more diversified methods and significant results.
Source: China Focus