A New Milestone in Sino-Egyptian Relations
By WU SIKE
AT the start of the New Year, Chinese President Xi Jinping paid state visits to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, among other West Asian and North African countries. As former envoy to these two countries, I found this most gratifying.
The year 2016 marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Egypt. This year is hence of great significance in the development of Sino-Egyptian – even Sino-Arab relations. The Belt and Road Initiative proposed by Xi Jinping two years ago has received wide recognition in Egypt and the Arab world, and is now in the implementation phase. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), an accompanying initiative also up and running, is a new and important platform for Sino-Arab cooperation. Among its founding members are seven Arab states, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s political transformation has entered a new stage, its main task to seek stability and promote development. This shared historical mission brings China, Egypt and other Arab countries closer together. Xi’s visit in January further promoted mutual understanding and bilateral cooperation, and comprehensively upgraded bilateral strategic cooperation. It was thus a milestone in Sino-Egyptian and Sino-Arab relations.
Longstanding Relations Augur Broad Cooperation Prospects
An Arab nation in North Africa, Egypt is a large developing country whose dominant religion is Islam. Deepened Sino-Egyptian cooperation has a solid foundation and denotes broad prospects. China has always perceived and developed Sino-Egyptian relations from a strategic level and long-term point of view, having supported Egypt’s quest for stability and development through practical actions. Over the past half century, China and Egypt have shown understanding, respect, trust and support for one another. Egypt was the first Arab country with whom the PRC established diplomatic relations. It was also the first developing country with whom China set up a 21st century-oriented strategic cooperative relationship.
The new historical period signals a brand new chapter in Sino-Egyptian relations, as Egypt undergoes a great social transformation. China firmly supports the Egyptian people’s right to make their own choices, oppose external interference, and persevere in consolidating and developing bilateral cooperation and people-to-people exchanges.
Cooperation between the two sides in various fields, therefore, has steadily progressed. At the end of 2014, China and Egypt elevated their bilateral ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership. Sino-Egyptian relations thus serve as a model for Sino-African, Sino-Arab and South-South cooperation.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has visited China twice since taking office. He also participated in activities held in Beijing in September 2015 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the victory of the Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti-Fascist War. The Egyptian guard of honor was the sole African and Arab patrol to participate in the military parade starting at Tian’anmen Square, so signifying the close relations and deep friendship between China and Egypt.
The two nations also signed an agreement on boosting cooperation in production capacity, so setting the direction of bilateral pragmatic cooperation in the new historical period, and enriching the connotations of China-Egyptian comprehensive strategic partnership. Alongside implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative and accelerated development of the Suez Canal Corridor, China and Egypt share much in common as regards strategic goals and development ideas. This provides a new growth point and driving force for the development of Sino-Egyptian relations in the new era.
To achieve common dreams such as building a strong and prosperous country, achieving the great rejuvenation of the nation, and providing people with a happy life, both sides place high hopes on bilateral cooperation. It is with these aims in mind that they proactively promote pragmatic cooperation. China and Egypt have seen emerging cooperation potential in such fields as trade, investment, infrastructure, energy, transport, culture, and education. In 2014, the trade volume between Egypt and China reached a historical high of US $11.6 billion. From January to September 2015, the figure hit US $9.67 billion – a 13 percent year-on-year increase. Sino-Egyptian relations will embrace even brighter development prospects.
New Historical Opportunities for Sino-Arab Cooperation
China and Arab countries always show mutual respect and trust for one another, and persevere in seeking common development through win-win cooperation. The Chinese and Arab/Islamic civilizations first experienced exchanges and mutual learning more than 1,000 years ago, through the ancient Silk Road. Exchanges between the two old civilizations have remained constant.
Since entering the new millennium, the world has become smaller thanks to economic globalization and informatization. Sino-Arab relations established on the foundation of mutual respect and win-win cooperation have seen leapfrog development. Establishment of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum in 2004 in particular elevated bilateral relations, featuring comprehensive cooperation and common development, to a strategic level.
China has declared its stance in light of the great revolution and social transformation in the Arab world. First, China understands and respects the people in these countries and regions’ aspirations and demands for change, their wishes and choices. China opposes other countries’ intervention in the internal affairs of the nations involved, and firmly believes that disputes should be solved through dialogue and other political approaches. China disapproves of and would never endorse the resolution of disputes through violence.
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