Building a China-Arab states community with a shared future
Xin Ge
The flags of the China and Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, December 7, 2022. /CFP
The flags of the China and Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, December 7, 2022. /CFP

The flags of the China and Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, December 7, 2022. /CFP

Editor's note: Xin Ge is an associate professor at the School of Public Economics and Administration, Shanghai University of Finance and Economics. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

President Xi Jinping attended the inaugural China-Arab States Summit and China-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on December 9. Following the G20 Bali Summit, the 29th APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting and state visit to Thailand, President Xi visited the Middle East, drew a blueprint for China-Arab friendship and injected confidence into regional and world peace, stability, development and prosperity.

The summit is a milestone for China-Arab states relations. It seems rare that the Arab world, a highly diverse region with countries of different levels of economic development and internal conflicts, takes a friendly attitude towards China and all-round cooperation with China. The key reason lies in the outstanding problems the world is facing today. The changes unseen in a century are evolving rapidly: the rising geopolitical tensions and the risk of global recession, the superposition of multiple crises such as energy and food, the ascent of the Cold War mentality, hegemonism, unilateralism and protectionism – the entire world is standing at a crossroads. China and Arab countries are important developing countries, and crucial political forces on the international stage, and they must strengthen cooperation.

President Xi said, "China and Arab states should carry forward the spirit of China-Arab friendship, strengthen solidarity and cooperation, and foster a closer China-Arab community with a shared future, so as to deliver greater benefits to our peoples and advance the cause of human progress."

As early as 2004, China has established the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum (CASCF) and made noticeable outcomes in the following years – trade volume between the two sides increased from $36.7 billion in 2004 to $330.3 billion in 2021. The cooperation was boosted when China and Arab countries established the Higher Council for Energy Cooperation in 2012.

In 2013, President Xi proposed the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and a year later proposed building a China-Arab community of common interests and community of common destiny at the sixth ministerial conference of the CASCF. In 2016, Xi visited the headquarters of the League of Arab States to explain China's Middle East policy in the new era and plan for the future development of China-Arab relations. In 2018, at the 8th ministerial meeting of the CASCF, Xi announced the establishment of a strategic partnership of comprehensive cooperation, common development and future-oriented between China and Arab countries, and outlined the path to build a China-Arab community with a shared future. Two years later, at the 9th ministerial conference of the CASCF, the two sides promoted the building of a China-Arab community with a shared future in the Amman Declaration.

Chinese President Xi Jinping attends the first China-Arab States Summit and delivers a keynote speech in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, December 9, 2022. /Xinhua
Chinese President Xi Jinping attends the first China-Arab States Summit and delivers a keynote speech in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, December 9, 2022. /Xinhua

Chinese President Xi Jinping attends the first China-Arab States Summit and delivers a keynote speech in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, December 9, 2022. /Xinhua

The summit opens up broader prospects for the China-Arab strategic partnership, lead China and Arab countries to build more consensus on issues such as trade and commerce, security and development, people-to-people exchanges, etc.

In the past decade, China has signed BRI cooperation agreements with 20 Arab States and 17 Arab States have supported the China-proposed Global Development Initiative (GDI). In Tunisia, the China-Arab Beidou Center illuminates the road of China-Arab technical cooperation. In the United Arab Emirates, the Dubai Solar Thermal and PV Hybrid Power Project with Chinese participation helped achieve clean energy goals. In Egypt, the China-Egypt TEDA Suez Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone drives economic development and promotes employment for the local people. From the digital economy to green development, from artificial intelligence to aerospace, the BRI between China and Arab States has yielded fruitful results, benefiting nearly 2 billion people on both sides.

China has been the largest trading partner of Arab countries. In 2021, China's foreign direct investment stock in Arab states hit $23 billion, a 2.6 times increase over 10 years. In the first three quarters of 2022, China-Arab states trade reached $319.295 billion, up 35.28 percent year on year and close to the total of the whole year of 2021.

China has also made unremitting efforts for peace and stability in the Middle East and engaged in the political settlement over issues of Palestine, Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Libya and Sudan. China and Arab states have upheld the international system with the United Nations at its core, the international order based on international law, and basic norms governing international relations based on the principles of the UN Charter. In addition, since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, China and Arab states have worked hand in hand to cooperate on vaccine research and development, epidemic prevention and control, mask production, and sharing experience and medicine, setting a model for global cross-regional anti-epidemic cooperation. As of October 2022, China has offered 340 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Arab states.

In terms of expanding people-to-people exchanges, China and Arab countries strengthened cooperation in youth development, media, education, culture, health and other fields to deepen mutual understanding. Since 2013, China has trained 25,000 professionals for Arab states and provided about 11,000 government scholarships to Arabian students. Moreover, 80 medical teams with a total of nearly 1,700 people have been sent to Arab states. As of October 2022, 20 Confucius Institutes and two independent Confucius classrooms have been set up in 13 Arab states. The Chinese civilization and Arab civilization have their own systems, but they contain common ideas accumulated by human progress, and they both attach importance to values such as peace, loyalty, and self-restraint, and are committed to dialogues among civilizations and advocate inclusiveness and mutual learning.

Looking to the future, we believe that China and Arab countries will continue to work hand in hand, promote deeper and broader cooperation, and build a China-Arab community with a shared future for the new era, making new contributions to the lasting peace and common development of the world.

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