China-Arab ties ever-prosperous
Updated: September 8, 2022 10:57 China Daily

While China and Arab countries were economically connected by the Silk Road over a thousand years ago, more recently, the rollout of the landmark Belt and Road Initiative over the past nine years in the region has succeeded in revitalizing the ancient trade route.

The Chinese visions, including the Belt and Road Initiative and the Global Development Initiative, are gathering increasing support from Arab countries because they help them effectively tackle their needs for diversifying their economies and bolstering infrastructure and connectivity, officials and experts said.

As of July last year, 19 Arab countries plus the League of the Arab States had signed cooperative documents with China on co-building the Belt and Road.

The two sides have made great achievements in cooperative areas such as the digital economy, 5G telecommunications networks and aerospace, in addition to their teamwork in traditional areas such as trade and energy.

Infrastructure and connectivity megaprojects contracted by Chinese enterprises in Arab countries include railways, stadiums and direct shipping lanes.

Abdulrahman bin Ahmed Al-Harbi, Saudi Arabian ambassador to China, told the Fourth China-Arab Trade and Investment Summit on Sept 7 in Xiamen, Fujian province, in a video speech that his country will continue to be China's strategic partner in synergizing Saudi Vision 2030 with the BRI and "creating a competitive business environment on a global scale".

Wang Guangda, secretary-general of the China-Arab Research Center on Reform and Development and a professor at Shanghai International Studies University, told the forum via video link that "both sides are striving for building a peaceful and stable environment for their development".

"China is gearing up to build a new development paradigm, and the Arab countries are demonstrating greater independence and self-reliance on the global stage," he noted.

Noting the rapid growth of trade between China and Arab countries in the first few months of this year, Wang said, "The two-way cooperation is rising against global economic headwinds, which demonstrates their great potential and resilience, brings tangible interests to their peoples and also contributes to the global economic recovery."

Taking the year 2020 as an example, the annual total trade between China and Arab countries was $239 billion.

Mechanics, electronics and high-technology products accounted for 67.4 percent of Chinese exports to Arab countries that year.

China has become the largest trade partner with Arab countries, and Arab countries are China's largest source of overseas crude oil supply, Vice-Minister of Commerce Qian Keming told a news conference last year.

Muhammad Hasanein Khaddam, Syrian ambassador to China, noted that the governments of Syria and China recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding concerning Syria's joining the BRI as well as reviving the bilateral economic committee.

"This can offer strong ground for Chinese businesses to have their touch in the rebuilding of Syria. We would welcome and appreciate Chinese investment in this process," he said at the forum via video link.

"China's BRI coincides with the long-term development strategies of many Arab countries. They are highly complementary to each other," said Li Shaoxian, director of Ningxia University's China-Arab Research Institute.

"There is considerable impetus between the two sides to further work in the same direction, and it is a major trend for them to further upgrade their cooperation," he added.

Following the outcomes yielded via the BRI, many Arab countries have publicly stated their trust in other development-related initiatives proposed by China, such as the Global Development Initiative first put forward by President Xi Jinping last September.

At the High-Level Dialogue on Global Development held following the BRICS Summit in June, all the attending leaders of Arab nations endorsed the GDI, saying that the initiative is conducive to deepening international cooperation on development and bolstering global prosperity.

Ding Gong, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, noted that infrastructure has long been a weak link in the economic development of Arab countries, posing as a bottleneck for their future growth, and China has come to their help in this regard.

By collaborating with China, the energy sectors in the Arab countries could upgrade, attract more quality investment and yield enormous economic benefits, Ding said in a recent article.

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