Future oriented
5 Jun 2024

China and the Arab states are seeking to build on the achievements of the past two decades of cooperation


The past 20 years since the first China-Arab States Cooperation Forum have witnessed the rapid development of relations between China and the Arab states, and the two sides have been working hand in hand for peace and development. China and the Arab states will continue to build on existing cooperation outcomes, further deepen and broaden their cooperation, and promote the building of a China-Arab community with a shared future.


Established in 2004, the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum has become a platform for collective dialogue and practical cooperation between China and the Arab countries. The forum has made significant contributions to the advancement of China-Arab relations and set a stellar example of solidarity and collaboration among developing countries and South-South cooperation.


To start with, in the political domain, leaders from both sides have guided the way forward through head-of-state diplomacy.


The two decades since the forum's establishment has seen the most active high-level exchanges between China and Arab countries. In particular, over the past 10 years, Chinese President Xi Jinping has guided the development of bilateral relations on the fast track of accelerated upgrading.


In 2014, President Xi proposed to build a China-Arab community of common interests and a community with a shared future; in 2022, leaders from both sides agreed unanimously to build a China-Arab community with a shared future in the new era. Upholding the principle of mutual respect and treating each other as equals, China and Arab states have been deepening political mutual trust, firmly supporting each other on issues that bear on their respective core interests and are of major concern to them, and working together to maintain regional and world peace and stability.


Second, in economy and trade, practical cooperation between China and Arab states has yielded fruitful outcomes.


Since the establishment of the forum in 2004, China and the Arab states have continuously enriched the content of the forum in key areas such as the economy and trade, energy, science and technology, and finance.


China has been the biggest trading partner of the Arab states for many consecutive years, with bilateral trade surging from $36.7 billion in 2004 to $398 billion in 2023. China has signed Belt and Road cooperation documents with all 22 Arab states and the Arab League; over 200 cooperation projects have been implemented by China and the Arab states under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative; the stock of direct investment between China and Arab countries has exceeded $30 billion.


From trade in goods and connectivity projects, to green and low-carbon growth and resource census, and then to information communication and space satellites, China-Arab practical cooperation has been expanding and extending from the earth to the sky, thus injecting strong impetus into economic and social development of both sides and building a road to development that benefits the people of both sides.


Third, in terms of people-to-people exchanges, the forum has promoted mutual learning and amity between the Chinese and Arab peoples.


The Chinese civilization and Arab civilization each have their own systems and characteristics, but both sides have always treated each other with an open and inclusive mindset and replaced conflict and confrontation with dialogue and exchange, thus becoming a stellar example of harmonious coexistence between countries with different social systems, beliefs and cultural traditions.


Since the establishment of the forum two decades ago, China and the Arab states have vigorously held various art festivals, symposiums on China-Arab civilization dialogue and other activities, and jointly launched specific projects such as the China-Arab Think Tank Alliance and the Sino-Arab Program of Mutual Translation and Publication of Ancient Books, to enhance mutual understanding and renew the China-Arab traditional friendship.


In addition to the Confucius Institutes jointly launched by China and the Arab countries, Arab countries including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Tunisia have voluntarily included the Chinese language in their national education systems.


The establishment and development of the forum has not only promoted the all-round development of China-Arab relations, but also made significant contributions to peace and development in the region and the world at large.


In the process of advancing China-Arab cooperation, the two sides have not only enriched the content of building a community with a shared future for mankind, but also provided the international community with a brand-new model of cooperation and development concepts. Through the forum, China and the Arab states have jointly deepened and substantiated Belt and Road cooperation. The forum is also an important platform for strengthening South-South cooperation, providing a reference for other developing countries by sharing successful experience and development concepts.


Looking ahead, China should stand in solidarity with the Arab states to give full play to the forum's role in advancing China-Arab cooperation, and promote the development of China-Arab relations.


To start with, China and the Arab states should continue to strengthen high-level exchanges, adhere to the right direction of building a China-Arab community with a shared future, inject new impetus into South-South cooperation, and work together to maintain a peaceful and stable environment necessary for the development and prosperity of both sides.


The two sides can organize various meetings and forums on a regular basis to exchange views on international and regional issues of common concern, to enhance mutual understanding and trust and lay a more solid foundation for deepening cooperation in other areas.


Second, China and the Arab states should consolidate and deepen cooperation in traditional areas such as trade, energy and infrastructure, while exploring new potential for cooperation in emerging areas such as the digital economy and artificial intelligence, to realize higher-quality mutual benefits and win-win results and higher-level coordinated development.


In particular, under the framework of the forum, China and the Arab states can set up working groups on economic and trade cooperation in accordance with different development stages, market requirements and cooperation demands of major subregions including West Asia and North Africa. In this way, the two sides can focus on specific issues such as high-quality development of trade and investment, alignment and integration of industrial and supply chains, and sustainable international development cooperation. They can tailor-make and improve the design of economic and trade cooperation policies based on actual circumstances to advance economic growth of both sides for mutual benefits and win-win outcomes.


Finally, China and Arab states should continue to develop rich and diverse cooperation in such areas as youth, journalism, education, culture, healthcare and radio and television broadcasting, to strengthen exchanges and mutual learning between the two civilizations.


Young people are the inheritors and drivers of China-Arab traditional friendship. China and the Arab countries should attach top priority to enhancing mutual understanding and affinity between young people from both sides and improve their capability to make them a reliable force driving the future development of bilateral cooperation.


The author is vice-president of the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation under the Ministry of Commerce. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.


Source: China Daily