B&R offers historic opportunity for Middle East

By Toumert Al Source:Global Times Published: 2017/5/30 22:13:39

Illustration: Peter C. Espina/GT


Sino-Arab relations date back to the eve of Western civilizations, when the Middle East was known as Mesopotamia. For more than 5,000 years, the Arab world had the privilege of knowing the Asian continent, and there were many exchanges with the Xia, Shang and Zhou dynasties. Not only was there contact between these two civilizations; the Arabs also played the dominant role in helping China to trade and share its discoveries with Europe and Africa.

I wanted to reflect on the past first before we can discuss the present and the future. While it is true the past does not define us today, it can give guidance about where we want to be in the future.

Today, the Arab world has an opportunity to make a decisive resolution with regard to enhancing its relations with China to entail not only political support, but also to engage more deeply with China in social, cultural, economic and governing exchanges.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, the Arab world found itself lost in terms of finding partners and friends to cooperate with. For a certain time, the bipolar world that the Arab states had been used to navigating through was gone for ever, and for about 10 years they thought the US was the only partner left. With the 2008 economic crisis, Iraq war, and a failed Arab Spring movement, the Arab world found itself alone in dealing with the aftermath of these events. Since then, the economies of the 22 countries that make the backbone of Arab dreams and inspirations, have been suffering and trying to find alternatives to secure their survival as nations. As the past tells us that we prospered and gave birth to the Western civilizations during a certain period of human history because we had the opportunity geographically to be closer to Asia, especially China, I firmly believe that we must renew that path that led us to China because it brought us a civilization, it brought us wealth, and it gave us a role in shaping the world.

China is aware more than we are about our potential, and for that reason during the first Sino-Arab summit in 2004, the then Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing said that the Arab world is an important force in the international arena, and that China and Arab countries enjoy a time-honored friendship. He said similar histories, common objectives and wide-ranging shared interests have enabled the two sides to strengthen cooperation, and no matter how the international situation changes, China has always been a sincere friend of the Arab world.

With that in mind, Chinese President Xi Jinping has been very explicit on the contribution that China is ready to make with regard to the Arab world. "China will encourage Chinese companies to invest in such fields as energy, petrochemicals, agriculture, manufacturing and services to increase China's non-financial investment in Arab states from $10 billion last year to over $60 billion in the coming decade," Xi said during the sixth ministerial conference of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum held in Beijing in 2014.

The opportunity is there for us to take today, as part of the 21st century Belt and Road initiative. This is a shared vision, and we, as Arab nations, can play an essential role in its success.

The author is director of Education, International Bachelor Program at the International School under China Foreign Affairs University. bizopinion@globaltimes.com.cn


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