China, Arab states agree to develop strategic partnership

By Shan Jie Source:Global Times Published: 2018/7/10 19:08:39

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a speech at the opening ceremony of the eighth ministerial meeting of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum on Tuesday morning at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Photo: Xinhua

China and Arab states have agreed to upgrade cooperation with a series of measures covering the economy, energy and technology on Tuesday, a move that shows the structure of China's strategy in the Middle East and brings it to new heights, Chinese experts said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping told the eighth ministerial meeting of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum (CASCF) that the upgrade creates a "future-oriented strategic partnership of comprehensive cooperation and common development," the Xinhua News Agency reported.

The meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing brought together Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, along with foreign ministers or other ministerial officials from 21 Arab countries, as well as the secretary general of the Arab League.

Xi said the strategic partnership will be the new historical starting point for friendly cooperation between China and Arab countries.

This is the third time Xi has articulated China's policy to the Arab world, indicating that China attaches great importance and gives full support to developing ties with Arab countries and construction of the CASCF, Assistant Foreign Minister Chen Xiaodong told a press briefing on Friday.

"The atmosphere at the meeting was very friendly," Zhu Weilie, a Middle East expert at the Shanghai International Studies University who also attended the meeting, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

"Beijing proposes unity, therefore all Arab countries could gather here, including Qatar, which has been absent from some events in the Middle East," Zhu said.

Many Arab countries have an influence in almost all international organizations and China has more than 20 million Muslims, making China's increased cooperation with the Arab world a natural step forward recognized by all sides, Zhu noted.

"It is the best time for China and Arab countries to upgrade their cooperation," Li Weijian, a professor at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, told the Global Times.

"With great changes in the current international situation, Arab countries have been leaning more toward the east, while China has a greater capability and resolve to offer practical help," Li noted.

China has also offered to provide a $20 billion line of credit to Arab nations in need of help, Xinhua reported, adding the fund will be used for projects that provide large employment opportunities and stable benefits.

Li said that China has supported the development and management of the Middle East, with the aim of helping regional stability.

"China is now using its approach to resolve issues in the Middle East," said Li.

Zhu noted that "China can be active and effective by providing resources that help reforms in the Middle East. We will negotiate, construct and share together."

China is the second largest trading partner of Arab states and has signed nonbinding memorandums of understanding on the Belt and Road initiative with nine Arab countries.

Beyond oil and gas

Tuesday's meeting also covered almost all areas of cooperation. Along with energy and trade, the two sides will expand ties in areas such as technology, communications and the arts.

The two sides will promote an "oil and gas plus" mode, under which oil, gas, nuclear and clean energy will be developed, according to Xinhua.

An information communications center was also officially established. The fourth Arab Arts Festival will be held in China, Xinhua reported.

The diversity of the Middle East should become the source of vitality in the region. Powers outside the region should do more to mediate disputes, promote dialogue, and provide positive energy for peace and development in the Middle East, President Xi told the meeting in his opening speech, according to Xinhua.

Zhu said that since a large portion of the population in the Middle East is young, fostering new talent is also a key aspect.

The trend toward broader cooperation is natural, as Arab countries want to diversify beyond their oil and gas resources, and China has much to offer in many aspects, Li noted.

"This shows that China, as a big country in international affairs, is playing a leading role," Zhu noted.

Newspaper headline: China-Arab ties strategic: Xi

Posted in: DIPLOMACY

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