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Morsi kicks off visit to China

By Yang Jingjie Source:Global Times Published: 2012-8-28 1:25:05

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi will be paying a state visit to China from Tuesday to Thursday, with the Syrian crisis and the courting of Chinese investment for a post-revolution Egypt topping his agenda.

Observers said Morsi's visit, the first state visit outside the Middle East region since he took office two months ago, indicates a reorientation of Egypt's foreign policy, a gauging of Beijing's attitude toward the region's revolutions as well as the country's attempts to draw experiences from China's development model.

Morsi paid his first foreign visit since inauguration to Saudi Arabia last month, and is expected to visit the US next month.

Li Guofu, a researcher with the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times that the trip signifies a major shift in Egypt's foreign policy, which used to be firmly in Washington's camp, and that the nation is reasserting itself as a regional power.

Egypt is pursuing an independent foreign policy and stating that it won't be a follower of any world power, said Li.

"It also reflects the fact that Egypt values the role played by China in the world," he noted.

"Our president wants closer ties with China not only in the economic sector, but also in the political arena," Abdel Monem Said Aly, president of the Cairo-based Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, told the Global Times.

Aly said that in addition to upgrading traditional friendly ties with China, the new leader also hopes to take the opportunity to learn about the Chinese leadership's general views on the Middle East following the so-called Arab Spring which saw several regime changes during the past 20 months.

Yasser Ali, a spokesman for Morsi, said Sunday that the Syrian crisis will be the main issue during the president's visit to China, according to The New York Times.

Egypt has proposed including Iran, along with Turkey and Saudi Arabia, in an Egypt-led effort to resolve the escalating conflicts in Syria, the Financial Times reported.

Yin Gang, a researcher with the Institute of West Asian and African Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that compared with the West's position, China and Egypt share more common ground on the Syrian issue.

"Both countries oppose armed interference by external forces. It is likely they can work out an initiative that suits the needs of the Syrian people," said Yin.

Besides the Syrian crisis, Ali nominated the pursuit of foreign investment the "second element" of Morsi's trip to China, noting that as a gateway to Africa and the most populous Arab state, Egypt could be a trade depot for goods from China, reported The New York Times.

The president comes with a heavyweight business delegation.

According to a press release sent to the Global Times by the Egyptian business delegation, which arrived in Beijing on Sunday, 80 Egyptian entrepreneurs from sectors including energy, construction and the petrochemical industry will attend an economic forum on Tuesday and Wednesday. About 200 Chinese enterprises will also take part in the event.

The delegation expects China's investment to reach $2 billion in three years from the current level of $500 million, covering sectors like logistics, telecommunications and transportation, said the release.

The Egyptian side was also hoping to increase tourist flows by holding several meetings with representatives from the Chinese tourism sector during the president's visit, reported the Xinhua News Agency.

Battered by months of social turbulence, Morsi's government is grappling with a failing economy and striving to generate jobs, which analysts believe gives China a foothold in the post-revolution country.

"They hope the visit will be able to draw the attention of Chinese enterprises and capital to boost the development of local small- and medium-sized enterprises, and the inflow of tourists could revive the country's service sector," said Li.

Aly said Egypt wants to draw upon experiences regarding poverty reduction from China.

"We hope the regime will be able to reinforce infrastructure development and energy supplies as well as roll out stimulus measures assisting Chinese enterprises to invest here," Li Daixin, a deputy general manager of the China-Africa TEDA Investment Co which established and operates an economic and trade zone in Cairo, told the Global Times.

Posted in: Diplomacy