China’s wisdom prevails in Middle East: former Egyptian diplomat
Published: Jul 17, 2022 04:59 PM
LNG ships sailing in Suez Canal Photo: VCG

LNG ships sailing in Suez Canal Photo: VCG

Editor's Note:

During the past decade, the world has increasingly witnessed a trend of "the East is rising, and the West is declining" in the spheres of economy, security and discourse power. Western countries, particularly the US, plagued by internal woes, have sought the old path of passing the buck and instigating turmoil elsewhere to ease their own pressure. China, representative of the emerging countries, is proposing new solutions to global problems. By advocating win-win development, facilitating consultation and reconciliation and proposing a balanced and effective security mechanism, China is striving to build a community with a shared future for mankind.

In the sixth piece of the series, Ali el-Hefny, Egypt's former ambassador to China and former deputy foreign minister, told Global Times (GT) reporters Yu Jincui and Lu Yuanzhi that in the Middle East, where the situation is chaotic and volatile, there is a need for engagement by world powers, mainly China, to help the region recover stability, peace and security and China's role is particularly needed in the reconstruction of devastated countries such as Syria, Libya, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon.

GT: You once said no one is in the position to play the role of a "human rights preacher" to teach China how to maintain regional peace and stability. Any attempt to play the role of preacher was aimed at putting pressure on China. Can you elaborate it? 

el-Hefny: Yes. No nation or group of nations has the right to teach others for several reasons. First, these nations or organizations lack the necessary credentials to assume that role. There is no unanimity about that. Second, they lack credibility as they apply double standards. They are not just or fair and their score is even negative as far as human rights at their home are concerned. Third, support to flagrant human rights violations in some nations make their bullying approaches regarding other nations groundless and doubtful when it comes to their real intentions toward the later. Fourth, each and every one of our nations knows better about circumstances prevailing in our places and doesn't need advices of those nations.

The stances of those countries you mentioned have, I wouldn't say a hidden agenda, but a clear agenda regarding China in general and the situation in Xinjiang in particular, they fear the rise of China and feel that the competition with China has gone too far and that they are not able anymore to cope with China's advances in almost fields. Those countries do their best to tarnish China's image and credibility worldwide, in particular.

After the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative, it has achieved big success and received widespread appeal. China's wisdom prevailed once again. The key word here is fear - their fear of what China could become by 2050and to which extent their weight and role could accomplish. 

GT: When Chinese President Xi Jinping met Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, who attended the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games in February, Xi said that the comprehensive cooperative partnership between China and Egypt sets an example for China's win-win cooperation with Arabian, African and developing countries. How do you comment on the development of bilateral relations over the past 10 years and what's your expectation for the future bilateral relations? 

el-Hefny: Egypt and China enjoy a lot of similarities, that has been so obvious since their two leaders took over as president. They have both almost identical and profound appreciation of world politics. Their mutual understanding got deeper and deeper over the past few years. They met many times and developed mutual understanding, in particular with regard to the priority that should be given to sustainable development in their nations, to the building up of their economies, to striving to aim at raising the standards of living of their people and to the preservation of our two nations' national security, peace and stability, because any country, if it's stable and strong from within, no other country could threaten its peace and stability. 

To give an example, President Xi made it a top priority to eradicate poverty in China, President al-Sisi launched an unprecedented campaign to raise the standards of living for almost 60 million Egyptians living in the countryside, in almost 4,500 villages. The campaign's name is Haya Karima, meaning "decent life." The two presidents have the political will to work together to develop further and further their two nations' bilateral relations, this is beneficial for the two nations and the two peoples. The presidents are willing to work together to further develop Arab-China relations, Africa-China relations and our mutual relations with other developing nations. Both countries are focused on the idea of creating a joint future because we have a common destiny. Both countries are focused on common human challenges and the need to become self-sufficient and developing while deepening our mutual assistance and interdependence, especially in the face of climate change threats, food crisis, water scarcity, combating world pandemic, etc.

Ali el-Hefny Photo: Courtesy of el-Hefny

Ali el-Hefny Photo: Courtesy of el-Hefny

GT: The "Arab Spring" movement promoted by the US also affected Egypt. What's your take on the US-led "democracy movement?" What lessons does it teach the Arab world?

el-Hefny: The Arab Spring caused a great deal of damage to Arab economies and a lot of pain to the Arab people. The whole Arab region is in chaos, wars persist, terrorism and violence have prevailed, millions of people have been displaced, emigrated, killed, and injured and infrastructure has been badly damaged. Countries were saved after a period of chaos, thanks to the awareness of our people and the important role played by their armed forces to reestablish order. I do not see any democracy established through the Arab Spring. After all, democracy cannot be enforced by foreign powers, it's the task of our leaders, governments and our people and we are all busy working on that.

GT: The US and Western media view the development of normal relations between China and the Middle Eat as "China's challenge to US dominance" in the region. They hyped that China is filling the power vacuum brought about by the US withdrawal from the Middle East. Why does the growing relationship between China and the Middle East upset the US and the West? What do you think of their mentality?  

el-Hefny: As far as China is concerned, we have always maintained the best relations because there is a historical background and cultural aspects count a lot. They are based on mutual respect, understanding and trust, as well as mutual assistance, mainly in times of crisis as was proven through our cooperation in combating COVID-19. And for the first time practical trilateral Egypt-China-Africa cooperation was demonstrated as China provided the knowhow to Egypt and both cooperated in the production of vaccines for the people of Egypt and Africa. This success story doesn't necessarily please some powers, but they do for our people. 

GT: Many developing countries have expressed different positions from that of the US and Europe on Russia-Ukraine conflicts, such as Egypt and the Gulf countries. What are the implications? Does this represent a new trend?

el-Hefny: As far as the Ukraine war is concerned, as Egypt enjoys an excellent relationship with Russia and Ukraine and with their people, many interests are at stake. We really wish that the countries will put an end to hostilities the fastest possible as the persistence of war will drain further the two sides' economies. We hope they will settle their differences diplomatically. We in the region, I mean, Egypt and the Gulf states, like the rest of the world, are also facing the alarming ramifications of that war from different angles, mainly through the food crisis, supply chain disturbances and inflationary effects, etc. We are observing a balanced position, not taking any side and through our good relations with both sides, we exert every effort to encourage both sides to reach an agreement on how to settle their differences. The unilateral sanctions do not help to bring an end to the war in Ukraine. They just make it more complicated. We just hope that the war will not get out of control through miscalculations and irresponsible policies.

GT: China has been supporting Middle Eastern countries in enhancing their strategic autonomy, encouraging regional countries to get rid of the interference from major power competition, and explore a development path with Middle Eastern characteristics. What does this mean for maintaining regional stability and achieving regional development?

el-Hefny: For the Middle East where the situation is chaotic and volatile, we need the engagement of world powers, mainly China, to help recover stability, peace and security. We need greater engagement to help find political settlements to regional crises, to encourage regional and external powers to halt their attempts to destabilize further the region and to halt their hegemony and their expansionist policies. We need China's role in the reconstruction of the devastated countries and regions such as Syria, Libya, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. 

Finally, we need China to strive to create an international community with shared values to prevail in the Middle East. We need, with China's help, to work together to go back to the path of mutual respect, peace and security and work on achieving sustainable development. That is rewarding for all our people. 

GT: How do you evaluate the establishment of a China-Arab community with a shared future? 

el-Hefny: It's very important to stress the establishment of a China-Arab community with a shared future and the coming Arab-China Summit in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will be a golden opportunity to agree on and shape up a plan for more development of the bilateral relations. Those relations gained a lot of momentum during those last two decades in particular since the creation of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum. These mutual interests have been established, but the horizons for further cooperation are quite wide and extremely promising.

The two sides could play an important role in reestablishing order, peace, security and stability in those countries that have been devastated. It is in the interest of both sides.