What insights does progress in China-Arab cooperation offer to the world?: Global Times editorial
Published: May 30, 2024 12:03 AM
Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

The cooperation between China and Arab countries has always been a model in China's foreign relations, and this model relationship is entering a new historical starting point. The 10th Ministerial Conference of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum will be held on May 30. President Xi Jinping will attend the opening ceremony together with four Arab heads of state, namely, Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Egypt's President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, Tunisia's President Kais Saied, and the United Arab Emirates' President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who are paying state visits to China, and President Xi will deliver a keynote speech. The presence of these five heads of state at the opening ceremony of the ministerial conference is unprecedented. As Vice Foreign Minister Deng Li stated at a briefing for Chinese and foreign media, this fully reflects the common wish of China and Arab states to unite and cooperate and to continuously promote the China-Arab relationship to new levels.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum. The forum, which has thrived over the past 20 years, owes its significance and vitality to the tangible achievements it has made. China has steadily remained the largest trading partner of Arab countries for many years. Under the framework of jointly building the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the two sides have implemented over 200 cooperation projects, benefiting nearly 2 billion people from both sides. The China-Arab States Cooperation Forum has established 19 important mechanisms, including ministerial conferences and strategic political dialogues, and has issued 85 important outcome documents.

It's commendable that while China-Arab bilateral trade has maintained a historical high level of around $400 billion, a new wave of cooperation focusing on key areas such as technological innovation, industrial transformation, green and low-carbon development, and infrastructure is emerging. China-Arab cooperation has shifted from being primarily focused on economic and trade to the "troika" of economy, security, and culture achieving good development. As old friends along the ancient Silk Road, China and Arab countries are now good brothers and partners who uphold mutual assistance, equality, mutual benefit, and inclusive mutual learning.

This meeting is also the first ministerial meeting of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum held after the first China-Arab States Summit in 2022. It serves as a review of the achievements of China-Arab cooperation over the past 20 years and a look forward to the next 20 years, outlining the blueprint for future China-Arab cooperation. According to Chinese sources, the meeting plans to further consolidate consensus between China and Arab states through a series of outcome documents, plan cooperation for the next stage, and issue a joint statement on the Palestine issue. International attention has already been focused on the venue, and the time of China-Arab States Cooperation Forum is about to begin.

At the regular press conference of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday, an Arab media journalist asked the following question: "We have seen continued progress in the development of China and the Arab world and a decline in the popularity of the US among the Arab states over the past two decades. Can you give us your take on what China has brought to the Arab world?"

To be honest, China develops friendly relations with countries of all sizes in the world based on the principles of mutual respect, equality, and mutual benefit. China does not engage in group politics, diplomatic battles, or have any interest in filling any "vacuum," let alone believing that there is a "vacuum" in the Middle East. China-Arab cooperation is simply cooperation between China and Arab countries, driven by inherent logic and mutual needs for both sides to come together and get closer.

Of course, as members of the "Global South," the relationship between China and Arab countries has developed so well that it is worth discussing if there are any insights for the international community. As good brothers and partners, China and Arab countries stand together through both good and hard times in the struggle to uphold national dignity and defend national sovereignty, work together to develop in the tide of globalization and the new technological revolution, and support each other on issues involving core interests and major concerns. Last year, under China's mediation, Saudi Arabia and Iran reached a historic reconciliation. In April of this year, China facilitated consultations between the Palestinian National Liberation Movement (Fatah) and the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) in Beijing. Some foreign media outlet has commented that China has "transformed from a silent participant to a significant voice in the region." We believe that the significance of China's voice lies not in the volume, but in maintaining a just position, supporting the just cause of Arab countries, and always playing a constructive role, which is why Arab countries fully trust and accept it. More importantly, Arab countries' sense of independence and autonomy is growing stronger, and China-Arab cooperation embodies the idea of discussing and handling things together on the basis of equality and mutual benefit.

Bloomberg believes that Arab countries welcome the establishment of a broader cooperation relationship between China and the Arab world, which exemplifies a reluctance among many emerging-market nations to get caught up in a Cold War between the US and China. They'd prefer to keep the doors open, and the money flowing, with both sides. This statement is only half correct. Arab countries view the cooperation between China and the Arab world with a focus on the present, but also look beyond the present. Through deepening cooperation with China, Arab countries further see that China, unlike the West, does not achieve development through war, colonization, or forming alliances, but through peaceful development. China in particular supports Arab countries in independently seeking development paths suitable for their own national conditions. This further convinces them that "China's development is a growth of peace and progress, and China is a trustworthy friend and partner for Arab countries."

A thousand years ago, despite the distance, it did not hinder the footsteps of China's exchanges with Arab countries. Today, the China-Arab relationship is at its best historical period, rooted in a broad and deep friendship and cooperation foundation. With this opportunity of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum, it can be ensured that China and Arab countries will continue to aim to build a community of shared future, uphold the spirit of China-Arab friendship, and create a model of collective cooperation among developing countries for unity and independence.