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Let China-Arab Friendship Surge Forward like the Nile
 

By H. E. Xi Jinping

President of the People's Republic of China

Published on Egyptian newspaper Alahram

January 19, 2016

At the invitation of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, I will pay a state visit to Egypt, my first to the Middle East and Arab countries as President of China and my first overseas visit in 2016. The purpose is to renew friendship, and discuss cooperation and development with Egyptian and Arab friends. I look forward to a trip of friendship, cooperation and mutual benefit.

"Egypt is the gift of the Nile." When I first visited Egypt 16 years ago, I learned how people of ancient Egypt harnessed the Nile floods for agricultural production. I marveled at the Nile, mother of the Egyptian civilization, and was amazed by the wisdom and strength of the Egyptian people.

Ever since then, the great Nile has been etched in my mind.

Since late 2014, I have had two meetings with President al-Sisi in Beijing. Our agreement to elevate China-Egypt relations to a comprehensive strategic partnership led bilateral relations onto a fast track. President al-Sisis's trip to Beijing last September to attend commemorations of the 70th anniversary of the victory of the Chinese People's War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression and the World's Anti-fascist War was a just call made on behalf of the Arab world for upholding the victorious outcome of WWII and the post-war international order.

Both China and Egypt are ancient civilization. Friendly exchanges between our peoples date back to antiquity. More than 2,000 years ago, the imperial court of China's Han Dynasty sent envoys to Alexandria. The ancient Silk Road was a bond linking up the two sides.

In the modern times, the people of China and Egypt have stood together in the fight against colonialism and hegemony. Over six decades ago, Premier Zhou Enlai and President Gamal Abdel Nasser shook hands at Bandung, Indonesia. China and Egypt have since joined hands and embarked on a common cause to uphold the rights and interests of developing countries.

Over the past six decades, China-Egypt relations have stood the test of changing international and regional landscapes and have moved forward steadily. The two sides have treated each other with mutual understanding, respect, trust and support, and have conducted fruitful cooperation. China supports the people of Egypt in making independent choices for the future of their own country. China supports the government of Egypt in restoring social stability and economic development. China supports Egypt in playing an active role in regional and international affairs.

China will continue to view and develop its relations with Egypt from a strategic and long-term perspective. I and President al-Sisi will work together to comprehensively deepen the political trust and strategic cooperation between our two countries, so that China and Egypt will achieve common development and progress and China-Egypt relations, already a shining example of South-South cooperation, will continue to play its exemplary role.

Egypt was the first Arab country to establish diplomatic ties with China. China's relations with Egypt marked the beginning of its relations with Arab countries and are indicative of the height and warmth of China-Arab relations. For over six decades, China-Arab friendship and cooperation have undergone historic transformation and we have gained much valuable experience. Despite changes in the international situation, the two sides respect and treat each other as equals, and have acted as each other's friend, brother and partner. We have a shared commitment to win-win cooperation and common development. However things may change, common interests and sustainable development have always been a common pursuit for both sides. We respect each other's social system and development path and have promoted dialogue among civilizations.China-Egypt interaction and cooperation over the years are guided by the principles of mutual trust, mutual assistance, mutual benefit and mutual prosperity. The two countries are indeed each other's good friend, good brother and good partner that can be counted on.

In the past six decades, China-Arab relations have achieved comprehensive development and yielded fruitful results. The collective cooperation between China and Arab countries has been going on for 11 years. When I attended the opening ceremony of the sixth Ministerial Meeting of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum in 2014, I put forward the strategic vision for China and Arab countries to jointly build the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. A blueprint was drawn by both sides to develop China-Arab relations in the coming decade.

China-Arab relations are now thriving. Eight Arab countries, namely Egypt, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Sudan, Jordan and Iraq, have established or elevated to strategic cooperative relations or partnerships with China. In 2014, trade between China and Arab countries exceeded $251.1 billion. China imported 146 million tons of oil from Arab countries and was the second largest trading partner for Arab countries. Seven Arab countries became founding members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. In the past 60 years, China has provided Arab countries with a total of 25.4 billion RMB yuan in economic assistance, trained over 20,000 people in different professions and sent medical teams to eight Arab countries. Eleven Arab countries have become approved destinations for Chinese tourists. There are now 183 weekly flights between the two sides, and every year, 1.02 million people travel back and forth between China and Arab countries.

As an Arab proverb says, "he who travels alone goes fast, but he who travels in company goes far." The Chinese people say that "more friends make the journey easier". Indeed, there are no better expressions to describe China and Arab countries that have been with each other all the time and shared weal and woe all along.

The world today is undergoing profound and complex changes. Global challenges are increasing. Global economic recovery remains difficult. Regional turmoil continues to flare up and the threat of terrorism is notably on the rise. This has made it ever more urgent for a new type of international relations to be built that is geared toward win-win cooperation.

China and Arab countries are both at a crucial stage of development. The Chinese people are striving for the realization of a moderately prosperous society in all respects and the great renewal of the Chinese nation. The Arab people are exploring their own ways of reform and working hard for national rejuvenation. Such shared development mission and pursuit have brought us even more close to each other.

Together, china and Arab countries account for one sixth of the total landmass and one fourth of the global population. This means huge potential and bright prospects for China-Arab cooperation. Looking ahead, we need to remain committed to promoting all-round cooperation and jointly developing the strategic and cooperative partnership between China and Arab countries. The two sides need to work together to pass on our traditional friendship to future generations and enable more people to benefit from our cooperation.

China and Arab countries need to pursue independent paths of development. There is no panacea in the world, nor a universal model for development. Nobody understands the history and future of the Middle East better than the people of the region. Only by pursuing our own path can we broaden our journey and make it more durable. The aspiration of the Arab people for a better life not only provides the momentum for reform, it also lays the foundation for regional stability. China will continue to support Egypt and other Arab countries in pursuing development paths suited to their own national conditions and share development experience to jointly address the challenges of our times.

China and Arab countries need to defend regional peace. The world could not be a tranquil place if there is instability in the Middle East. A study of history shows that force is never the right solution to problems, and the zero-sum or winner-takes-all logic is inconsistent with the call of the times. The surest way to finding the maximum common denominator between the interests of different parties is to seek consensus and be understanding and accommodative. As always, China will continue to support the Middle East peace process. China supports the establishment of an independent State of Palestine with full sovereignty based on the 1967 border and with East Jerusalem as capital. China will provide more public goods, and work with Egypt and other Arab countries to safeguard peace and stability in the Middle East.

China and Arab countries need to carry out mutually beneficial cooperation. The Belt and Road Initiative is aimed at achieving true common prosperity instead of the mere satisfaction of self-interests. China has a big market, abundant capital, advanced technology and competitive industrial capacity; it is determined to achieve innovative, coordinated, green, open and shared development. Arab countries are at a key stage in modernization and are focusing on achieving industrialization as a way to promote development, improve people's well-being and create more job opportunities. By jointly developing the Belt and Road Initiative, the two sides can link up our respective development strategies, deepen and expand cooperation in energy, trade and investment, infrastructure and high technology. China welcomes Egypt and other Arab countries to get on board the fast train of its development and hopes that our respective development and growth could be well aligned and mutually reinforcing.

China and Arab countries need to advocate cultural diversity. The Chinese civilization and the Arab Islamic civilization are major civilizations of the world each with its unique features. We value and learn from each other. Such mutual learning, based on mutual respect and humility, sets a great example for exchange among different civilizations. China will work with Egypt and other Arab countries and make unremitting efforts to carry forward traditional cultures and uphold cultural diversity of our world.

In a hymn to the Nile, ancient Egyptians sang:" Hail to thee, O Nile, who manifests thyself over this land." I am convinced that with our joint efforts, the friendship between China and Egypt and between China and Arab countries as a whole will surge forward like the Nile and bring us to our desired destination of national renewal.

(Xinhua News Agency January 19, 2016)

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