Ten years on, China-Arab states economic, trade cooperation scales new heights
  ·  2023-09-22  ·   Source: Xinhua News Agency

This photo taken on September 21 shows an exterior view of the venue for the sixth China-Arab States Expo in Yinchuan, northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region (XINHUA)

The sixth China-Arab States Expo opened on September 21 in Yinchuan, capital of northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, marking another milestone in economic and trade cooperation between China and the Arab states.

The four-day event draws the participation of guests from more than 50 countries, including Saudi Arabia and Mauritania.

This year's expo features trade fairs and forums on trade and investment, modern agriculture, cross-border trade, cultural tourism, health, water resource utilization and meteorological cooperation.

The offline exhibition area covers nearly 40,000 square meters, and more than 1,000 domestic and foreign enterprises are participating, according to organizers.

With fruitful results and the continuous expansion of scale, the biennial event, which was first held in 2013, has become an important platform for China and the Arab states to promote pragmatic cooperation and advance high-quality Belt and Road cooperation.

The expo has witnessed and boosted the strong resilience and vitality of China-Arab states economic and trade cooperation. China is now the largest trading partner of the Arab states, with last year's trade volume almost doubling from the 2012 level to $431.4 billion. In the first half of this year, trade between China and the Arab states totaled 199.9 billion dollars.

In 2022, China's direct investment in the Arab states increased by 2.62 billion U.S. dollars, up 13 percent year on year, and the Arab states increased investment in China by $1.05 billion, a near ninefold year-on-year rise, Vice Minister of Commerce Li Fei said at the opening ceremony of this year's expo.

New sources of growth, new frontiers 

In the cross-border e-commerce exhibition area of the sixth China-Arab States Expo, local Ningxia specialties such as wolfberries and floral tea are drawing many foreign visitors to a more than 100-square-meter booth operated by Yang Wanlong, a Ningxia local born after 1990.

Yang has been engaged in cross-border e-commerce for five years, and his customers are from foreign countries such as the United States, Canada and Brazil.

Yang also exhibited at the fifth China-Arab States Expo, where he saw the development potential of the Middle Eastern market. Over the two years since, Yang and his partners have been building an e-commerce platform that will soon be put into operation.

"At this year's event, we aim to promote our e-commerce platform and expand our market in Saudi Arabia, which is the guest country of honor at the expo, and find suitable local payment partners," Yang said.

Yang hopes that in the near future, through the development of cross-border e-commerce between China and the Arab states, Arab consumers will be able to buy high-quality and inexpensive Chinese products simply by placing orders online.

In recent years, China-Arab states economic and trade cooperation has expanded from traditional areas to new frontiers such as aviation and aerospace, and digital economy, and fostered new growth resources such as green and low-carbon development, health and medical services, and investment and finance.

Shao Botao, deputy director of the Ningxia internet information office, said that the sixth China-Arab States Expo is currently hosting an online Silk Road conference focusing on emerging fields such as 6G, artificial intelligence, the industrial internet, digital economy and digital education.

"The participants are expected to sign a number of economic and trade cooperation agreements in the fields of digital education and digital economy," Shao said.

For the first time, this year's expo includes a forum on meteorological cooperation, attracting officials of meteorological departments in 12 Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Mauritania, Syria and Egypt.

China's nine Fengyun meteorological satellites have been providing 24-hour monitoring services for Arab states, with 10 Arab countries using Fengyun satellite data, according to Xu Xianghua from the China Meteorological Administration.

China and the United Arab Emirates signed a memorandum of cooperation on meteorological science and technology in the first half of this year.

"We look forward to taking advantage of this opportunity to strengthen cooperation with meteorological services in other Arab countries," Xu said.

Fruits of Belt and Road cooperation

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Over the past decade, the China-Arab States Expo has effectively promoted economic, trade and investment exchanges and cooperation between China and BRI countries, including Arab states, sharing the advantages of China's ultra-large market.

Boosted by the expo, China has given full play to its technological advantages in animal husbandry and high-efficiency water-saving irrigation, and established overseas agricultural technology transfer sub-centers in eight countries, including Jordan and Pakistan.

In 2017, Chinese potato expert Shi Fuxiang visited a potato planting base in Jordan, helping locals solve technical problems in disease and pest control, water-saving irrigation, rational fertilization and mechanization. The base's average yield is now more than 3,000 kg per mu (45,000 kg per hectare), an increase of 28 percent from 2017.

Over the past decade, the region has dispatched more than 20 agricultural experts to countries such as Mauritania and Angola to provide technical guidance on vegetables, animal husbandry, agricultural machinery and water conservancy, according to the regional department of agriculture and rural affairs in Ningxia.

More and more Ningxia residents are getting involved in China-Arab states trade through the expo platform. Pei Zhuoqiang, a seed trader who attended this year's expo, has exported new varieties of vegetables developed by his company to Türkiye, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates. He is preparing to build overseas demonstration bases in Jordan, Türkiye and Egypt to facilitate Arab customers.

Sponsored by the Ministry of Commerce, the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, and the Ningxia regional government, the expo has attracted over 400,000 participants and 6,000 enterprises from 112 countries and regions since 2013, with more than 1,200 cooperation project deals signed in areas such as modern agriculture, high technology and biomedicine.

"Our trade volume has almost tripled in the past decade, and we are deeply grateful to China for its firm commitment to supporting our economic development and developing bilateral relations further," said Moustadroine Abdou, president of the Assembly of the Union of Comoros. "We hope more events like the expo will witness the high-quality bilateral relations between our two countries."

Joint efforts should be made to consolidate and develop bilateral relations between China and the Arab states, tap fully into cooperation potential, and push forward the China-Arab states strategic partnership, said Ali bin Ibrahim Al-Malki, assistant secretary general of the League of Arab States. "In particular, we should synergize further with the Belt and Road Initiative and the Global Development Initiative, which coincide with the visions of the Arab world."

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