China and Arab states pledge to work together in more emerging areas
By Ma Miaomiao  ·  2024-06-09  ·   Source: NO.24 JUNE 13, 2024
Visitors learn about a clean energy project at the Sixth China-Arab States Expo in Yinchuan, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, on September 22, 2023 (XINHUA)

Several of the Mogao Caves, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Dunhuang, Gansu Province in northwest China, have an interesting pattern that depict three racing rabbits, with each two sharing one ear.

This unique pattern is also seen on chinaware found in Egypt, on the clocks of some churches in Germany, and on tile paintings in the United Kingdom—all thanks to the ancient Silk Road that connected China with places afar.

"The pattern was first found in Dunhuang in the sixth century, flowed to Central and West Asia along the Silk Road between the ninth and 11th centuries, and entered Egypt and Europe from the 13th to 16th century," Zhao Yanlin, a researcher at the Dunhuang Academy, told Xinhua News Agency.

Commerce and trade constituted the earliest link between the Chinese and many other civilizations. Over 2,000 years ago, China and Arab countries exchanged goods and ideas with camel caravans along the Silk Road and commercial fleets traversing the Maritime Silk Road routes.

China has now been the Arab region's largest trading partner for many years in a row. Trade volume between China and Arab countries increased from $36.7 billion in 2004 to $398 billion in 2023.

On May 30, the 10th Ministerial Conference of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum (CASCF) took place in Beijing. It adopted a series of outcome documents, highlighting the growing ties between China and the Arab world, as well as their common desire to unite and cooperate and elevate China-Arab relations to a new level, Sun Degang, Director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the Shanghai-based Fudan University, told Guangming Daily.

In 2004, China and the Arab League (AL) jointly launched the CASCF as an important platform for collective dialogue and cooperation between China and the Arab countries.


In December 2022, Chinese President Xi Jinping put forward eight major cooperation initiatives for practical cooperation at the First China-Arab States Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Early results have been achieved, Xi said in his keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the ministerial meeting, adding that, moving forward, China is ready to work with Arab countries on that basis to put in place five cooperation frameworks to step up the building of a Sino-Arab community with a shared future.

The five frameworks consist of a more dynamic framework for innovation, an expanded framework for investment and finance cooperation, a more multifaceted framework for energy cooperation, a more balanced framework for mutually beneficial economic and trade ties, and a broader framework for people-to-people exchanges.

"The two sides will build 10 joint laboratories in areas including life and health, artificial intelligence, green and low-carbon development, modern agriculture, and space and information technology, demonstrating the upgrading of Sino-Arab cooperation from traditional fields to more emerging ones," Ding Long, a professor at the Middle East Studies Institute of Shanghai International Studies University, told the newspaper Global Times.

China-Arab states cooperation is moving in a more multidimensional and in-depth direction, according to Sun. The green economy, high technology and regional security governance will become new priorities, he added.

The conference adopted the Beijing Declaration, the CASCF execution plan for 2024-26 and a China-Arab states joint statement on the Palestinian issue. The Beijing Declaration clarifies the practical path for promoting the building of a China-Arab community with a shared future. The execution plan charts the course for strengthening the building of a forum mechanism in the next two years and promoting bilateral and multilateral cooperation in fields such as politics, economy and trade, investment, finance, infrastructure, resources and environment, cultural exchange, aerospace, education and health.

On the sidelines of the conference, China also signed a number of bilateral and multilateral cooperation documents with the participating Arab countries and the General Secretariat of the AL.

Growing ties

Up until now, China has forged comprehensive strategic partnerships or strategic partnerships with 14 Arab countries and the AL. All the 22 Arab countries and the AL have signed documents with China on cooperation under the framework of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, which aims to boost connectivity along and beyond the ancient Silk Road routes.

In his speech, Xi voiced China's readiness to work with Arab countries to make their relations a model for maintaining world peace and stability, a fine example of high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, a paradigm of harmonious coexistence between civilizations, and a model for promoting good global governance.

Xi also said China welcomes Arab banks to join the Cross-Border Interbank Payment System, supports Chinese energy companies and financial institutions in participating in renewable energy projects in Arab states with a total installed capacity of over 3 million kilowatts, and continues to vigorously implement development cooperation projects with a total worth of 3 billion yuan ($414 million).

What Xi mentioned are all tangible development projects, Sun said.

Speaking about joint efforts to build a Sino-Arab community with a shared future in the new era, AL Secretary General Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, who attended the conference, told Xinhua ahead of the event that "there is a sense of well-grounded mutual trust, and the two sides are bound by win-win cooperation aiming at common interests."

More prospects

Aboul-Gheit also praised the 19 working mechanisms within the CASCF framework.

"This means that there are 19 sectors in which work is being done to enhance cooperation, such as the sectors of culture, women's rights, trade, production and ports. These are extremely important areas which require a lot of endeavor, innovation and cooperation between experts on both sides, and the commitment to the implementation of these mechanisms," he said.

China's engagement with Arab countries extends beyond the economic scope. Last year, under the mediation of China, Saudi Arabia resumed diplomatic ties with Iran, a significant milestone that brought reconciliation among countries in the region.

In April, representatives of the Palestinian National Liberation Movement (Fatah) and the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) were invited to Beijing to hold talks on the promotion of intra-Palestinian reconciliation.

The Middle East is a land bestowed with broad prospects for development, but the war is still raging on it, Xi said at the opening ceremony of the conference. Since it broke out last October, the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict has escalated drastically, throwing the people into tremendous sufferings.

Xi stressed that war should not continue indefinitely, justice should not be absent forever and commitment to the two-state solution should not be wavered at will. The internationally backed two-state solution calls for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, living in peace with Israel.

The China-Arab states joint statement on the Palestinian issue expresses the deep concerns of China and Arab states over the prolonged conflict in Gaza, which has resulted in a humanitarian disaster.

It emphasizes the firm stance and important consensus of the two sides in promoting a ceasefire in Gaza, ensuring humanitarian aid, opposing the forced displacement of Palestinian people, supporting Palestine's full membership in the United Nations, and steadfastly working toward an early resolution of the Palestinian issue based on the two-state solution. BR

(Print Edition Title: Stepping Up Cooperation)

Copyedited by G.P. Wilson

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