(COURTESY OF WANG JINGLIE)
China expects to win a favorable external environment for its domestic development—an international environment of lasting stability, good relations with neighboring countries, an environment of international cooperation based on equality and mutual benefit, and an atmosphere of objective and friendly international public opinion.
Arab countries achieved national liberation and independence before, during and after World War II. But over the following more than half a century, most have been deeply caught in war and turmoil, because of their special international geopolitics and complex historical conditions. They face arduous tasks in nation building, relatively low social and economic development levels, and the threat of further marginalization under the impact of economic globalization. Therefore, development is the most urgent task for Arab countries.
The development of China and Arab countries calls for effective coordination and cooperation, based on mutual understanding and support.
Frequent high-level exchanges of visits have been conducted between the two sides. Chinese leaders have visited all Arab countries, and Arab leaders have also visited China frequently. These exchanges have strengthened communication and cooperation in fields spanning politics, economies, science, culture, education, health and sport.
AWESTRUCK: China's Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Yang Honglin (right) observes an Chinese embroidery work at an exhibition in Riyadh on December 6, 2009, along with a senior official from Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Culture and Information (LI ZHEN)
China has established a consultation system between its foreign ministry and those of Arab countries. Through this system, they often discuss issues of common concern. This helps them to enhance understanding, increase consensus and promote cooperation.
Meanwhile, China continues to raise the cooperation to new levels by establishing strategic cooperative partnerships with a number of countries, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Algeria.
The China-Arab States Cooperation Forum (CASCF) is a new means of engagement between China and Arab states. It marks the establishment of a new type of partnership between them.
As early as 1998, the League of Arab States passed a resolution on developing Sino-Arab relations in the 21st century. Six years later, in January 2004, the CASCF was established—the inevitable outcome of the development of Sino-Arab relations.
Until now, the CASCF has altogether held seven meetings of senior officials and four ministerial conferences. On May 11, the seventh meeting of the former group was held in Beijing. Two days later, the Fourth CASCF Ministerial Meeting was held in Tianjin, a port city in north China.
The differences in economic development levels and industrial structures are greatly complementary between China and Arab states in economic and trade cooperation.
It is the same in the energy field. China needs oil. And oil-producing Arab states need to sell their oil at an appropriate price and maintain stable customers to obtain long-term, steady and considerable incomes.
The fact that China and Arab countries need each other forms an important condition of further development of win-win economic cooperation. It promises good prospects for economic and trade cooperation between the two sides.
Currently, China has signed economic, trade and technological cooperation agreements with most Arab states. In addition, they have established economic and trade joint committees, and signed investment protection agreements on avoidance of double taxation.
In recent years, Sino-Arab economic and trade exchanges have been very frequent. Bilateral trade volume rose from $36.4 billion in 2004 to $107.4 billion in 2009, while mutual direct investment increased from $1.1 billion to $5.5 billion and contracted projects soared from $13.5 billion to $70 billion. Sino-Arab cooperation now ranges from traditional areas, including finance, energy, construction, transportation, manufacturing and processing industries to new areas such as IT and urban development.
Especially under the impact of the global financial crisis, the healthy expansion of Sino-Arab economic and trade cooperation fully demonstrated huge complementarities and prospects for these economies.
A bright future
Since China established its first diplomatic relations with an Arab country—Egypt—in 1956, a solid foundation has been laid for the development of Sino-Arab relations. Notable achievements have also been made. But under new circumstances, how to raise friendship and cooperation to new levels still requires serious consideration of both sides.
The past 65 years since the end of World War Ⅱ have witnessed both China's and Arab states' struggles for national liberation, political independence, economic development, social prosperity and good livelihoods.
During the process, the countries chose different development paths based on their own national conditions. All had success stories to tell and lessons to learn.