The importance of Arab-Chinese relations

China's One Belt- One Road Initiative (Photo by Adobe)

The Arab-Chinese summit reflects the importance of greater cooperation between the two regions. Ahmad Abdel-Rahman reports.

For decades, the interactions and transformations in politics and economics continued, especially with the end of the Cold War. China was ascending as an industrial and commercial economic power, opening markets at a time when the economic influence of the US seemed to be declining. There was certainly a need to build a more just international system, less affected by conflicts and crises.

The Arab and African countries believe that they can only achieve their ambitions within broader partnerships, and that changing previous alliances is no longer sufficient to meet these ambitions. Hence, the Arab-Chinese summit that was held on December 9, 2022 in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia - in the presence of more than 30 heads of state and leaders of international organisations. This summit shows a shift by the Arab countries towards China, signalling greater Arab-Chinese co-operation.

Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, and other Arab countries have ambitions to develop technology locally. Therefore, these countries support the Arab-Chinese cooperation mechanism, and continue to push for the adoption of mechanisms to ensure the sustainability of these relations, ensuring that such cooperation maximizes the benefits for both parties. This must go hand in hand with continuing cooperation in general between the countries of the South.

The significance of the Arab-Chinese summit

The Arab-Chinese summit is important because it reflects the extent to which Arab-Chinese relations have developed. The partnership is also important in dealing with the current international situation, and the crises that highlight imbalances in the global economic system. There have been changes since the covid-19 pandemic, and the war in Ukraine.

In this respect, China believes that it has an opportunity to expand its partnerships and markets for its products. It wants the Arab countries to open new markets and reach long-term agreements for energy and gas with it. The Arab countries see the importance of building their economic relations with a large, powerful country.

Chinese companies already play an important role in many countries of the Middle East and Africa. For example, there are direct Chinese investments and infrastructure contracts with Chinese companies to establish ports and free trade zones.

Arab countries want to increase their cooperation with China in areas such as digital technology- China is entering the fifth generation of communications technology-renewable energy, tourism, aviation and transportation, including electric cars.

Egypt, in particular, views Arab-Chinese cooperation as enhancing international efforts to advance the just peace process in the Middle East, in accordance with United Nations resolutions. Egypt also considers it possible to support trade exchange and enhance cooperation between the two parties within the framework of the World Trade Organization (WTO)

Experiences in the establishment and management of free and economic zones are also exchanged. For example, the Suez Canal region in Egypt is co-operating with China on its Belt and Road Initiative, as well as in the areas of energy, science, technology, agriculture, and irrigation.

The Belt and Road Initiative addresses the infrastructure gap in the Arab countries and in Africa. It promises to accelerate economic growth across the Asia-Pacific, Africa, and Central and Eastern Europe regions. Consequently, most of the Arab countries joined this initiative.

In his meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, on the sidelines of the Arab-Chinese Summit, Chinese President Xi Ji Ping praised the Egyptian role in maintaining peace, security and stability in the region.

El-Sisi spoke about the importance of using Chinese initiatives, such as the Belt and Road Initiative, in Egypt's development efforts. This is especially true with regard to developing the Suez Canal region, he said, emphasising the importance of co-operating with China on roads, seaports and energy. Egypt also wants to encourage investments in the areas of localising joint manufacturing and transferring Chinese technology,he said.

Developments in Arab-Chinese relations are the result of quantitatively accumulated interactions over the decades, with the likelihood that Arab developmental interests would converge with the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative.

Therefore, the Arab-Chinese summit represents an important step towards a more cooperative and effective partnership between the two regions. 

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Saturday, 04 February 2023