Taking Arab countries as "natural partners" in building the Silk Road economic belt and 21st century Maritime Silk Road he has envisioned, Chinese President Xi Jinping's proposal of a "China-Arab community of common interests and common destiny" shows the Chinese leadership's aspiration to build on the past glories of China-Arab interaction. Such a goal appears more achievable than ever thanks to the now 10-year-old China-Arab States Cooperation Forum.
China is on good terms with Arab countries not only because they have a common desire to work together but also because both sides cherish mutual respect. They have done so since long ago.
The ancient Silk Road would not have been what it was without a shared interest in friendly exchanges. China and Arab countries have been partners in both trade and cultural communication long before the birth of some of them as modern states. No other relations offer a better example of dialogue between civilizations.
Since China and the Arab League established formal ties in 1956, the two sides have displayed consistent mutual understanding and support on the international stage. The young forum was the product of shared political will to upgrade the fine relationship and make it yield further benefits. In the past decade, a dozen cooperation mechanisms have been set up under it, presenting multiple platforms for bilateral interaction.
Energy cooperation has been a new center of gravity in recent exchanges between China and Arab countries. In 2013, Chinese crude oil imports from Arab nations reached 133 million tons, accounting for 47.2 percent of the national total. Which is why Xi designated energy cooperation as the "main axis" in a new pattern of bilateral collaboration.
But the potential for Sino-Arab collaboration goes far beyond energy. In the blueprint Xi unfolded yesterday at the opening of the forum's ministerial meeting, infrastructure construction and trade and investment facilitation were defined as "two wings", and nuclear energy, space and satellite industries, and new energies as "new breakthrough points". Besides proposed consultations about a free-trade zone and Arab participation in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Xi's blueprint also took into account personnel training and art exchanges.
Such efforts will put relations on a broader and more solid basis, and help realize the rhetoric about an "upgraded version" of ties.