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Xiplomacy: With eyes on shared future, China, Arab world look to energize win-win cooperation

Xinhua | Updated: 2022-12-07 13:12
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Photo taken on Aug 11, 2022 shows the Lusail Stadium in Qatar's capital Doha. [Photo/Xinhua]

BEIJING -- In Qatar's capital Doha, the glittering Lusail Stadium, where the star-studded 2022 FIFA World Cup is underway, has become a new landmark and is featured on the country's 10-riyal banknote.

The 80,000-seat stadium, jointly designed and built by China and Qatar, will host the closing ceremony of the game. On the streets of the host country, 3,000 Chinese-made eco-friendly buses provide green transportation to the event and a green travel experience for fans from all over the world.

Chinese elements in the World Cup have also brought other flagship projects between China and Arab countries under the spotlight, highlighting their fruitful cooperation and long-standing friendship.

Now their relationship is expected to grow stronger as Chinese President Xi Jinping will attend the first China-Arab States Summit and the China-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and pay a state visit to Saudi Arabia from Dec. 7 to 10.


In 2016, Xi's visit to Saudi Arabia, mutually beneficial cooperation between China and Saudi Arabia has borne rich fruits, with two-way trade volume hitting 87.31 billion U.S. dollars in 2021, up 30.1 percent year on year. In the broader region, China's trade volume with the Arab states stood at some 330 billion dollars in 2021, a year-on-year increase of 37 percent.

One such example of cooperation is the Yanbu Aramco Sinopec Refining Company (YASREF) jointly established by Saudi Aramco and China Petrochemical Corporation. Since its inauguration in 2016, YASREF has witnessed technological, commercial and investment cooperation between Saudi Arabia and China and has become one of the finely operated projects in the region.

Some 1,500 km away from Saudi Arabia's port city of Yanbu, Egypt's first electrified light rail transit (LRT) system, co-built by Chinese and Egyptian companies, has been running for almost half a year in Cairo.

The LRT is "a nucleus for further Egyptian-Chinese projects in the transportation industry and the localization of transportation technology in Egypt," said Hassan Mahdy, professor of transport and roads at Cairo-based Ain Shams University.

These projects, as examples of China-Arab cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), are "important paths" for the Arab countries to achieve their development objectives, said Nasser Abdel-Aal, professor of Chinese language and vice dean of the Faculty of Al-Alsun (Languages) at Ain Shams University.

"It is important that China provides its expertise in developing infrastructure in the Arab world in ports and international transportation that connects the Arab region with the world, which will help make the Arab region restore its status as a connection between Asia, Europe and Africa," said Samer Khair Ahmed, a Jordanian writer and expert on Arab-China relations.

To date, China has signed BRI cooperation agreements with 20 Arab states and the Arab League (AL). The two sides have carried out more than 200 large-scale cooperation projects in energy, infrastructure and other fields, benefiting nearly 2 billion people on both sides.

To help Arab countries fight the COVID-19 pandemic, China has sent medical experts and vaccines to and shared clinical experiences with those in dire need. In Egypt, Algeria and the United Arab Emirates, China has helped localize vaccine production to meet the rising local demand.

"China is willing to work with Arab countries to enhance mutual support and expand cooperation in a joint effort to build a China-Arab community with a shared future for the new era, so as to create a bright future for China-Arab relations and make contributions to world peace and development," Xi said in a congratulatory message on the 31st Arab League Summit on Nov. 1.


In Iraq's Mesopotamia, desertification and soil salinization have long threatened to bury this cradle of one of humanity's earliest civilizations in dust.

"My dream is to transfer what I learned from China to Iraq and turn deserts into oases," said Sarmad Kamil Ali, deputy chief agricultural engineer of Iraq's State Board of Combating Desertification, who was in China in 2013 to learn about sand control.

In the past decade, President Xi Jinping has led China's green development. Impressive progress has been made. China ranks first globally in the area of planted forests and forest coverage growth, contributing a quarter of the world's new forest area in the past 10 years.

The country has been committed to its climate goals and carried out projects of cooperation with Arab counterparts to synergize their development strategies to this end.

In the field of new energy, China has expanded cooperation with Arab countries in solar energy, wind energy and hydropower, setting up a China-Arab clean energy training center, the Chinese-Egyptian Renewable Energy Laboratory, and implemented cooperation projects such as the 800 MW Al Kharsaah Solar Power Plant in Qatar and the 186 MW solar power stations at the Benban Solar Energy Park in Egypt.

The Chinese side supports Saudi Arabia's Green Middle East initiative and welcomes Saudi Arabia's participation in the Global Development Initiative (GDI), Xi said in a phone conversation with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud in April.

The GDI gives China and its partners a platform for achieving their development objectives in light of the UN's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, said Nasser Abdel-Aal, professor of Egypt's Ain Shams University.

Xi, while presiding over the High-level Dialogue on Global Development in June, announced some 30 important measures taken by China to implement the GDI, further pushing forward the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

"The Chinese initiatives are characterized by neutrality, objectivity and respect for the domestic conditions of developing states, focusing on elevating the people's standard of living, which is why they are greatly welcomed by developing countries," said Ahmed Kandil, an Egyptian expert and head of the International Studies Unit at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.

By this October, more than 100 countries, including 17 Arab states, and international organizations have voiced support for the GDI, and over 60 countries, including 12 Arab states, have joined the Group of Friends of the GDI.


For years, China and Arab nations have treated each other with sincerity, stood shoulder to shoulder in the fight for national independence, and helped each other on the path of modernization. They cherish more than ever peace and security as a prerequisite for development.

While China is embarking on a new journey to transform itself into a great modern socialist country in all respects, it stays committed to sharing growth opportunities with other countries, especially Arab countries in dire need of development, security and stability.

The key to tackling thorny problems is to accelerate development, Xi said in his speech at the AL headquarters in 2016, stressing that China and the Arab countries should strengthen cooperation and together strive for peace and development of mankind.

In a congratulatory message to Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, the rotating president of the Council of the AL, on the convening of the 31st AL Summit in Algiers last month, Xi said that the AL, committed to seeking strength through unity in the Arab world, has been actively advancing peace and stability in the Middle East and making unremitting efforts to safeguard multilateralism and the common interests of developing countries.

Experts believe that China's role and its experience in self-development including industrialization and modernization are particularly needed in the reconstruction of crisis-torn countries such as Syria, Libya, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon.

The Arab states, which have suffered from imperialism that hindered their development process in spite of the availability of resources, want to show that they have independent political paths devoid of ages-old external influence, and want to genuinely expand their economic cooperation with major countries, such as China, Ahmed, the Jordanian expert, said.

"This is a historic opportunity for the Arabs, and they need to seize it," he said.

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