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China and Arab states set to shine together

China Daily | Updated: 2018-07-09 08:06

Editor's Note: The eighth Ministerial Meeting of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum will be held in Beijing on Tuesday. How can China and the Arab states strengthen cooperation? Four experts share their views on the issue with China Daily's Liu Jianna. Excerpts follow:

Sino-Arab relations not only about oil

Li Weijian, a senior fellow at the Center for West Asian and African Studies and Institute for Foreign Policy Studies, Shanghai Institutes for International Studies

It's a misconception that Sino-Arab cooperation is only about oil. As a matter of fact, only a few, such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, of the 22 Arab countries and regions export oil to China. The importance of oil in Sino-Arab relations has relatively declined in recent years, because the global energy market has changed from a seller's market to a buyer's market and China has diversified its energy imports.

As a strategic partner of nine Arab states, China's cooperation with the Arab world extends to technology, finance, tourism and the aerospace industry. Looking ahead, the Belt and Road Initiative and various development plans proposed by the Arab states, for instance, Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 and National Transformation Program 2020, would provide more space for cooperation.

But since China's growing influence in the Arab world has raised the concerns of the US-led West, it should be made clear that China has neither the capability nor the intention of replacing the United States in the Arab world. The main reasons for the US' declining influence in the Arab world are Washington's unpopular policies and moves.

Generally speaking, China and the US have followed two distinct paths in the Arab world. While Beijing has maintained friendly relations with the Arab states and adhered to the policy of non-interference in any country's internal affairs, Washington has always tried to impose on the Arab states its own set of values, even waged wars that have devastated many a Middle East country. In other words, the US' influence in the Arab world is waning and China's is rising because of their respective policies.

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