Upgrading China-Arab relations

Updated: 2014-06-03 07:39

By Wang Yi(China Daily)

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The past decade has been one of soaring China-Arab trade and economic cooperation. Two-way trade has surged from $25.5 billion to $238.9 billion, with the average annual growth rate exceeding 25 percent. China's imports of crude oil from Arab states have risen from 40.58 million tons to 133 million tons, growing by over 12 percent every year on average. The value of new engineering contracts signed by Chinese businesses in Arab states has increased from $2.6 billion every year to $29.1 billion, registering an annual growth rate of 27 percent on average. The annual increase in non-financial direct investment by Chinese businesses in Arab states has also grown from $17.25 million to $2.04 billion. China is now the second-largest trading partner of the Arab world and the top trading partner of nine Arab states. The Arab world, in addition to being the seventh-largest trading partner of China, is also China's primary partner in energy and a major market for engineering contracts and overseas investment. In recent years, China-Arab cooperation in emerging sectors, including finance, space and new energy, has also thrived and shown good momentum.

The past decade has also been one of exciting people-to-people and cultural exchanges between China and Arab states. Over 20 universities in China now offer Arabic language programs, 11 Confucius Institutes and one CRI Confucius Classroom have been set up in eight Arab states, and more than 10,000 students from Arab states are studying in China throughout the year. With eight Arab states becoming tourism destinations for Chinese citizens and 145 flights per week between China and Arab states, over 830,000 mutual visits are made every year. Over the past ten years, China has trained 15,676 personnel of various professions for Arab states, sent altogether 5,338 medical personnel to nine Arab states and provided strong intellectual support for the development of various undertakings in Arab states. It is fair to say that China-Arab friendship enjoys more extensive and profound public support than ever before.

From the past decade of the growth of the Forum and China-Arab relations, one may sum up the following experience: The two sides have always treated each other with sincerity and trust and stayed the course of strategic cooperation; the two sides have always pursued pragmatic, efficient and mutually beneficial cooperation and sought common development by sharing opportunities; the two sides have always promoted the approach of openness, inclusiveness and seeking common ground while shelving differences and brought the people of the two sides closer through mutual learning; and the two sides have always moved with the trend of the times with great enterprise and ensured mutual enhancement and coordinated expansion of bilateral and collective cooperation.

The trend toward a multi-polar world and economic globalization is gathering momentum. Cultural diversity and informationization are advancing steadily. New scientific and technological breakthroughs are on the horizon in many different areas. As important members of the developing world, both China and Arab states are at a critical juncture of transformation and development. In China, the third plenum of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) has made a strategic decision to deepen reform in a comprehensive way. The Chinese people are marching towards the two "centenary goals" (i.e. to complete the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects when the CPC celebrates its centenary and turn China into a modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced and harmonious when the People's Republic of China marks its centenary) and working to translate into reality their Chinese Dream, a dream about the great renewal of the Chinese nation. As this takes place, the Middle East, too, is experiencing major changes, adjustments and transformation like never before. Arab states have accelerated their exploration of changes on their own initiative. The 1.3 billion Chinese people and the 300 million people in Arab states need to seize the opportunity and work together to counter challenges and achieve common development.