Sino-Arab forum boosts ties
China is the Arab region’s second largest trading partner, asserted Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during an exclusive interview with Arab News ahead of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum (CASCF), in Beijing today.
The 6th ministerial meeting of the CASCF, will bring delegates from Arab states and the Arab League with their Chinese counterparts to discuss further cooperation in economic, political, cultural and educational fields. The meeting also marks the 10th anniversary since the launch of the Sino-Arab forum in 2004.
“The meeting is a significant diplomatic move initiated by the Chinese government toward the Arab region and aims to build upon past achievements to shape the future,” Yi said.
The minister underlined the fruitful cooperation witnessed over the past decade between China and Arab states, noting that over 20 universities in China now offer Arabic language programs. He added that in return 11 Confucius institutes and one CRI Confucius classroom have been established in eight Arab countries.
He also highlighted that over 10,000 students from across the Arab world are studying in China, while eight Arab states have become leading tourist destinations for Chinese citizens. As a result, 145 weekly flights operate between China and Arab states, with over 830,000 mutual visits made every year.
The minister said that over the past decade China trained 15,676 Arab personnel from various professions, sent 5,338 medical personnel to nine Arab states and provided strong intellectual support for the development of various projects to the region. Yi said that given these observations it would be safe to proclaim that the two sides enjoy strong fraternal ties.
“The two sides have always treated each other with sincerity, trust and stayed the course of strategic cooperation. The two sides have also always pursued pragmatic, efficient and mutually beneficial cooperation and sought common development by sharing opportunities. In addition, the two counterparts have promoted an approach of openness, inclusiveness and sought common grounds, which has brought their citizens closer to one another,” the minister observed.
“China has supported Arab states in independently exploring development paths compatible with their national conditions and in restoring the legitimate rights of their nations, including Palestine’s right to an independent state,” he said, adding: “Likewise, Arab states extended invaluable support to China on issues concerning China’s major interests and core concerns, and provided generous assistance to China in time of disasters such as the Wenchuan earthquake.”
He added: “During the past ten years, the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Arab League (CFMAL) adopted resolutions on strengthening Sino-Arab friendly relations in various fields. Cooperation with China has become a consensus among Arab states.”
On the economic front, Yi said the past decade has witnessed major trade and economic cooperation, as trade between both sides surged from $25.5 billion to $238.9 billion, with the average annual growth rate exceeding 25 percent.
He said China’s import of crude oil from Arab states rose 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 grew from $2.6 billion every year to $29.1 billion, registering an annual growth rate of around 27 percent.
The Arab world is also China’s primary partner in energy and a major market for engineering contracts and overseas investment, he noted. In recent years, Sino-Arab cooperation in emerging sectors including finance, space and new energy has also thrived and shown good momentum.