China, Arab states to enhance strategic partnership

China and Arab states agreed to establish a Sino-Arab future-oriented strategic partnership of comprehensive cooperation and common development, Chinese President Xi Jinping said on 10 July.

The decision was announced by Xi in his keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the eighth ministerial meeting of China-Arab States Cooperation Forum (CASCF) in Beijing.

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, foreign ministers and representatives from 21 Arab countries and secretary general of the Arab League attended the meeting.

A "Belt and Road Cooperation Declaration" between China and Arab countries has been signed during the forum. 

The China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative is composed of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. It is a project designed to strengthen interconnectivity in the areas of policy, infrastructure, trade, finance and non-governmental exchanges with the goal of bringing benefits to all. 

As important players in the history of the Silk Road, Arab countries are the natural partners to jointly build the Belt and Road Initiative, Xi said. 

He also expressed his belief that China and the Arab region will remain "good partners" in the future. 

The CASCF, founded 14 years ago, has facilitated China's cooperation and communication with Arab states. 

The ministerial meeting is the permanent mechanism of the forum and is convened every two years, with the option for extraordinary sessions if necessary. 

"The Arab world is strategically located, and blessed with abundant energy resources. With our strong complementary and converging interests, China and Arab countries must synergize our development strategies, in pursuing our respective dreams of rejuvenation," he said.

He announced that China is setting up a special program for economic reconstruction through industrial revitalization. For the program, China will extend loans in accordance with commercial principles to projects with good employment opportunities and social benefits to countries with reconstruction needs in the Arab world.

Focus on connectivity 

He said that the two sides must focus on connectivity. China welcomes opportunities to participate in development of port and the construction of railway networks in the Arab world. 

And China will support Arab efforts in building a logistic network connecting central Asia with East Africa, as well as the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean.

Besides, the two sides need to work together to build a maritime cooperation center to boost the development of ocean industry, enhance the ability to provide ocean-related public services, and to build a maritime economic corridor, he noted.

Financial cooperation

China supports establishing a financial platform to diversify sources of funding for the construction of industrial parks, Xi said.

The Chinese government also supports Chinese securities institutions to partner with Arab states sovereign funds and regulatory bodies, to build an international trading platform that is based in the gulf region and radiate out across the Middle East and North Africa, and attract investment from around the globe.

By facilitating the free flow of production factors, efficient allocation of resources and deep integration of market, the platform can better serve the "Belt and Road" constructions.

Moreover, to stimulate exchanges and cooperation between financial institutions, China will set up a "China-Arab States bank consortium" for financial cooperation between the two sides, he announced. 

China will pursue further cooperation with Arab states based on their medium- and long-term developmental strategic planning in multiple fields, including the digital economy, artificial intelligence (AI), new materials, bio-pharmaceuticals and smart cities, said Xi.

In light of the key fields that draw bilateral interest, China and Arab countries will establish joint laboratories to implement a partnership in science and technology.

"We need to accelerate the construction of a cyber Silk Road and strive for more cooperative consensuses and outcomes in Internet infrastructure, big data, cloud computing, and e-commerce," Xi added.  

The two sides will also jointly build a "Belt and Road" space information corridor to "strengthen aerospace cooperation and enable Arab states to access China's BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) and meteorological satellite remote sensing technology for the good of their national development," Xi pointed out.

BeiDou is China's homegrown navigation satellite system, which was developed independently, following the other three systems in the world: The United States' GPS, the Russian GLONASS and the European Union's Galileo.

Early on May 24, 2017, a statement was signed by both sides to promote the use of BDS in the Arab countries at the first China-Arab States BDS Cooperation Forum in Shanghai.

The two sides pledged to make joint efforts in applying the BDS to various sectors in Arab states including smart transportation, land mapping, agriculture and public security, and to improve the development of satellite navigation in Arab states, said Wang Li, chairman of the China Satellite Navigation System Committee.

The BeiDou system will be able to provide basic services to Arab states as well as other countries and regions along the Belt and Road routes by the end of 2018, and to the whole world by 2020. 

Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed the importance of cultural and people-to-people exchanges between China and the Arab states.

Civilization stays vibrant through constant interaction with each other, said Xi, adding that the two ancient civilizations should draw from each other wisdom and strength.

He called for clearing up misunderstandings through dialogue, solving disagreement through tolerance, and fostering a wholesome environment in which genuine faith and good deeds prevail.

In order to enhance the mutual understanding of the two peoples, China will invite 100 young leaders, 200 young scientists and 300 science professionals to China from the Arab countries in the next three years, Xi said. He said 100 religious leaders and 600 party leaders will also be invited.

Xi also promised to provide 10,000 training opportunities of various kinds to the Arab states, while sending 500 medical staff as well.

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