By Global Times
The first summit between China and Arab countries will be held in Saudi Arabia on Friday. This is a milestone in the history of China-Arab countries relations and will take the cooperation between the two sides to a whole new level. For the Arab world, a region with highly varying levels of economic development and complex internal conflicts among countries, it is rare that a unanimous friendly attitude toward China and strong expectations for cooperation can be formed and sustained for a long time. The pivotal point behind this corresponds to the most outstanding problems world peace and development are facing today and deserves in-depth study by the international community.
It is evident that relations between China and Arab countries have already created models in many aspects. Peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, learning from each other, reciprocal benefits, and win-win results have always been the main theme of exchanges between China and the Arab countries. The world today is undergoing major changes unseen in a century, and China and the Arab countries are facing similar historic opportunities and challenges, from which emerged the China-Arab summit. It has been 18 years since the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum (CASCF) was first held in 2004. The China-Arab summit is formed based on CASCF. But this is not simply an upgrade, it is a result of China-Arab cooperation in various fields after having reached a particular breadth and depth. The convening of the China-Arab summit is also a process of forming a concerted effort under mutual agreement of both sides.
Located at the crossroads of Asia and Africa, the Arab countries have been filled with regional hot spot issues since World War II. Although they are rich in energy, these countries have never gotten rid of the entanglement of geopolitical conflicts. They also experienced the severe impact of the “Arab Spring” after entering the 21st century. Avoiding political turmoil while achieving stable economic growth has become a common desire of many Arab countries. They are keenly interested in China’s experience, which China is willing to share with its Arab partners without reservation. Unlike some powers that have entered the Middle East with a superior posture and focused on geopolitical and security issues, China shares the hardships of the Arab countries in the struggle for national liberation. They have long supported each other in the international political arena and pursued win-win cooperation in the wave of economic globalization.
The cooperation potentials between China and Arab countries are huge. The two sides are jointly making efforts to realize these potentials to the greatest extent and, at the same time, transform them into positive energy that promote peace and development of Arab countries and fundamentally resolve regional hot spot issues.
China is the largest trading partner of Arab countries. In 2021, the bilateral trade volume between the Arab countries and China reached more than $300 billion, an increase of over one-third from the previous year. In the first three quarters of this year, the trade volume between the two sides reached $319 billion, a year-on-year increase of 35.28 percent, close to the level of the whole year of 2021, maintaining the momentum of rapid growth. In addition, 20 Arab countries have signed cooperation documents with China under the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative. The scope of China-Arab cooperation has expanded from the field of energy to agriculture, digital economy, and the peaceful use of nuclear power. We believe the convening of the China-Arab summit will bring the cooperation to a new level.
The strong endogenous driving force of China-Arab cooperation goes far beyond economic and trade cooperation. As two ancient civilizations, China and Arab countries have each created stories of harmony in diversity and mutual respect and learning. Against the backdrop of the resurgence of theories such as “superiority of civilization” and “clash of civilizations,” the like-mindedness of China and Arab countries has become more prominent.
Both China and the Arab countries advocate respect for sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, and noninterference in each other’s internal affairs. They both oppose external interference and all forms of hegemonism and power politics. The mutual trust and integration of interests that have been honed through years of tempering is the most precious resource in their relations. If the China-Arab cooperation in the economic and trade field is fruitful, the strong resonance between the two sides in terms of values is the thick and fertile soil.
As we have noticed, some US analysts said the roles of China and the US in the Middle East are not inherently antagonistic or mutually exclusive, while some argued that the China-Arab summit and the strengthening of their economic relations are not necessarily at the expense of American interests. These views are relatively rational. Some US and Western elites, limited in their own cognition, throw out the “power vacuum theory” and misinterpret the China-Arab summit. We want to tell them that a few buzzing flies will not deter China and Arab countries from doing the right things that benefit both parties.