These two weeks have witnessed interesting developments which began with the meeting of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum. On the Arab Forum, the Arab League’s permanent delegates held a meeting to prepare for the eighth ministerial meeting of the forum and the league’s general secretary visited China.
The most prominent among other Arab events was the visit of Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah to China where he headed Arab delegations and struck important agreements that strengthened strategic relations not only between Kuwait and China but also between Arab countries and China.
In the past tragic years, the Arab media has not celebrated anything like it celebrated the Sino-Arab cooperation which is about to become a historical event. What was expressed in recent days is the strategic partnership between China and Arabs, especially the Gulf and eastern Arabs.
The initiation was made by the Chinese side. China did not only focus on the strategic Arab location for its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) launched in 2013, whose progress continues to rise across Asia and Africa, but it also increased its visits and agreements with most Arab countries. Many Arab leaders thus visited China and voiced their interest in developing cooperation frameworks and encouraged increasing exchanges tenfold during one decade.
There is a new Chinese surge towards Arabs that was quite evident in the Cooperation Forum meeting which opening ceremony was launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping as the Emir of Kuwait stood beside him.
Chinese President said his country supports and would work to establish an independent Palestinian stateRadwan al-Sayed
The Chinese president made significant statements that are not only related to the economic sphere, but also pertaining to the political and strategic domains. He said that China would spend about $20 billion in the Arab world over the next ten years, of which $100 million would be in support of the Palestinian Authority. He also announced China’s support and international efforts to establish an independent Palestinian state.
He added that this was nothing new for China, and that Chinese-Arab friendship goes back to tens of centuries and it has renewed and flourished after liberation from colonialism in the mid-20th century and it has now peaked with Chinese activity within the BRI, i.e. the Silk Road which in the past included China’s Sea, the Indian Ocean, their coasts in East and West Asia, steppes of Turkestan and Central Asia, Iranian hills and the coasts of the Arabian Peninsula.
Technology from the West
Over the last three decades, China has focused on imitating technology from the West. At the beginning of the 21st century, it became the world’s second largest economy after the US.
It had a pioneering experience in the fields of internal development and economic openness, but it lacked the energy considering its enormous needs arising from rapid development and growth thus its focus was on Asian and African countries to create a market for its products and on expanding to where energy and other raw material are, in Africa specifically.
It attracted small and medium developing economies by getting involved in their infrastructure projects and when their economy and industries developed, it started dealing with Third World countries through international and regional funds and financial institutions.
In 2013, China launched the BRI to be the third line of development, besides the US and Europe line of development. The belt is the geographical belt of progress it achieved, and the road is the old Silk Road which this time covers two continents and their sea and land surroundings thus Asia’s rise is restored and the world’s future would be in Africa which China is helping develop.
This Chinese partnership is optional; however, even those who are not part of it will be impacted, such as Japan and India. Even Russia is considering joining or becoming an ally. A path towards trade, civilization, peace and development is indeed tempting and pursuing it is only deterred by fears of those who got used to European and American influence.
The Chinese experiment remains unique and attractive for cooperation, alliance and rapprochement.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Radwan al Sayed is a Lebanese thinker and writer who attained a bachelor degree from the Faculty of Theology at al-Azhar University and a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Tübingen in Germany. He has been a scholar of Islamic studies for decades and is the former editor-in-chief of the quarterly al-Ijtihad magazine. Radwan is also the author of many books and has written for Arab dailies such as al-Ittihad, al-Hayat and ash-Sharq al-Awsat.