China-Arab report stresses mutual respect and opposing hegemony as first summit approaches

Chen Qingqing December 2, 2022 — Ahead of the highly anticipated first China-Arab summit, which is scheduled to be held in early December in Saudi Arabia, the Chinese Foreign Ministry released a long report fully reviewing China’s long-standing relations with Arab countries, and highlighted the strategic mutual trust in China-Arab ties in the new era, which Chinese experts believe points out the future direction of China-Arab cooperation.

Amid the profound changes unseen in a century, China and Arab states face similar opportunities and challenges. China has all along viewed Arab states as strategic partners in our pursuit of peaceful development, further cooperation with developing countries and building a community with a shared future for mankind, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Friday.

The comments were made after the Chinese Foreign Ministry released a report titled “China-Arab Cooperation in the New Era” on Thursday night, which looks back at the long-standing friendship between China and Arab countries and highlights the strategic mutual trust of China-Arab ties in the new era.

The report is a comprehensive review and summary of China-Arab relations, from historical exchanges and the build-up of strategic ties in various areas to deepening cooperation in political mutual trust, trade cooperation and cultural exchanges, laying out the principle of China-Arab relations and direction of future ties, Liu Zhongmin, a professor at the Middle East Studies Institute of Shanghai International Studies University, told the Global Times on Friday.

The nearly 19,000-word report elaborates on the friendship between China and Arab states that has been passed down for thousands of years, China-Arab relations in the new era, and how China-Arab cooperation is developing rapidly amidst intertwined changes and building a China-Arab community with a shared future.

Both China and Arab countries advocate respect for sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence. They both oppose external interference and all forms of hegemonism and power politics, according to the report.

Some countries are clamoring for the so-called “power vacuum theory in the Middle East” while China has always believed that there is no such “power vacuum” and that the people of the Middle East are the masters of the future and destiny of the region, and the international community should respect the status of the masters of countries and people in the region, the report said.

Compared with relations between the US and Arab countries, China’s relations with them are based on equality and mutual respect with honesty, unlike the US which brings ideological bias in its interactions with the countries, Zhu Yongbiao, executive director of the Research Center for the Belt and Road in Lanzhou University, told the Global Times on Friday.

“Also, unlike the US, which always imposes extra geopolitical conditions on its cooperation with Arab countries, China-Arab cooperation is reciprocal and benefits the people from both sides,” he said.

Saudi Arabia plans to host the Chinese-Arab summit on December 9, Reuters reported, which also comes at a “sensitive time for Saudi-US relations” that have been strained by a dispute over energy supplies.

In July, US President Joe Biden visited the Middle East in a bid to reassure the region of his country’s commitment to it. However, he ended his trip with little to show.

Also, Saudi Arabia and the US have clashed over OPEC+’s decision to cut oil output, reflecting Washington’s typical tendency to sacrifice Saudi interests to meet its own strategic interests in the Middle East, experts said. It also drew a sharp contrast to the cooperation between China and Arab countries, which has nothing to do with geopolitical wrestling but aims for development for both sides, they noted.

China is willing to take the convening of the first China-Arab Summit as an opportunity to work with Arab countries to carry forward the traditional friendship between China and Arab states, continuously enrich and deepen the pattern of all-dimensional, multi-level, and wide-ranging cooperation, and work together to build a China-Arab community of a shared future for the new era for the benefit of all, according to the report.

“The China-Arab Summit is another new and high-level mechanism of China-Arab cooperation, which will help it fully accelerate and upgrade in the future,” Liu said.

The report also lays out future fields of cooperation, such as promoting the Belt and Road Initiative, increasing exports of non-oil products from Arab nations to the Chinese market and supporting China-Arab investment cooperation in sectors such as oil and natural gas. Chinese experts believed that given the highly complementary nature of China-Arab countries in energy, the summit will focus on cooperation in this field and push forward exploration in emerging areas such as nuclear energy and new energy.

“The summit is also likely to focus on energy security and regional security, for example, how to tackle rising uncertainties such as the food and energy crises and climate change, which could also be the focus of China-Arab cooperation in the future,” Zhu said.

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