Carry Forward the Spirit of China-Arab Friendship, Implement the Outcomes of the China-Arab States Summit, and Make All-out Efforts to Build a China-Arab Community with a Shared Future in the New Era
From December 7 to 10, 2022, Chinese President Xi Jinping attended upon invitation the first China-Arab States Summit and the China-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit and paid a state visit to Saudi Arabia. Arab countries placed high importance on the China-Arab States Summit, sending highest level delegations, among which 17 were headed by top leaders. At the summit, leaders of China and Arab countries gathered together to renew the history of their friendly exchanges and drew up a blueprint for a brighter future of their cooperation. It was a highly productive summit with impressive highlights, great significance and profound impact.
President Xi Jinping, in his keynote speech Carrying Forward the Spirit of China-Arab Friendship and Jointly Building a China-Arab Community with a Shared Future in the New Era, summarized the spirit of China-Arab friendship featuring “solidarity and mutual assistance, equality and mutual benefit, and inclusiveness and mutual learning”, and charted the course for building a China-Arab community with a shared future. He put forward the eight major cooperation initiatives of China-Arab practical cooperation, and made a comprehensive elaboration on China’s firm support to the just cause of the Palestinian people. The China-Arab States Summit issued three significant outcome documents including the Riyadh Declaration of the First China-Arab States Summit, the Outline of the Comprehensive Cooperation Plan Between the People’s Republic of China and Arab States, and the Document on Deepening the China-Arab Strategic Partnership for Peace and Development, and announced that China and Arab states agreed to make all-out efforts to build a China-Arab community with a shared future in the new era, steering the future growth of China-Arab relations in the new era.
The first China-Arab States Summit is the largest diplomatic event held at the highest level since China established diplomatic relations with Arab states. It is an important practice that major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics was carried out in the Middle East to implement the guiding principles of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), promote regional peace and development, and advance the building of a community with a shared future for mankind. The summit has set a milestone in the history of China-Arab relations and written a new chapter of major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics in the new era in the Middle East.
I.Building a China-Arab community with a shared future in the new era is based on the history of thousands of years of friendship, the fruitful achievements of China-Arab cooperation in the new era, and the strategic decisions to collaborate amid changes unseen in a century. It is the right endeavor that comes at the right time.
The friendship and exchanges between China and Arab states span thousands of years. Like shining gems at both ends of the Asian continent, these two major civilizations have enjoyed lasting friendship and interactions along the ancient Silk Road. The spirit of China-Arab friendship featuring “solidarity and mutual assistance, equality and mutual benefit, and inclusiveness and mutual learning” most vividly depicts the history of China-Arab relations.
Since modern times, China and Arab states have had similar historical experiences, common development dreams, and mutual trust and support. Facing major international and regional issues, China and Arab states have enjoyed similar visions and positions. The two sides shared weal and woe in the struggle for national liberation, pursued win-win cooperation in economic globalization and stood up for justice in the evolving international situation. They have become good friends on an equal footing, good partners of mutual benefits, and good brothers that go through thick and thin together.
Over the past decade, China-Arab relations have entered a new era. President Xi Jinping paid three visits to the Arab region and delivered four important speeches to the Arab world. These have guided China and Arab states to realize historic leaps in widening and deepening their political mutual trust, win-win economic cooperation, and mutual learning of civilizations. Cooperation in all fields has secured a series of significant and breakthrough achievements, laying a solid foundation for further enhancement and upgrading of China-Arab relations.
Over the past decade, China has established the future-oriented strategic partnership of comprehensive cooperation and common development with the League of Arab States, formed comprehensive strategic partnerships or strategic partnerships with 12 Arab countries, and signed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) cooperation documents with most Arab countries. The League of Arab States is the first regional organization that signed the BRI cooperation document with China. Arab states broadly welcomed and supported the Global Development Initiative (GDI) and the Global Security Initiative (GSI). Sixteen Arab states have joined as members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and 14 Arab states participated in the China-League of Arab States Cooperation Initiative on Data Security. China has opened 20 Confucius Institutes and two Confucius Classrooms in Arab countries. Over 40 universities in China have the Arabic language major. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, China and Arab states have stood together in mutual assistance and carried out efficient cooperation in vaccine research and development, joint prevention and control, experience sharing and medical supplies, setting a fine example of solidarity against COVID-19. Under the framework of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum, the two sides have established 17 cooperation mechanisms, which have broadened the scope and enriched the contents of cooperation, serving as a model of cooperation among developing countries.
The world is in a new period of turbulence and transformation. The historical trends of peace, development, cooperation, and mutual benefit are unstoppable, but the deficit in peace, development, security and governance is growing. The population of China and Arab states accounts for one quarter of the world’s total. Facing the evolving international situation and rising global challenges, China and Arab states, as important developing countries and crucial forces on the international arena, share stronger mutual support and trust. Making all-out efforts to build a China-Arab community with a shared future in the new era is the most powerful and unequivocal answer and the most distinct and loudest voice that the two sides have given in response to the changes of the world, the times, and the history.
II. Building a China-Arab community with a shared future in the new era reflects the consensus between China and Arab states, and demonstrates major global significance and relevance of the times that go beyond the bilateral and regional scope. It shows fully that countries in different regions, and with different cultures and social systems can accommodate and learn from each other, and pursue common prosperity and development.
Building a China-Arab community with a shared future in the new era reflects the political consensus between China and Arab states, and sends out a common voice to uphold independence and build a better world. Mutual respect, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs and joint opposition to hegemony, power politics and ideological confrontation are the most important consensus between the two sides and the most valuable asset in China-Arab relations. The Riyadh Declaration, the most important political outcome of the first China-Arab States Summit, stresses that the two sides will continue to firmly support one another on issues concerning each other’s core interests and major concerns, jointly oppose unilateralism and external interference, advocate Belt and Road cooperation, jointly implement the GDI and GSI, and promote the common values of humanity. The two sides have made a strong voice of the times for strengthening China-Arab solidarity and coordination, facilitating their respective national rejuvenation, advancing regional peace and development, and upholding international fairness and justice. They have served as an example and a pacesetter for solidarity and cooperation among developing countries, and injected strong dynamism for building a new type of international relations and making global governance more just and equitable.
Building a China-Arab community with a shared future in the new era reflects the consensus on development between China and Arab states, and sets a benchmark for focusing on economic development and promoting win-win cooperation. During President Xi’s attendance at the first China-Arab States Summit and the first China-GCC Summit and his state visit to Saudi Arabia, the two sides unveiled hundreds of measures for practical cooperation. The China-Arab States Summit adopted the Outline of the Comprehensive Cooperation Plan Between China and Arab States, focusing on practical cooperation in the political, economic and trade, investment and financial, and other fields. The China-GCC Summit adopted the 2023-2027 Action Plan for Strategic Dialogue Between the People’s Republic of China and the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, making plans for China-GCC cooperation in areas such as economy and trade, energy, education, and science and technology in the next five years. The eight major cooperation initiatives for China-Arab pragmatic cooperation cover areas including development support, food security, public health, green innovation, energy security, inter-civilizational dialogue, youth development, and security and stability, and set forth plans for cooperation between the two sides in the next three to five years. The five priority areas for China-GCC cooperation involve energy, finance and investment, innovation, science and technology, aerospace, and language and cultural cooperation. In addition, China has signed and concluded dozens of cooperation documents with Arab states in areas of Belt and Road cooperation, energy, food, investment, green development, security and aerospace. China and Arab states have synergized their development strengths, met each other’s needs and followed the trend of the times. The two sides will further deepen practical cooperation and boost sustainable South-South cooperation.
Building a China-Arab community with a shared future in the new era reflects the consensus on security between China and Arab states, and demonstrates the security concept of promoting political settlement and upholding fairness and justice. The Palestinian question is the core issue of the Middle East region and tests the moral conscience of mankind. China and Arab states agree that the international community must stay firm in its commitment to the two-state solution and the principle of “land for peace”, make resolute efforts to promote peace talks, provide more humanitarian and development assistance to Palestine, and strive for a just settlement of the Palestinian question at an early date. Hotspot issues such as Syria, Libya and Yemen continue to linger, bringing sufferings to people of relevant countries. China and Arab states hold the view that efforts must be made to seek political settlement through dialogue and consultation; to uphold unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of countries in the region, oppose foreign interference, and jointly combat terrorist and extremist organizations; and to support the endeavors of regional countries, the United Nations and the League of Arab States to achieve security, stability, development and prosperity and to combat terrorism. China and Arab states have facilitated the common efforts to achieve political settlement of hotspot issues, promoted long-term security in the region and maintained world peace and stability.
Building a China-Arab community with a shared future in the new era reflects the consensus on civilization between China and Arab states, and sets an example of mutual learning to strengthen inter-civilizational exchanges and enhance understanding and trust. President Xi Jinping recently proposed the Global Civilization Initiative at the CPC in Dialogue with World Political Parties High-level Meeting. This is another important public goods, after the GDI and GSI, that China contributes to the international community for enhancing exchanges and mutual learning among civilizations and advancing progress in human civilization in the new era. Both the Chinese and Arab civilizations are gems of human civilizations and contain precious intangible wealth that mankind has made through its progress. They both value peace and moderation, advocate dialogue among civilizations and champion inclusiveness and mutual learning. They oppose any form of “clash of civilizations”, “superiority of civilizations” or “Islamophobia”, and reject linking terrorism with any ethnic group, religion, country or civilization. China will work with Arab states to actively practice the Global Civilization Initiative, and call for civilization exchanges, mutual learning and coexistence among civilizations rather than estrangement, clashes, or feelings of superiority relating to civilizations, so as to work together to make civilizations around the world more prosperous.
The year 2023 is the first year to deliver on the outcomes of the first China-Arab States Summit. As a Chinese saying goes, a journey of one thousand miles begins with a single step. In January, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang visited the headquarters of the Arab League as he concluded his first overseas trip. During the visit, he had an in-depth discussion with Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit on implementing the outcomes of the first China-Arab States Summit and promoting the building of a China-Arab community with a shared future in the new era. At the 159th session of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Arab League held in March this year, Arab states highly commended the first China-Arab States Summit in the form of a collective resolution, and underscored their readiness to work with China to implement the outcomes of the summit.
Going forward, China and Arab states will jointly carry forward the spirit of China-Arab friendship, fully implement the outcomes of the first China-Arab States Summit, and take solid strides in building a China-Arab community with a shared future in the new era. With strategic mutual trust as the cornerstone, the two sides will firmly support each other in safeguarding their respective core interests and major concerns, jointly uphold the basic norms governing international relations including non-interference in internal affairs, and defend international equity and justice. With win-win cooperation as the driving force, the two sides will carry out high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, implement the GDI, and jointly pursue development and rejuvenation. With security and stability as the safeguard, Arab states will be supported in addressing hotspot and difficult issues with their own wisdom, and contribute to enduring peace and stability in the region. With mutual learning as the orientation, the two sides will promote governance experience sharing, advocate humanity’s common values of peace, development, equity, justice, democracy and freedom, and practice the Global Civilization Initiative. The two sides will continue to make good use of bilateral and multilateral cooperation platforms to implement the measures of practical cooperation one by one, fully leverage existing mechanisms and explore new ones, so as to carry out the set blueprint for China-Arab cooperation until it becomes reality.
III. Building with all-out efforts a China-Arab community with a shared future in the new era benefits the people of both China and Arab states as well as the Middle East. It will boost the overall growth of the relations between China and Middle East countries, and add a new chapter of major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics in the new era in the Middle East.
The Middle East is endowed with rich resources and profound cultural heritage. It has gone through hardships and tribulations, but is still full of potential and hope. Be it on the world political, economic or cultural map, the Middle East always claims an important place. China is a good partner and good brother of Arab states and a sincere friend of all countries in the Middle East. China’s policy toward Arab states has been well integrated and consistent with its Middle East policy, and the vigorous development of China-Arab relations will give a strong boost to China’s relations with Middle East countries.
The people of the Middle East know full well the value of peace and hard-won development. China sincerely wants to see that security is ensured and development boosted in the Middle East. Over the years, China has strengthened political interactions, expanded practical cooperation and deepened cultural exchanges with Middle East countries with sincerity and justice as the priority. China never attempts to form exclusive geopolitical blocs or seek selfish geopolitical gains. Instead, it always supports Middle East countries in their efforts to address regional security issues through solidarity and coordination, and supports the people of the Middle East in independently exploring their development paths.
In recent years, China has proposed a five-point initiative on promoting peace and stability in the Middle East, a four-point proposal for the political settlement of the Syrian issue, and a three-point vision for the implementation of the two-state solution to the Palestinian question, endeavoring to build a new architecture of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security in the Middle East. President Xi put forward important propositions on addressing regional security dilemmas on multiple occasions. From various perspectives such as equity and justice, multilateralism, common development, a holistic approach to tackling terrorism, and building a shared future, he provided strategic guidance for exploring the way out of chaos in the region. In April 2022, President Xi proposed the GSI, which answers the question of the times, i.e., how countries can achieve common security. This initiative, one of great significance and relevance to promoting peace and stability in the Middle East, has been widely recognized and welcomed by regional countries.
Not long ago, China successfully facilitated the dialogue between Saudi Arabia and Iran in Beijing and achieved significant outcomes. This is a major diplomatic move by China to implement the GSI in the Middle East, and it was highly appreciated by Middle East countries and the international community. The dialogue opened a new page in Saudi-Iran relations and laid a foundation for their subsequent cooperation. The dialogue has set a model for countries in the Middle East to resolve disagreements and differences through dialogue and consultation and pursue good-neighborliness and friendship. It is conducive to further improving relations among regional countries. This dialogue, offering great news for this volatile world, fully demonstrates that no matter how complex the issues or how acute the challenges may be, as long as countries engage in equal-footed dialogue in the spirit of mutual respect, they will surely find mutually acceptable solutions.
Going forward, China will continue to be a facilitator for peace and stability, a supporter for development and prosperity, and an enabler for solidarity and cooperation in the Middle East. It will continue to call on the international community, especially major countries outside the region, to observe the purposes of the UN Charter and the basic norms governing international relations, and to respect the sovereignty and independence of Middle East countries, the will and choice of the people of the Middle East, and the history and culture of the region. China will continue to encourage Middle East countries to seek solutions to hotspot issues that suit regional realities and accommodate the interests of all parties through dialogue and consultation, and practice true multilateralism. It will continue to give equal importance to development and security, provide more support for Middle East countries in their development, help them respond to food and energy security challenges, and inject positive energy to development, security and stability in the Middle East.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of President Xi’s proposal of building a community with a shared future for mankind. Making all-out efforts to build a China-Arab community with a shared future in the new era is an important diplomatic practice of China to implement with the Arab world the vision of a community with a shared future for mankind. China, together with Arab states, will seize the opportunity of the successful convening of the first China-Arab States Summit to speed up the implementation of the Summit outcomes, and further enrich and deepen all-round, multi-dimensional and wide-ranging China-Arab cooperation. China will work with Arab states to open up brighter prospects for China-Arab relations, shape a more prosperous and stable future for the Middle East, and contribute to the building of a community with a shared future for mankind.
Wang Di is Director-General of the Department of West Asian and North African Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.