Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1258, (13 - 19 August 2015)
Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Issue 1258, (13 - 19 August 2015)

Ahram Weekly

The Chinese connection

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi met with the Chinese presidential envoy this week to discuss his planned visit to China, reports Reem Leila

Al-Ahram Weekly

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi met with the special envoy of the Chinese president, Minister of Culture Luo Shugang, on 8 August to discuss preparations for his upcoming visit to China. Al-Sisi is expected to attend celebrations to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II on 3 September.

Shugang, who also attended the inaugural ceremony of the New Suez Canal, congratulated Al-Sisi on behalf of the Chinese president, noting that the canal expansion will have a positive impact on international maritime traffic and benefit China because of the large number of Chinese ships passing through the canal.

During the meeting, the president pointed to various aspects of cooperation that could be enhanced between the two countries. “China will contribute to several development projects that will be implemented in the near future. These include the Suez Canal Corridor Development Project and a one-million-feddan land reclamation project encompassing agricultural activities and the establishment of food and packaging factories,” Al-Sisi said.

He added that the New Suez Canal will contribute to the Chinese president’s initiative to revive the ancient Silk Roads that once crossed Asia between China and the Mediterranean. A number of Red Sea ports could be integrated into the project to contribute to its goals, Al-Sisi said.

The Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road were proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013. The initiatives bring together countries in Asia, Europe and Africa via overland and maritime networks with the purpose of boosting infrastructure, financial cooperation and cultural exchange.

Shugang said he hopes that the projects and cooperation within the framework of the Chinese initiative will “deliver real results for the benefit of all.” Al-Sisi said Egypt will play an active part in the initiative and make joint efforts with China to promote cooperation and strengthen the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries.

At the same time, the Chinese envoy expressed his interest in enhanced cultural cooperation between Egypt and China, given that they will celebrate the 60th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations next year. “There are regular and ongoing contacts with Egypt to prepare for the cultural activities that will be organised,” Shugang said.

Alaa Youssef, an official spokesman for the presidency, said Egypt is keen to establish strong and balanced relations with all countries and thus is delighted to build on the history of excellent relations between the two countries and increase cooperation in various fields.

Shugang also met with his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel-Wahed Al-Nabawi. At their meeting, further cultural cooperation between the two countries was discussed. “An agreement for an action plan for Chinese-Egyptian cultural cooperation and a memorandum of understanding on hosting the 2016 culture year were signed,” Youssef said.

In December last year, Egypt and China signed five agreements during Al-Sisi’s first visit to Beijing. In June this year, Minister of Trade Mounir Fakhri Abdel-Nour announced that Egypt had entered into an initial agreement with China on 15 projects worth about $10 billion.

China is considered Egypt’s fifth-largest trading partner after the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, the US and Italy. According to recent data released by the Central Bank of Egypt, Egypt imports goods worth about $5 billion a year from China and exports goods worth an estimated $488 million.

Political analysts said that since Al-Sisi came to power last year he has been trying to strengthen Egypt’s bilateral ties with eastern countries such as China and Russia.

Aliya Al-Mahdi, a professor of political science at Cairo University, said that Al-Sisi is sending “an indirect message” to Western countries that he will not limit Egypt’s strategic cooperation to the Western hemisphere alone.

Relations between Egypt and China have been good since the rule of President Gamal Abdel-Nasser, Al-Mahdi said, adding, “Bilateral ties between the two countries are now at their best, with the two presidents activating strategic relations and conducting agreements to enhance their respective political and economic situations.

“Egypt is moving towards the East, aiming at China for economic relations and Russia for military ones. Opening up to the eastern countries does not mean closing doors in the face of the West, however. It is part of a consistent strategic plan,” he said.

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