Tuesday,25 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1407, (30 August - 5 September 2018)
Tuesday,25 September, 2018
Issue 1407, (30 August - 5 September 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Egyptian-Chinese relations

Since President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi took office four years ago, the relationship between Egypt and China has developed tremendously. China was the first country the Egyptian leader visited on a trip abroad in late 2014, and in the last three years alone Al-Sisi and Chinese President Xi Jinping have held five summits. On 3 September, Al-Sisi will head to Beijing again to take part in the third Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), joined by a high-level government and business delegation.

Such keenness to develop ties with China reflects Cairo’s recognition of Beijing’s role as an economic superpower and a wise international partner that sticks to principled stands on critical regional issues. Meanwhile, China recognises Egypt’s central regional role, being the largest Arab country and a leading force on the African continent. Historically, Egypt was the first Arab country to recognise the People’s Republic of China in the 1950s, and it supported China’s demand to occupy a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council. This opened the road for China’s growing ties with many other Arab countries.

Under the auspices of both presidents, the deepening strategic partnership between the two countries has delivered fruitful outcomes in various domains in recent years. Both leaders have agreed to combine each other’s development strategies, push forward pragmatic cooperation within the framework of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and achieve common development. Judging by the large delegation accompanying Al-Sisi on his latest visit to China, it is obvious that Cairo highly values its comprehensive strategic partnership with China and is keen to further the mutually beneficial cooperation between the two countries.

Such close ties between the two leaders have translated into huge Chinese investments in major Egyptian national projects such as the New Administrative Capital, the two coal-fired power plants in the Red Sea port of Hamrawein, the Ataqa water storage and pumping project, the electric train project, the project to develop the Abu Qir and Alexandria train line, the New Valley Phosphate Complex for the production of phosphoric acid, the expansion of the first phase of the Special Economic Zone in the northwest of the Gulf of Suez and the development of the Ain Sokhna Port. A Chinese company is also implementing the Central Business District of the New Administrative Capital with an investment of $3 billion financed by Chinese banks.

In order to confirm Egypt’s support for the BRI, Cairo has encouraged Beijing to increase Chinese investments in the Suez Canal, underlining its vital importance as a main international trade route and an important component of the BRI initiative. Egypt is also eager to facilitate the entry of Egyptian exports to the Chinese market and encourage Chinese tourism in Egypt, this having witnessed a remarkable increase in the past two years. The trade volume between the two countries was estimated at nearly $11 billion in 2016. Egypt’s exports to China grew 60 per cent during 2017, recording $408 million, compared to $255 million in 2016, and there is certainly room to increase this figure tremendously as the Chinese market opens its doors to Egyptian products.

However, relations between the two countries are not limited to trade and investments alone. China backs Egyptian and Arab demands for a just and permanent settlement for the Palestinian cause, recognising that there must be a just and comprehensive settlement for the long-standing Arab-Israeli conflict. This will not be achieved except by Israel’s recognition of Palestinian rights, guaranteeing self-determination and the Palestinians’ right to an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Both Cairo and Beijing also share the same view on rejecting foreign intervention in the Middle East’s affairs and warn against the consequences of depending on military force alone to settle political disputes in this volatile region, whether in Syria, Libya, Iraq or Yemen. Wars have always made the situation in the region worse, mainly in terms of human suffering in a region whose people primarily need economic and social development. As the confrontation grows between the United States and Iran, both Egypt and China can play a significant role in convincing all the parties involved to settle their differences through dialogue instead of by exchanging military threats.

China provides an important model for aiding the development of many African and Arab nations, without political conditions or interventions in their domestic affairs. This is why Al-Sisi’s upcoming visit to China will help cement the strategic partnership between the two countries and bring benefits to both Cairo and Beijing.

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