With the theme of “New Opportunity, New Future”, the Fourth China-Arab States Expo concluded with many projects signed. Based on the principle of achieving shared growth through discussion and collaboration, the event focused on economic and trade cooperation, advanced technologies, digital economy, and capacity cooperation. The Expo helped build the “1+2+3” model of China-Arab cooperation, where the single focus of energy cooperation is flanked by the two priorities of infrastructure development and trade and investment facilitation, and powered by three cutting-edge areas of nuclear energy, satellite, and alternative energy. This model is expected to usher in an era of quality development for the Belt and Road (B&R) Initiative.
Over the years, the China-Arab States Expo has served as a platform for bilateral cooperation and exchanges in economy, trade, science, technology, medicine, and tourism. With extensive international influence, the Expo has been widely recognized by B&R countries as a major contributor to the practical cooperation between the two sides.
From September 5-8, over 2,900 regional organizations, trade associations, and companies of 107 delegations from 89 countries participated in a series of events in Yinchuan, Ningxia, including the opening ceremony of the Expo, 8 exhibitions and trade promotion events, 4 forums, and the guest of honor events of the Jiangsu Province. A series of matchmaking events and observation tours took place in trade and investment, advanced technologies, Internet Plus, digital economy, infrastructure, and capacity cooperation.
At the Project Signing Ceremony on September 6, a total of 362 projects between China and the Arab States were signed, with investment and trade expected to reach ¥185.42 billion. The signed projects involve modern agriculture, cutting-edge technologies, equipment manufacturing, infrastructure, capacity cooperation, industrial park construction, “Internet Plus Healthcare”, and tourism.
Both sides are coming closer and closer in cooperation. Three national cooperation agreements were made at the Expo: China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology was expected to build a B&R think tank alliance for international cooperation in industry and telecommunications, with universities and research centers from other countries; China International Chamber of Commerce signed a MOU with the China-Mauritania Chamber of Commerce; China Communications Construction and China Road & Bridge Corporation signed with the BMCE Bank and other foreign partners the equity framework agreement for the Mohammed VI Tangier Tech City project.
In addition, the “Internet Plus Healthcare” exhibition attracted 67 exhibitors from the US, Germany, and other countries. Oman, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia were active in promoting China-Arab capacity cooperation. Ningxia entered into agreements with Pakistan, Kenya, Morocco, and Uzbekistan on building the overseas centers for China-Arab agricultural technology transfer.
“China-Arab economic and trade cooperation has a promising prospect. The B&R Initiative has provided a new platform for bilateral engagement, and the China-Arab strategic partnership has entered a new stage of development,” said CHEN Jian’an, Vice Chairman of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade. In 2018, the bilateral trade reached $244.3 billion. Chinese businesses’ new engineering contracts in the Arab states totaled $35.6 billion. The FDI in Arab by those companies reached $1.2 billion.
New Growth Opportunities
During the Expo, China and Egypt officially launched the China-funded "MisrSat II" satellite project. Yet another cooperation by the two countries in space, this project will be implemented by the China Academy of Space Technology, a subsidiary of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation.
According to Mamdouh Sallman, Minister of the Embassy of Egypt in China, the project will deepen the cooperation between the two countries, and he hopes to see more similar engagements in the future.
Today, China-Arab cooperation is delving into the high-tech sectors, especially nuclear energy, satellite, and alternative energy.
Abdulla Al Saleh, Under Secretary of the UAE Ministry of Economy, said at the Expo that China had advanced technologies and was a leader in 5G. Cooperation would serve the common interests of both sides: greater market access for Chinese commodities, and empowerment for the Arab states to implement their development plans.
Khaled Hanafi, Secretary General of the Union of Arab Chambers, felt the same way with Abdulla Al Saleh. According to him, with the Fourth Industrial Revolution just around the corner, strengthened China-Arab cooperation in IoT, 3D printing, and Internet Plus will help the bilateral trade volume go beyond $200 billion.
ZHANG Liwei, Deputy Director of the Ningxia Exposition Bureau, said that in line with the B&R Science, Technology and Innovation Cooperation Action Plan, the Expo designed the exhibitions on the B&R innovative products, and Internet Plus Healthcare, and held the supporting trade promotion events, with a focus on the high-tech equipment of the B&R countries. The Expo was aimed at helping companies from both sides explore new technologies, business forms, and models together.
According to Mahmoud H. Elamin, head of the Mission of the League of Arab States in China, the League will further improve cooperation and communication, implement China-Arab development strategies, and enhance policy disclosure, to motivate the Arab states to align their growth strategies with the B&R Initiative.
New Technologies, New Future
The China-Arab States Expo attracted over 1,000 exhibitors from 60 countries and regions. At the B&R Innovative Products Exhibition, whose theme was “Meet the New Species”, the robotic arm developed by the HIT Robot Group wowed the visitors; pioneering inventions, including security robots, farming drones, and the “Sky Guardian” pollution detectors, more than captivated the Arab companies; VIVA Bahrain, a telecom operator, signed with Huawei a MOU on national 5G coverage; Jollychic, an IT service provider based in Zhejiang, has covered 82% of the Internet users in the Arab states of the Persian Gulf…
China and the Arab states have great cooperation potential in tourism, agriculture, medicine, and Internet. At the China-Arab States Technology Transfer & Innovation Cooperation Conference, China promoted 10 major technological achievements such as smart farming, and signed 10 technological cooperation projects such as the big data coordination and service platform with its Arab counterparts. HUANG Wei, Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Science and Technology, said that the B&R cooperation in technological innovation was turning from words to actions, and the technological and cultural exchanges were getting bigger and better.
According to Mahmoud H. Elamin, China-Arab cooperation in agriculture, industry, and energy is going into greater depth, and such cooperation could be financed by the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
According to REN Hongbin, Assistant to the Minister of Commerce, going forward, the Ministry will join hands with its Arab counterparts to promote the China-Arab infrastructure cooperation, deepen connectivity, strengthen the engagement in oil and gas, and low-carbon energy, and consolidate the energy partnership; the Ministry will also continue with its advocacy for financial and high-tech cooperation, support the development of overseas trade cooperation zones, and promote trade and investment liberalization and facilitation.
Ahmad Berwari, Iraqi Ambassador to China, said: “5G and other emerging technologies are very important to Iraq and other countries. We are very interested in China’s great achievements in those areas. We hope to learn and receive support from China.”
For further progress, great visions and practical actions are both indispensable. As high-level and large-scale projects with positive influence are implemented one after another, China-Arab cooperation will embrace its new heyday.