Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi lauded the strong relations between Egypt and China during his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on 8 December, stating that Egypt has always been keen to boost cooperation with China at all levels and through the bilateral framework of the Egyptian-Chinese Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.
The meeting was held on the sidelines of the first China-Arab Summit, in Saudi Arabia, on 8-9 December.
Presidential Spokesman Bassam Radi said President Al-Sisi was keen to attend the summit to boost Arab efforts aimed at reinforcing political, economic, and trade relations with China. “Arab cooperation with China helps speed up the peace process in the Middle East and exchanging expertise in economic and commercial fields,” Radi said, citing the cooperation between Egypt and China in setting up and running the Suez Canal Economic Zone as a good example of Arab-Chinese economic cooperation.
“Egyptian and Chinese relations are historical, going back to the days of the two ancient Chinese and Pharaonic civilisations. They were both river civilisations that established the first states and governments in history,” Al-Sisi said addressing the conference.
Also, in modern times, in the 1950s and 1960s, Egypt and China both fought for independence and political liberation. Currently they are working on building a new world order based on justice, peace, and security, Al-Sisi added.
He noted that since he took office in 2014, he has been keen to reinforce relations between Egypt and China at all levels. “We cooperated with each other either on a bilateral basis or through the Arab-Chinese Cooperation Forum,” Al-Sisi said.
President Al-Sisi seized the Riyadh summit to renew calls for placing the Arab water security file on top of priorities of Arab-Chinese cooperation in the future as part of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum. “In this respect, I call upon Ethiopia to engage in good faith with Egypt and Sudan to reach a legally binding agreement on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam,” Al-Sisi said.
Egypt was the first Arab country to recognise and have diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China, prominent strategist Abdel-Moneim Said noted in an interview with the Al-Arabiya TV channel on 9 December. “It was a courageous decision in 1956 and came while the US was pressuring the world not to recognise the new People’s Republic of China,” Said said, indicating that since then Egypt and other Arab states have been urging China to play a greater role in the Middle East.
“We in Egypt view China as a reliable force that does not use issues like democracy and human rights to exercise influence and intervene in the internal affairs of Arab countries,” Said said.
Chinese President Xi told President Al-Sisi on 9 December that he would spare no effort advancing the China-Egypt comprehensive strategic partnership. “The visions and interests that China and Egypt share mean that the two sides need to work together in the coming stage to reinforce their strategic partnership,” said Xi, underscoring that “China firmly supports Egypt in choosing a development path that suits its national priorities and safeguards its national sovereignty, security, and development interests”.
Xi said China was ready to deepen Belt and Road cooperation with Egypt, ensure the on-schedule and high-quality completion of a railway in 10 Ramadan City and the Central Business District project in the New Administrative Capital, and make the China-Egypt Suez Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone and other major cooperation projects a success.
He added that China is ready to import more quality products from Egypt and expand cooperation in investment and financing, joint vaccine production, and aerospace. “The two sides need to promote the China-designed Luban Workshops to provide technical and vocational training to college students in Egypt to help them meet the requirements of the emerging global market,” Xi said.
Luban Workshops are China-backed vocational training centres found worldwide.
Xi congratulated Al-Sisi on the success of the Sharm El-Sheikh Climate Change Conference COP27, stressing that China aims to strengthen communication and cooperation with Egypt in energy transition, green economic sectors, and low-carbon technologies. “China is also ready to step up cooperation with Egypt in the United Nations and on other multilateral platforms, and jointly advocate true multilateralism, uphold the basic norms of international relations, safeguard the common interests of developing countries, and promote peace and stability in the region and beyond,” Xi said.
Al-Sisi told Xi that Egypt firmly supports China’s position on Hong Kong, Taiwan and other issues concerning China’s core interests, and firmly opposes interference by any force in China’s internal affairs. “Egypt will continue to work with China to advance Belt and Road cooperation, not to mention that it welcomes China’s active participation in important infrastructure projects in Egypt and that its doors are open wide to Chinese companies hoping to invest and seek cooperation,” Al-Sisi said.
He said that under Xi’s leadership China has made “great development achievements and gained notable international stature”. He extended heartfelt congratulations on the success of the recently held 20th Communist Party of China’s National Congress and the re-election of Xi as president of China.
Egyptian-Chinese ties have witnessed noticeable growth in the past several years in infrastructure, energy, trade, and transport. Cooperation includes electricity, petroleum, natural gas, railways, highways, ports, mineral industries, construction materials, chemical industries, lighting equipment, textile, and home appliances.
Al-Sisi visited China seven times between 2014 and 2022 to promote the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between the two countries and Chinese investments in Egypt.
According to a report by the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS) on 9 December on the eve of the China-Arab Summit, Egypt’s exports to China registered $1.5 billion in the first nine months of 2022, compared to $1.1 billion in the same period of 2021, marking an increase of 36.7 per cent.
CAPMAS stated that Egypt’s imports from China hit $11.1 billion from January to September 2022, against $10.7 billion in the corresponding period of 2021.
It said China’s total investments in Egypt hit $563.4 million in fiscal year (FY) 2021-22, compared to $485.2 million in FY 2020-21, marking an increase of 16.1 per cent.
CAPMAS also pointed out that the total remittances of Egyptians working in China stood at $12.7 million in FY 2020-21, against $12.8 million in FY 2019-20.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 15 December, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly