Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, center, and Chinese President Hu Jintao stand near a Chinese national flag during a welcome ceremony held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing Tuesday (Photo: AP)
Egypt's president will meet his Chinese counterpart in Beijing on Tuesday, seeking in his first state visit outside the Arab world to win badly needed investment and expand diplomatic ties.
Mohamed Morsi took over in June as Egypt's first freely elected civilian and Islamist leader after protests toppled his long-ruling, US-allied predecessor.
Egypt has struggled to boost its economy and secure foreign investment since the uprising last year. It still receives $1.3 billion in annual aid from the United States a year, although most of that goes to the military.
Cairo and Beijing will sign agreements for seven major projects, including a power station, a desalination plant, industrial bakeries and Internet development, according to Egypt's assistant planning minister Nabil Abdel Hamid.
Egypt will also propose development of a high-speed train line between Cairo and Alexandria, Hamid told state daily Al-Ahram.
Egypt expert Peter Mandaville said Morsi's visit marked a "broader effort by Egypt to signal that it's going to diversify its portfolio of relationships".
"In the short term I think it's absolutely the case that Egypt, given its own economic situation, is pretty desperate to attract some lucrative Chinese investment," said Mandaville, a professor at George Mason University in the United States.
Unlike Chinese economic support, US aid to Egypt comes with conditions -- a sore point for Egyptians, Mandaville noted.
After his three-day trip Morsi will attend the Non-Aligned Movement Summit in Iran, becoming Egypt's first leader in 30 years to visit the nation.
He will go to Washington next month after attending the UN General Assembly in New York, and Chinese media have highlighted his decision to make Beijing his first official trip outside the Arab world.
"The Egyptian president is indicating that these are changing times for his country's foreign policy," said a recent article posted on the website of the People's Daily, citing analysts. The paper is seen as a mouthpiece for the ruling Communist party.
Morsi's spokesman Yasser Ali said the visit was "meant to attract Chinese investment in Egypt."
Trade between the two countries reached $8.8 billion last year, up 40 percent from 2008, according to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce.
Morsi will meet China's Premier Wen Jiabao, Vice President Xi Jinping and top legislator Wu Bangguo on Wednesday.