Egypt and China: Strategic partnership

Gamal Essam El-Din , Tuesday 16 Jan 2024

China and Egypt are elevating their strategic partnership to a higher level, reports Gamal Essam El-Din

Al-Sisi with Wang Yi
Al-Sisi with Wang Yi


On Sunday, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi met China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Cairo. According to Presidential Spokesman Ahmed Fahmi, Al-Sisi expressed gratitude for China’s strong support of Egypt’s social and economic development, and reaffirmed Egypt’s commitment to the one-China principle.

Al-Sisi and Wang also reviewed economic cooperation projects between the two countries either at the bilateral level or within the framework of the BRICS bloc and China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) for development, according to Fahmi.

Wang thanked Al-Sisi for Egypt’s commitment to the one-China principle and opposition to interference in China’s internal affairs. “China also appreciates Egypt’s active response to the BRI and will remain a long-term, reliable strategic partner with Cairo,” Wang said.

He announced that plans to strengthen relations with Egypt are underway. “Bilateral cooperation and the strategic partnership will reach a new level as Egypt is one of the six countries that will join China, Brazil, Russia, India, and South Africa as new members of the BRICS economic bloc this year,” Wang said.

Wang continued the tradition of China’s foreign ministers beginning the new year with a tour of Africa. Egypt was his first stop, holding talks with Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri. The two signed an executive five-year plan for the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between the two countries.

According to Fahmi, Wangi extended a message to Al-Sisi from Chinese President Xi Jinping congratulating him on his re-election to a new presidential term and reaffirming the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries.

Egypt and China have a long history of diplomatic relations, dating back to the 1950s. Egypt was the first Arab and African nation to establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China in 1956. In December 2014, shortly after taking office, President Al-Sisi made an official visit to China where he met President XI and signed a comprehensive strategic partnership (CSP) agreement. The CSP inaugurated a new era of enhanced bilateral relations between the two countries, and since 2014 President Al-Sisi has visited China several times, during which the two countries have signed a substantial number of bilateral agreements. President XI visited Egypt in 2016.

According to Egypt’s Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS), the volume of trade between Egypt and China increased from $11.9 billion in early 2022 to $13 billion in early 2023, an increase of 9.8 per cent in just one year. According to China’s Ambassador to Egypt Liao Liqiang, Egypt is the largest recipient of Chinese investments in the Arab world. “China’s investments in Egypt have reached nearly $7 billion, 90 per cent of which were pumped over the past five years, providing around 40,000 job opportunities,” the ambassador said.

Chinese companies have invested billions of dollars in infrastructure projects in Egypt, including the construction of the New Administrative Capital as well as power plants and industrial zones.

Chinese media said China’s keenness to strengthen its relations with Egypt should also be viewed through the prism of China’s massive BRI. For example, the Suez Canal and Trade Cooperation Zone (SETC-Zone), established in 2008, is considered a key project that significantly serves the BRI due to its location and logistical capabilities. The SETC-Zone is a major hub for Chinese products, boasting 102 Chinese companies, $1.2 billion of investments, 30,000 new jobs, and over $2.5 billion in sales, according to China’s National Development and Reform Commission.

Egypt and China also share the same positions on political developments and the wars in the Middle East. Spokesman Fahmi said Al-Sisi and Wang exchanged views on the Palestinian-Israeli situation, agreeing on the need for an immediate ceasefire to the war in Gaza and preventing further escalation. “The two sides also agreed that there should be a radical settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on the basis of a two-state solution and the creation of an independent Palestinian state,” Fahmi said, adding that Wang highly appreciated Egypt’s role in extending humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza. The two also affirmed the need to abide by international law and reiterated their rejection of the forced displacement of Palestinians.

In their press conference after talks on Sunday, Foreign Minister Shoukri and Wang also expressed the need to jointly maintain the safety of the Red Sea waterway in accordance with international laws, while respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Red Sea coastal countries, including Yemen. The two also expressed the need to ensure the safety and security of navigation in the Red Sea following air strikes by the US and UK against Houthi targets in Yemen. Wang called for an end to the harassment of civilian vessels in the Red Sea, but also emphasised that the tension in the Red Sea is a “prominent manifestation” of the spillover of the Gaza conflict. Wang also discussed regional cooperation and emerging crises with Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Abul-Gheit.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 18 January, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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