Egypt and China: Strategic partnership

Gamal Essam El-Din , Tuesday 4 Jun 2024

Cairo and Beijing are deepening their already close relationship, writes Gamal Essam El-Din

Egypt and China: Strategic partnership


President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping committed to reinforcing cooperation and coordination between Cairo and Beijing over the next five years during extensive talks held in the Chinese capital on 29 May.

The meeting between Al-Sisi and Xi Jinping coincided with the 10th anniversary of the elevation of Egyptian-Chinese relations to the comprehensive strategic partnership level. According to an official joint statement, the two leaders agreed that economic cooperation will prioritise technology transfer by expanding Egypt-bound industrial investment.

The statement said Chinese industrial investments in Egypt will mainly focus on the manufacture of electric vehicles and solar panels, followed by chemical industries, building materials, agricultural biotechnology and hotels.

Promoting a more balanced trade relationship between Egypt and China topped the agenda of the discussions between Al-Sisi and Xi Jinping. The two sides agreed to encourage more Chinese tourist traffic into Egypt and strengthen cooperation in the areas of artificial intelligence, science, culture and media.

The volume of trade between Egypt and China increased from $11.9 billion in January 2022 to $15.7 billion in January 2024.

The statement underlined the importance of integrating Egypt’s 2030 vision for sustainable development with China’s Belt and Road Initiative under which Chinese companies build Chinese-funded transportation, energy, and infrastructure projects overseas.

Investments between Egypt and China reached $14 billion in 2023, with Beijing pumping billions of dollars into Egyptian projects including the New Administrative Capital (NAC) and the Suez Canal Economic Zone.

The two leaders expressed satisfaction with the progress of bilateral relations over the last decade, singling out China’s involvement in key infrastructure projects such as the NAC’s financial and business district and the 10th of Ramadan electric train.

Al-Sisi and Xi Jinping directed the relevant authorities in their countries to hold technical discussions to implement the leaders’ vision of enhancing and strengthening bilateral relations and concluded their talks by promising to work closely within the framework of the BRICS group and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation to reinforce cooperation between emerging markets.

After witnessing the signing of four memorandums of understanding for cooperation covering telecommunication technology, trade and investment, agricultural quarantine and satellite production, President Al-Sisi invited Xi Jinping to visit Egypt at the earliest possible opportunity.

Diaa Helmy, a member of the Economic Committee of the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs, said it was no surprise that economic cooperation had topped the agenda of the talks between Al-Sisi and Xi Jinping.

“While Egypt is seeking to cut imports and boost exports by localising industries, China has established itself as a reliable source of high-quality technology that is cheaper than that produced by America and Europe, particularly when it comes to electrical appliances and construction inputs,” said Helmy.

Mohamed Al-Manzlawi, deputy chairman of the Senate’s Industrial Committee, told Al-Ahram Weekly that industrial and technological cooperation with China is essential if Egyptian industries are to modernise and boost export capacities in the next decade.

“Egypt wants to double exports to $100 billion a year by 2028, and increased cooperation with Chinese companies and Chinese investments in the industrial and agricultural fields will help achieve this goal,” said Al-Manzlawi. He noted that the Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank is expanding its cooperation portfolio with Egypt to $40 billion, distributed across 220 projects.

During his four-day state visit, Al-Sisi met with the heads of many Chinese companies, including the chairman of China State Construction Engineering Corp (CSCEC) Zheng Xue Xuan.

Presidential spokesperson Ahmed Fahmi said that during the meeting Al-Sisi reviewed recent developments in the infrastructure sector and highlighted the opportunities they provide for foreign businessmen to increase investments in Egypt. Implementation of joint projects between the two sides and proposals for greater cooperation were also discussed, said Fahmi.

In his meeting with Song Hailiang, chair of China Energy Engineering Corp, Fahmi said Al-Sisi lauded the company’s involvement in major projects in Egypt while Hailiang acclaimed Egypt as among the world’s most promising energy markets.

“China Energy aims to double its investments in Egypt, with a focus on green hydrogen and clean energy,” said Hailiang.

Talks between Al-Sisi and Xi Jinping were not confined to economics. The two presidents also exchanged views on regional and international developments. “They agreed on the crucial importance of reaching an urgent and immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and rejected any forced displacements of the Palestinians from their land,” said Fahmi.

President Xi Jinping lauded Cairo’s pivotal role in reaching a truce between Hamas and Israel and ensuring the delivery of desperately needed humanitarian aid while President Al-Sisi reaffirmed Cairo’s position that a two-state solution is the only guarantor of peace and security in the region.

Egypt has repeatedly voiced concerns over the humanitarian impact of Israeli military operations in Rafah and their implications for regional peace and stability and has called on Israel to open all land crossings between Israel and Gaza.

The two leaders addressed a number of African issues, with Al-Sisi stressing the utmost priority Cairo places on safeguarding Egypt’s water security.

President Al-Sisi’s latest visit to the Chinese capital was his eighth in ten years.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 6 June, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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