The Chinese connection

Al-Ahram Weekly Editorial
Tuesday 8 Feb 2022

Egypt-China relations have received a new strong push with the recent visit to Beijing by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi. On this, his seventh visit to China since he first took office in 2014, Al-Sisi attended the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games, and had talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The frequency of Al-Sisi’s visits to China reflects the strength of historic ties between the two countries and their desire to build on a long list of achievements to the benefit of their peoples. In fact, no Egyptian president ever made as many visits to China. Together with his meetings with his counterpart, President Xi, these visits have enhanced mutual political trust between the two countries, and achieved fruitful results in economic, commercial and political cooperation. Thus, the China-Egypt comprehensive strategic partnership has become a model of solidarity, cooperation and mutual benefit between China and Arab, African and developing countries.

As the Chinese president stated while receiving Al-Sisi, “China and Egypt share similar visions and strategies in defending their own interests, pursuing common development, enhancing their people’s well-being and promoting fairness and justice in the world, as the world is undergoing changes unseen in a century.”

China and Egypt have further consolidated mutual political trust and friendship when they immediately started cooperating on the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. China and Egypt built the first joint Covid-19 vaccine production line on the African continent last year. Egypt has been locally producing China’s coronavirus vaccine Sinovac since the summer of 2021 to inoculate the public and to export to African markets. China’s own Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines are also used in Egypt’s mass vaccination campaign. On their latest meeting, Al-Sisi and Xi discussed boosting cooperation in scientific research and transferring technologies in pharmaceutical industries, the manufacture of coronavirus vaccines, and China’s expertise in combatting the pandemic.

The meeting between the two presidents was also important for consolidating the strategic partnership between Egypt and China, and reflected China’s increasingly important role in Africa and the Middle East. Through the years, China has proved to be a reliable partner for nearly all countries in Africa and the Arab world, supporting their legitimate causes, such as demanding an independent Palestinian state, or rejecting the interference of domineering Western nations in their affairs.

However, in recent years, and after the strong comeback by China, which placed it as one of the key world players on an equal footing to other developed nations, the joint interests with the Arab world were not limited to political stands. During his visit to Beijing, both Al-Sisi and Chinese President Xi agreed to expand Egypt’s cooperation in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which will certainly promote Egypt and China’s economic interests.

In the coming weeks and months, Egypt will spare no effort to motivate Chinese businessmen to open up to investment opportunities in Egypt and attract more Chinese investments. Al-Sisi and Xi tackled boosting cooperation in industrial and information technologies as well as the manufacture of electric vehicles, which will start in Egypt soon with Chinese help.

In the same framework, the Chinese president agreed to help Egypt advance projects such as the development of the Suez Canal Economic Zone. This vital Zone will hopefully turn into an economic hub in which Chinese investments can play a vital role. From there, Chinese exports will have easy access to the rest of Africa and the Middle East.

Egypt’s ties to China are historic, and Beijing knows that Cairo is a reliable partner. Last year, Egypt and China marked the 65th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries, Egypt having been the first African and Arab state to establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China.

By taking part in the opening of the Olympic Games, Egypt also confirmed its agreement with the Chinese view that the aim of the Olympic Games was to bring people together, and that there should be no politics involved when it comes to competing in sports. On 24 January, Egypt celebrated the Beijing Winter Olympics by lighting the historic Cairo Tower with the slogans “Beijing 2022” and “See you in Beijing” in Arabic, English and Chinese. The tower also played the official song of the Beijing Winter Olympics “Together for a shared future.”

After Al-Sisi’s visit to China, Egypt expects to welcome Chinese President Xi in Cairo in the near future.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 10 February, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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