Forum explores prospects for China-Middle East cooperation

Wan Lixin
Panelists from more than 10 countries explored challenges and opportunities confronting us 10 years after the Belt and Road Initiative was put forward.
Wan Lixin

Panelists from more than ten countries explored a wide range of topics of common concern at a forum titled "The Belt and Road Initiative Ten Years On: Challenges, Opportunities, and Prospects for China-Middle East Cooperation."

Organized by the Middle East Council on Global Affairs and Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, the forum was held on April 25 and 26 in Shanghai.

Forum explores prospects for China-Middle East cooperation
Ti Gong

Panellists explored a wide range of topics of common concern at the forum.

"Last year marked the 10th anniversary of China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, which emphasized high-quality development in BRI cooperation," said Wang Dezhong, president of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

Arab countries are the natural partners in BRI cooperation, Wang added. Over the past decade, up to 2022, China had already signed BRI agreements with more than twenty Arab countries, with trade volume between China and Arab states exceeding US$400 billion in 2022.

During the past few years, mutual exchanges suffered as a result of Covid-19. But since last year, China has been recovering in terms of foreign exchanges.

"Today's forum is part of this recovery," said Wang.

Wang added that due to the temporary reduction in international exchanges, the outside world seemed to have some differences over China's economic growth.

"As an economist, I could say with conviction here that the Chinese economy is performing well, and its momentum remains strong," said Wang.

While there are some risks and challenges confronting the Chinese economy, they are all manageable, he said.

According to statistics, the GDP growth for 2023 is 5.2 percent. The just released growth for the first quarter this year was 5.3 percent. While these are lacking compared with the double-digit growth rates during the earlier years of reforms and opening up, the growth for China remains phenomenal in the global context.

"As a matter of fact, in our pursuit of economic growth, we have been attaching ever more importance to the quality of economic growth," Wang said, adding that China will never run out of steam in its economic development, and the doors of opening up to the outside world will remain open, in a bid to build a mutually beneficial and internationally cooperative economic relationship.

Wang said the world today is not peaceful, beset as it is by a series of challenges.

Forum explores prospects for China-Middle East cooperation
Ti Gong

Panellists pose for a picture during the forum.

"It was with great regret and sorrow that we have been witnessing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in the Gaza area since last year, not to say the recent escalations in military retaliations between Iran and Israel. These developments are not conducive to global stability and are causes for global concern," Wang said.

On these issues China firmly stands on the side of justice and peace, he said, and appeals to all sides concerned to exercise restraint to prevent the situation from escalating further.

China has proposed three major initiatives, the Global Development Initiative, the Global Security Initiative, and the Global Civilization Initiative, which would go a long way towards building a community of a shared future for mankind.

Tarik M. Yousef, director and senior fellow of the Middle East Council on Global Affairs, told the forum he was gratified to be back to China with the resumption in scholarly exchanges, and expressed the hope that mutual support, dedication and commitment in this endeavor might lead to other channels of cooperation and scholarly exchanges in the future.

He also cited the impact of Covid-19, growing global rivalry, dislocations, and disruptions.

"We believe in the value of dialogue, we believe in the exchange of views, even if we have differences," said Yousef. He said that it is up to the Middle East and China to forge their own path, through cooperation and understanding, to achieve mutually acceptable and mutually beneficial goals, in spite of global dislocations and uncertainties.

The two-day conference consisted of multiple sessions that included "Future Cooperation in a New Geopolitical Environment," "Evolving Geopolitics and Security in the Middle East," "BRI Cooperation on Investment, Trade, Energy, and Finance," and "New Challenges and China's Role in the Middle East."

Countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region are important partners of China, and a strategic fulcrum for implementing the BRI. As China promotes its concept for global governance, amid an increasingly multipolar world, MENA countries have become China's key allies.

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