The 5th China-Arab States Expo: Promising Economic Partnerships and More Joint Cooperation

The China-Arab States Expo recently held its fifth session in Yinchuan, capital of northwest China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Province. Through this exhibition and other events, China aims to strengthen China-Arab relations and jointly advance high-quality bilateral cooperation in building the Belt and Road. This exhibition constitutes an opportunity for more joint cooperation and the creation of new spaces for development between the two sides. This year, more than 1,000 companies registered to participate in the exhibition’s virtual events and on the ground. About 239 companies showcased their products and their latest innovations on the exhibition floor, which covers an area of ​​about 12,000 square meters. Major companies, including “Huawei”, “” and 38 other of the world’s 500 most powerful companies, in addition to the 500 most powerful companies in China and industry-leading companies, were present at the exhibition, and the total number of visitors exceeded 10 million, including 120,000 visitors from abroad to view the exhibitions online.

In a message on the occasion of the exhibition, Chinese President Xi Jinping noted that the traditional friendship between the Chinese and Arab peoples is gaining momentum with the passage of time, and that in recent years, China and Arab countries have constantly strengthened strategic coordination and exchange of measures, and achieved cooperation in the joint construction of the “Belt and Road”. He mentioned that China and Arab countries have combined efforts to combat the epidemic in light of the outbreak of the new mutated variants of covid-19 virus, and set a model for mutual assistance and overcoming difficulties in a spirit of synergy and solidarity, stressing that his country is ready to work with Arab countries to seek cooperation and development, and jointly promote peaceful development, especially since Beijing remains the largest trading partner of Arab countries.

Within the framework of the exhibition’s activities, the UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade, Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, indicated that the exhibition represents a platform to strengthen the trade and economic relationship with China, especially since China is one of the largest trading partners of the UAE, explaining that the volume of non-oil trade between the two countries amounted to 74.4 billion US dollars. In 2020, including imports worth $39.3 billion, and the volume of non-oil exports amounting to $2.7 billion; China is the third largest investor in the UAE, as the volume of Chinese investment in the UAE until 2020 amounted to more than $5.4 billion. The UAE minister added that his country will continue to create an environment for the development of investment and trade, and will push the growth of global trade by strengthening the establishment of infrastructure, more particularly in the field of transport and logistics, especially since his country is ready for this step because it possesses the most advanced facilities and technologies in the world in this field, calling to continue explore areas that promote economic growth between the two countries, stressing that the UAE is witnessing a shift towards a more flexible and sustainable model that creates a huge opportunity in various fields.

The exhibition covers many fields, including clean energy, digital economy, healthcare, cross-border e-commerce, in addition to virtual exhibition events based on technologies such as 5G, artificial intelligence, big data and cloud computing. This exhibition is an opportunity to enhance the historical cooperation between China and the Arabs, which existed through the Silk Road and is renewed through the Belt and Road Initiative. To date, China has signed cooperation documents within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative with 19 Arab countries as well as with the League of Arab States. This exhibition is an opportunity for Arab governments, trade organizations and institutions to open up to China and create more joint cooperation. The exhibition is a platform for China and the Arab countries to achieve the joint construction of the Belt and Road Initiative, as China has become a major economic partner for most Arab countries through huge trade exchanges. China has 250 million tons of crude oil from Arab countries, which is equivalent to half of the country’s total crude oil imports over the past year.

At the national level, eight cooperative projects were signed at the exhibition, with a total investment of 11.18 billion Yuan, including the integrated smart energy investment project in the Red Sea. Eight provinces and cities, including Beijing, Tianjin, Zhejiang, Henan and Guangdong, signed 12 investment projects with Arab countries and other countries along the Belt and Road, with a total investment of 7.43 billion Yuan. Since the launch of China-Arab states expo in 2013, the biennial exhibition has attracted more than 5,000 companies from nearly 110 countries. In 2019, 287 deals worth about 185.4 billion Yuan were signed during the activities of the fourth edition of the fair. Data released by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce indicate that Arab countries’ imports from China amounted to 122.9 billion US dollars last year, an increase of 2.1 percent year on year.

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Wang Wenbin said the China-Arab Expo is an important platform for China and Arab countries to jointly build the Belt and Road Initiative. A total of 277 partnership contracts were signed in this exhibition, with a total investment of 156.67 billion Yuan (about 24 billion dollars), during the exhibition, investments of about 154 billion Yuan were collected to support 199 projects, while 24 commercial projects worth 2.75 billion Yuan were signed during the exhibition. The increasing partnerships between Arab governments and institutions and China fully demonstrates the strong vitality of China and Arab countries to jointly seek cooperation and development, achieve mutual benefit and win-win results, and jointly build the Belt and Road with high quality.

The Chinese government’s special envoy to the Middle East, Zhai Jun, said that the China-Arab Expo has played an active role in promoting cooperation between the two sides in building the “Belt and Road” since its establishment in 2013, and has become an important platform for communicating development needs and deepening economic and trade cooperation. He stressed that Sino-Arab relations are like a steadfast tree against storms and major changes that the world has not witnessed for a hundred years with the pandemic of the century, which brought unprecedented repercussions on humanity, which provided a model for relations between the countries of the world and an example for south-south cooperation, adding that the two sides are working hard on maintaining sovereignty, independence, equality and the principle of non-interference in internal affairs, defending the legitimate rights and interests of developing countries, exchanging support in the conditions of the covid outbreak, providing preventive supplies, exchanging experiences via the internet, urgently dispatching medical teams, and cooperating in the clinical trial of the vaccine and joint production of vaccine packaging, Which embodied the brotherly feelings of solidarity in the spirit of one team in concrete steps.

The Chinese government’s special envoy to the Middle East added that his country has provided nearly 100 million doses of the Chinese vaccine to Arab countries as grants and exports, and has achieved fruitful cooperation with both Egypt and the UAE in the joint production of the vaccine, which provided strong assistance in the battle against the pandemic, stressing that it in the first half of this year, the volume of trade exchange between China and the Arab countries amounted to 144.27 billion US dollars, an increase of 25.7% year on year, which made China the largest trading partner of the Arab countries. It also imported 130 million tons of crude oil from Arab countries, thus making the Arabs the largest suppliers of crude oil to China, and cooperation between the two sides has made progress, in the fields of fifth-generation communications, big data, aviation and space, artificial intelligence and other advanced and modern technology, noting that there is huge potential for the development of the green economy in China and the Arab countries, and that cooperation has developed in the fields of solar energy, nuclear energy and other clean energy, which contributes to building the “Green Silk Road”.

He also noted that it is important in the next stage to continue to intensify high-level exchanges between China and the Arabs, deepen strategic communication, and continue to exchange firm support on issues related to vital interests and major concerns, while raising the banner of non-interference in internal affairs, and promoting unity, self-strengthening, solidarity and cooperation, and defending international justice and equity, and defending the interests of developing countries. Zhai Jun called for continuing to devote the spirit of solidarity to combat the pandemic, stressing that his country will do its best to meet the needs of Arab countries for Chinese vaccines, deepen cooperation in joint production of vaccines and local production, and the categorical rejection of politicizing the issue of tracing the origin of the virus in a way that helps achieve the dream of the renaissance for both nations.

Zhao Yongqing, permanent deputy head of the government of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, said that on the basis of institutional activities, the fifth China-Arab States Expo brought together the needs of China and Arab countries and what Ningxia could achieve. This exhibition resulted in the innovative creation of the China-Arab Energy Cooperation Summit Forum, Water Resources Forum, Clean Energy New Materials Exhibition, Digital Economy Exhibition, and Cross-Border E-Commerce Exhibition and so on, which built bridges for various institutions to participate in cooperation and investment within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative.

It is remarkable that all the pavilions of the China and Arab Countries Exhibition are green and environmentally friendly private booths, with extensive use of the interaction of information, technologies and digital display methods, to achieve simultaneous display on the internet and on the ground, and the overall design highlights the international level and the concept of modern and contemporary design. This year’s exhibition used the latest information technology to achieve exhibition viewing via 5G technology, where the audience can view the exhibition site in real time through 360-degree panoramic views and through virtual reality glasses on site, leading to simultaneous exhibitions online and on the field.

According to reports from the exhibition, the previous four sessions of the China and Arab States Expo, a total of 112 countries and regions, 21 Chinese and foreign senior officials, 283 foreign ministers and guests, more than 5,000 domestic and foreign companies, and more than 40,000 visitors have witnessed the previous sessions. A total of 936 economic and trade cooperation projects were signed. The signed projects include modern agriculture, high-tech, energy and chemical engineering, biopharmaceuticals, equipment manufacturing, infrastructure, industrial park construction, “internet + medical health”, tourism cooperation and other areas.

A number of Sino-Arab bilateral and multilateral cooperation agencies have settled in Ningxia, including the China-Arab Center for Technology Transfer, the China-Arab Center for Agricultural Technology Transfer, and the Secretariat of the China-Arab Trade Mediation Center. This session of the exhibition achieved fruitful results in new areas of economic and trade cooperation. China Gezhouba Group Co., Ltd. and the management company of Tianjin Changsha Taida Industrial Park, signed cooperation projects on 5G, artificial intelligence, aerospace and others with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq and other countries and regions, effectively expanding the areas of economic and trade cooperation between China and Arab countries.

While the Emirati pavilion relied on the yellow color, symbol of the desert that characterizes the country, and the blue color that symbolizes the sea, in reference to the wide coasts it enjoys, the Moroccan pavilion was “completely digital” highlighting the characteristics of Morocco and its rich and multiple cultures. Chairman of the Association of African-Chinese Cooperation for Development in Morocco, Nasser Bouchiba, stressed that the exhibition is an important platform for strengthening cooperation between China and Arab countries, whether during the pandemic or after, explaining that all countries will face the effects of the slowdown in global economic growth, but the Chinese and Arabs, if they join hands and focus on economic and trade cooperation, will not be affected.

Thus, they will set an example in international economic and trade cooperation and give confidence to the process of global economic recovery, calling on Arab governments and commercial institutions, to seize this good opportunity to fully understand the Chinese market, and to actively work on marketing high-quality products, explaining that the geographical environment of the Arab world may provide opportunities to cooperate in the field of agriculture, where there are long stretches of beaches and large areas of deserts. The cultivation of oases is a lifeline for the development of people’s living conditions. The agricultural cooperative project between Morocco, China and France in the Erfoud Oasis in Morocco has achieved abundant fruits in this regard.

Mohamad Zreik
Mohamad Zreik
Mohamad Zreik is an independent researcher, doctor of international relations. His areas of research interests are related to the Foreign Policy of China, Belt and Road Initiative, Middle Eastern Studies, China-Arab relations, East Asian Affairs, Geopolitics of Eurasia, and Political Economy. Mohamad has many studies and articles published in high ranked journals and well-known international newspapers. His writings have been translated into many languages, including French, Arabic, Spanish, German, Albanian, Russian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, etc.