Chinese Levant Economical and Cultural Exchange Association: A Success Story for Arab-Chinese Cooperation

Here, we hear from Chinese Levant Economical and Cultural Exchange Association founder Mr. Mohamad Kabalan about how the association came to fruition and how it has helped to strengthen Chinese-Arab ties and bring the two cultures closer together.

On the basis of Decree No. 6157 dated 21/1/2020, this association was established to strengthen the role of Lebanon in the various cultural, tourism and economic dimensions between Lebanon and China, as well as to develop diverse economic and cultural cooperation, in particular with Chinese culture and expertise.

This association seeks to promote cooperation with international and domestic organizations and authorities to share knowledge and experience in all aspects of the economy, culture, and tourism, with a focus on the Middle East and the Arab Mashreq region as a whole. In addition to, organizing and attending conferences, seminars, and other events in the fields of business, culture, and education.

Lebanon, China, and the Arab Mashreq as a whole should be encouraged to engage in cultural and economic exchange. The association intends to transform Lebanon and the Arab Mashreq into a major cultural and economic hub by organizing meetings between Chinese and Lebanese investors and businessmen.

Mr. Mohamad Kabalan answers the following questions about this newly founded organization and explains more about its work:

Q: Mr. Mohamed, what can you say about your story with China?

A: Well, my father is a businessman and he has travelled extensively to Europe, Asia, and the Middle East since 1978 in order to procure goods for the Lebanon market. In 1992, he began importing Chinese goods to Lebanon by traveling to China. Since that trip in the early nineties, most of our goods are from China. At the time, I was just 10 years old, and I was immediately enamoured with China and its history and culture. During my first trip to China in 2005, I fell in love with the country, its people, and its culture. I also fell in love with the language, which is both beautiful and difficult at the same time. From 2005 until 2019, I made three trips to China per year. China’s improvement has been impressive to say the least. My relationship with China, which began in 2005, will go on indefinitely.

Q: What sparked the creation of the Chinese Levant Economical and Cultural Exchange Association?

A: To begin, I wanted to do my part to help bridge the cultural and linguistic divide between Lebanese and Chinese people. I’d like to do my part to strengthen this long-standing cross-border partnership. We decided to create this alliance because of the rich cultural and linguistic ties between China and Lebanon. My admiration for traditional Chinese life and society stems from my belief that Lebanon can benefit from the Chinese experience, which serves as a good model for people in the developing world.

Q: Is this a government-supported organization, or is it an individual effort?

A: This was an individual effort, and no one supported us and many sides tried to stop us and hinder our efforts, while others didn’t want us to form it.

Q: In terms of China-Lebanon ties, what are your most important accomplishments?

A: We’re doing our part to help the Lebanese better understand Chinese culture and thought. We strive to portray China in a positive light. We donated 31,000 face masks to a cancer hospital in China when covid-19 first appeared. The old Chinese culture and the Chinese language are important to us, and we work hard to make it clear.

Q: When it comes to the growth of China-Lebanon ties, what initiatives do you want to pursue in the future?

A: It is our goal to assist Chinese enterprises in entering the Lebanon market, to enable the entry of Chinese investors. We also try to aid Lebanese youngsters learn the Chinese language and facilitate their access to Chinese universities. We aim to develop suburban and rural residents, educate new generations and expose them to the Chinese culture.

Q: What do you think of the government and popular performance in Lebanon towards the partnership with China?

A: Sadly, the Lebanese government isn’t doing much to help. Many individuals want to start a relationship with China, but they are worried about the restrictions imposed by the United States.

Q: Is China capable of becoming Lebanon’s long-term partner?

A: I hope so, however, I believe the government is not aiding in this endeavour.

Q: As far as I can tell, are the Chinese-Lebanese ties exactly the same as they were a decade ago?

A: It’s better now than it was, and it’s becoming better. Chinese influence in the Middle East and Arab countries is likely to grow.

Q: To the Chinese who are interested in the Arab world, what would you like to say to them?

A: For our Chinese friends, this is the perfect moment to visit Lebanon.

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.