Guangdong and the Belt and Road: High-level opening up with Egypt and the Arab world

The increasing role of local governments and municipalities in international relations has become an important trend that has shaped new dynamics in world affairs. Through the analysis of Guangdong diplomacy and the diplomatic activities of Guangzhou, we will notice the role of Chinese provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities, which have the freedom to act independently in planning, organizing and managing their internationalization processes to a large extent. By studying the case of Guangdong and Guangzhou, we will understand the role of provincial and local governments in China, in implementing their activities within the framework of China’s foreign policy, especially within the framework of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative and its impact on China’s external activities through the strong role of Guangdong and Guangzhou.  The central government in China is trying to divide work between different provincial and city governments, under the “umbrella” of the Belt and Road Initiative. This brings us to understand (the dual use of city and province diplomacy in China’s foreign policy) from both economic and social perspectives.  And the role of those local provinces and cities, oriented towards serving the development goals mainly for the local population of the Chinese state, was transferred to their greater strategic role in regional and global affairs.

 Guangdong Province is committed to facilitating inter-governmental policy exchange, infrastructure connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration and people-to-people bond. While partnering with (Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR and Taiwan), Guangdong shall expand cooperation with countries along the Belt and Road for win-win results. By doing this, Guangdong may emerge as a hub for cooperation with these countries, a center for trade and economic activities, and a powerful engine in favor of the Chinese initiative for Belt and Road Initiative.

  This, Guangdong play a pivot role to facilitate the projects of the Belt and Road Initiative, and step up efforts to upgrade its industrial structures, trade and business environments, and transportation facilities, to best combine its traditional advantages with new opportunities to expand the high-level opening up in the Chinese society.

Guangzhou has been in the lead in promoting the Belt and Road Initiative, which comprises the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road designed to build a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe, Africa and beyond. In recent years, Guangzhou has striven to shift its economic focus to capital- and technology-intensive industries, as enterprises here have picked up their pace to “go global”.

  Here, Guangdong province in China can play a vital role with Egypt and the Arab country, Egypt can help Guangdong province as well to expand its existence in Africa, whereas Egypt located in the African continent, and it is also the home of LAS headquarter. Therefore, Egypt plays an important role not only in Sino-African cooperation, but also in the cooperation between China and Arab countries. This year, China especially Guangdong province carry out many cooperation projects with Arab countries.

  Guangdong can easily contribute in the prospects of China-Arab States cooperation, which fulcrums should China-Arab cooperation focus on. Strategic cooperation between Arab countries increased its effectiveness with the establishment of the (China-Arab Cooperation Forum) in 2004, and this forum became a framework for cooperation between Arab countries and China in multiple fields. Arab-Chinese cooperation will contribute to bringing investments to the region, as the recent period has witnessed progress towards achieving a (joint Arab market), which will contribute to increasing the flow of foreign direct investments. What China provides to the Arabs is a group of industries, the most important of which are (renewable energy, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, and tourism).  While the Arab world, in return, provides sources of energy and raw materials that China lacks.

 There is a joint Arab-Chinese agreement to work with all efforts to (build the Arab-Chinese community for a common future towards the new era, enhance solidarity and joint cooperation, and enhance exchange between China and Arab countries) in various dimensions and levels, and to join efforts to confront common development challenges.

  Before Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a report on “Chinese-Arab Cooperation in the New Era”. This was the first time that Chinese-Arab cooperation was described as a “new era”, which is of great importance to both the Chinese and Arab sides. Uniting efforts to establish an (era-oriented China-Arab community with a shared future) that aims to welcome the new era has come to represent (the common desire, common goal, and joint action) of China and the Arab countries. The world today is going through changes the likes of which it has not witnessed in a hundred years, especially with regard to the global system and the equation of forming the international structure, which are currently witnessing profound modifications and changes, and this is the change of the world, the change of the era, and the change of history. In light of this background, the importance of the China-Arab strategic partnership relations, based on comprehensive cooperation and common development and aiming towards the future, is highlighted. The basic principles of equality and mutual benefit will reshape bilateral and multilateral international relations, and mutual benefit and win-win will become a (model for South-South cooperation). The China-Arab Summits under the Sino-Arab cooperation forum fully embodied the aspirations of China and the Arab countries towards peace, security and stability, and their strong desire to achieve a diversified economy, a low-carbon economy and a digital economy.

  Sustainable Arab economic integration can be achieved by benefiting from the experiences of Chinese economic integration with various countries of the world, in addition to trade and investment communication with China. Hence, the Chinese-Arab summits within the framework of the “Chinese-Arab Cooperation Forum” call for the principle of multilateralism, in addition to pushing the world towards multipolar development. Therefore, Chinese-Arab cooperation has become necessary at a critical time towards the world’s transformation from unipolarity towards multipolarity, as the equation for forming the international structure becomes more and more balanced, and the pace of the world’s transformation towards multipolarity accelerates.  In terms of the balance of power, the gap in the level of development between emerging countries and Western countries has narrowed rapidly. In terms of the balance of global influence, the voices of developing and emerging countries are rising in pursuit of independence and self-strengthening through solidarity between them. The rights of expression of some regional organizations regarding global and regional affairs have also increased. The success of the first Sino-Arab Summit demonstrated the Arab world’s strong desire to end the era of unilateralism and unipolarity and its aspiration towards building a multipolar world.

    The Arab and Chinese sides are interested in preparing plans to create comprehensive joint strategic cooperation between the two sides, which includes politics, security, strategic interconnection, scientific cooperation, humanitarian and cultural exchange, and others. Whereas the basis of Chinese-Arab cooperation is (mutual win-win and mutual respect), which in turn provided the basic foundation for Chinese-Arab relations, which includes finding solutions to regional and international problems, building a national state and respecting state sovereignty while rejecting any external interference and rejecting all forms of politicization of human rights issues. The last of the issues, and this is what differs from the policies followed by other major countries such as the United States of America, in terms of attempts to impose pressure and force other countries to join the camps of their political positions and give up their interests.

Dr.Nadia Helmy
Dr.Nadia Helmy
Associate Professor of Political Science, Faculty of Politics and Economics / Beni Suef University- Egypt. An Expert in Chinese Politics, Sino-Israeli relationships, and Asian affairs- Visiting Senior Researcher at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES)/ Lund University, Sweden- Director of the South and East Asia Studies Unit