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Milestones in Sino-Arab relations

While China’s relations with Arab countries started with political support, it has focused on economic cooperation in recent years.

In the 21st century, China has sought to improve its relations with Arab countries. Providing political support to the countries in the Middle East and North Africa, Beijing has become one of the largest commercial partners and investors of the Arab countries economically.

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Beijing’s desire to develop relations with Arab countries brought about an increase in mutual cooperation, economy and trade.

political support

The success of the revolution in the country in 1949 marked a turning point in Beijing’s relations with Arab countries. After this date, China began to give political support to Arab countries.

The Communist Party of China showed its support for freedom movements in Arab countries at the Bandung Conference in 1955; He helped Algeria struggle for independence in 1954-1962.

 

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China also became the first foreign country other than Arab countries to recognize the transitional government in Algeria in 1958.

In addition, China has supported the Palestinian cause since the 1960s, providing weapons and training to the Conquest Movement.

On the other hand, Arab countries gave strong support for the People’s Republic of China to regain its seat in the United Nations (UN) in 1971, and stood by it on the Taiwan issue. The Sino-Arab Cooperation Forum was established in 2004 to improve cooperation between the parties.

The visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Saudi Arabia is also important in this context. During his three-day visit to Saudi Arabia, which started on December 7, Xi will attend summits to be held with the participation of many Arab countries.

Rising economic relations

China was not among the top three trading partners of Arab countries until 1990. However, after the economic reform program called “socialism with Chinese values” initiated by the reformist sections of the Chinese Communist Party in December 1978, a rapid progress was made by providing an opening in the economy.

This, in turn, contributed to the development of trade relations with Arab countries in an unprecedented manner; The trade volume of China with 22 Arab countries gradually increased.

While the bilateral trade volume of China with the said Arab countries was 36.7 billion dollars in 2004, this number increased to 200 billion dollars in 2012 and to 330 billion dollars in 2021.

Thus, China is at the top of the list of the Arab world’s largest trading partners in terms of mutual trade volume. China is also among the top three trading partners of each Arab country separately.

Chinese investments in Arab countries reached $213.9 billion in 2005-2021, making Beijing the largest foreign investor in the Arab world.

According to Arab Banks Association data, Saudi Arabia has 21 percent of China’s total investments in the Arab world. Riyadh was followed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with 17 percent, followed by Iraq with 14 percent and Egypt and Algeria with 12 percent each.

Saudi Arabia competes with Russia to be the top oil exporter to China. Qatar has also become one of the largest suppliers of liquefied natural gas to China with the long-term agreements signed recently.

Within the scope of the “One Belt One Road” initiative, announced by President Xi Jinping during a series of visits to Central Asian and South Asian countries at the end of 2013, China has started to build ports, roads and railways to facilitate trade with world countries, especially Arab countries. billions of dollars invested.

military cooperation

Although China has been known as one of the largest importers of Russian weapons for decades, it has developed its military industry in recent years, becoming the fourth largest arms trader in the world after the USA, Russia and France.

Initially, China was not very heavily involved in the arms market in the Arab world. It was able to enter this market only during a certain period when US and Russian weapons were banned in Sudan.

However, in the last 30 years, it has managed to win arms deals, especially with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, as well as with Egypt, Algeria and Morocco.

In military industry and production, China imitated the Russian and then Western industry, and cooperated with Israel in the technological field. Later, it developed its own productions in various fields such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).

After the USA opposed the export of various weapons and vehicles such as F-35 warplanes or some UAVs to Arab countries, these countries turned to alternative countries such as China. In addition to various weapons, Arab countries bought China’s own production drones.

According to the data of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, China increased its arms exports to Saudi Arabia by 386 percent in 2016-2020, and increased it by 169% with the UAE in 2011-2015.

In addition to all these, China stood by Arab countries in the fight against the Kovid-19 epidemic. From the spread of Kovid-19 to October 2022, Beijing has sent 340 million doses of Kovid-19 vaccine to Arab countries.

While China’s political cooperation with Arab countries gradually turns into economic cooperation, this cooperation is expanding to include other aspects, primarily military and even cultural.

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