Beijing pledges $20 billion in loans for Arab states

BEIJING: HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah waves after giving a speech as China’s President Xi Jinping looks on during the 8th Ministerial Meeting of China-Arab States Cooperation Forum at the Great Hall of the People yesterday. – AFP

BEIJING: HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah yesterday called for pushing forward mechanisms of cooperation between Arab countries and China to attain mutual interests and strengthen historical ties. Addressing the 8th session of the ministerial meeting of China-Arab States Cooperation Forum, held in Beijing yesterday, HH the Amir said that Arab countries should work with China in order to overcome the crises in some Arab nations thanks to China’s international weight and influence as well as sincere commitment to the UN Charter.

“We believe that boosting mechanisms of cooperation between us will contribute to achieving supreme interests of our Arab nation and our friends, and to enhancing historical relations between the two sides, which we are keen to develop and promote in all fields,” the Amir said. He added that the promotion and development of cooperation with China would help achieve political consultations and coordination on ongoing issues and crises, thus maintaining regional and international security and stability.

Thanking Chinese President Xi Jinping for inviting him as a guest of honor, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad said the meeting comes within the framework of the forum so as to complete the march of long and historical relations through which cooperation with China is viewed with broad horizons and unlimited optimism.

“This cooperation, which was forged a decade and a half ago, would see neither growth nor continuation, and would not even reach the desired goals, as long as we are living tense and unstable situations in our Arab nation, since the Palestinian cause, which is our central issue, is still far from being given the due world attention and priority. Yet, all this poses a threat to our security and stability,” he said. “The tragic conditions in Yemen, Syria, Libya and Somalia are still breaking the hearts of our Arab nation’s sons as their destiny is still unknown, prompting us to resort to our Chinese friends so as to work together to overcome our challenges,” he lamented.

Sheikh Sabah believed that China could play a role in this regard thanks to its international weight and influence as well as sincere commitment to the principles of the UN Charter. HH the Amir called for pushing forward Arab-Sino cooperation to new horizons with a view to attaining mutual interests, stressing support for China’s policy, territorial integrity and One-China Principle, along with its efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflicts over territories and territorial waters through friendly consultations and negotiations, and in line with bilateral agreements and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The Amir said that there were talks with Chinese friends on gigantic future projects that reflect a real partnership with Beijing, referring to practical steps in this regard like the Silk project and Kuwait Islands, voicing absolute confidence in the Chinese leadership’s directions and credibility. On trade exchange, he elaborated that China is ranked the second importer of Kuwait’s oil and its derivatives, adding that Kuwait’s non-oil exports to Beijing reach $480 million, while China’s exports to Kuwait hit $5.1 billion, pointing to Kuwaiti huge investments in China.

Bilateral cooperation, which is based on the fact that China is Kuwait’s key trade partner, represents an essential dimension and important addition in line with mechanisms of cooperation with Beijing, His Highness the Amir pointed out. Constructive and continuing Chinese-Gulf cooperation is a strong catalyst for bilateral cooperation within the Arab framework, as negotiations of a free trade zone between GCC member states and China are a reflection of this joint cooperation, he said, estimating Arab-Sino trade exchange at $191 billion in 2017.

Arab countries are looking forward to promising partnership in the Belt and Road Project which has strategic goals and unlimited opportunities for promoting cooperation and linkage, facilitating transportation, doubling investment openings and boosting global economy, the Amir noted. He underlined the utmost importance of cooperation between the two sides in the energy sector through carrying out mega investment ventures in oil and natural gas, and tapping the Chinese expertise in the peaceful use of nuclear and renewable energy. HH the Amir concluded by emphasizing that today’s critical circumstances and conditions require more insistence on realizing progress and the aspired results.

Meanwhile, China will provide Arab states with $20 billion in loans for economic development, Xi told top Arab officials yesterday, as Beijing seeks to build its influence in the Middle East and Africa. The money will be earmarked for “projects that will produce good employment opportunities and positive social impact in Arab States that have reconstruction needs,” said Xi, without providing further details. It is part of a special Chinese program for “economic reconstruction” and “industrial revitalization,” Xi told participants at a China-Arab States forum in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.

Beijing is also prepared to provide another one billion yuan to countries in the region to “build capacity for stability maintenance,” Xi said, using a term commonly associated with policing and surveillance. Since taking office, Xi has overseen a concerted effort to expand Chinese influence in the Middle East and Africa, including the construction of the country’s first military base in Arab League state Djibouti.

China has already provided vast sums to Arab countries, with Djibouti alone owing some $1.3 billion, according to estimates from the US-based China Africa Research Initiative. At the heart of Xi’s vision is the Belt and Road initiative, a $1-trillion infrastructure program billed as a modern revival of the ancient Silk Road that once carried fabrics, spices and a wealth of other goods between Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe.

The Arab states’ position at the center of the ancient trade route makes them “natural partners” in China’s new undertaking, he said, adding he expected the summit would end with an agreement on cooperation on the initiative. “Chinese and Arab peoples, though far apart in distance, are as close as family,” he said, describing a romanticized history of trade along the Silk Road.

The project, which has already financed ports, roads and railways across the globe, has spurred both interest and anxiety in many countries, with some seeing it as an example of Chinese expansionism. “China welcomes opportunities to participate in the development of ports and the construction of railway networks in Arab states” as part of a “logistics network connecting Central Asia with East Africa and the Indian Ocean with the Mediterranean,” said Xi. – Agencies