Renew Friendship, Discuss Cooperation and Seek Common Development
-Foreign Minister Wang Yi's Comments on President Xi Jinping's Visits to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran and Headquarters of League of Arab States
From January 19 to 23, 2016, President Xi Jinping paid state visits to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran and visited the headquarters of the League of Arab States. At the end of the visits, Foreign Minister Wang Yi briefed journalists on the visits.
Wang Yi said that President Xi Jinping traveled far to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran at the beginning of this year for the first major diplomatic activity of this year. All the three countries bear important influence in the Middle East, and maintain traditional friendships and extensive cooperation with China. Leaders of the three nations warmly invited President Xi Jinping for many times to pay a visit. This time President Xi Jinping visited there upon invitations and took the visits to the three countries as the first of this year, which fully embodies China's high attention to developing relations with the three nations and the whole Middle East. Meanwhile, against the current sluggish recovery of world economy and frequent occurrence of regional hot-spot issues, President Xi Jinping visited for peace, development and reconciliation, arousing extensive attention and expectations from countries in the region and the international community.
During the visits, President Xi Jinping was fully engaged from early morning till late in the evening. He visited four cities in five days, carried out over forty activities, made in-depth talks and exchanges with leaders of the three countries and three regional organizations, and had extensive contacts with people from all circles. During the visits, 52 cooperative documents were signed, which are of rich contents, fruitful results and great significance. In general, President Xi Jinping's historic visit to the Middle East has successfully deepened traditional friendship, sought win-win cooperation, advanced regional peace and reconciliation, and promoted peace and development in countries concerned.
First, adhere to traditional friendship and upgrade political relations. Pine trees remain strong in cold winter, and a true friendship stands out in time of adversity. China enjoys a long history of friendly exchanges with the three nations. Since the establishment of the diplomatic relations, they have always shared weal and woe, helped each other, and withstood the tests of international and regional vicissitudes. Under new circumstances, it is opportune to strengthen policy communication, pool more consensus and upgrade the positioning of relations to lay a more solid foundation for cooperation.
During President Xi Jinping's visit to Saudi Arabia in 2008 as the then Vice President, China and Saudi Arabia established the strategic friendly relations, and the bilateral relations entered a fast track. Revisiting Saudi Arabia, President Xi Jinping pointed out that as the international and regional situations are complex and ever-changing, it is necessary for China and Saudi Arabia, two important developing countries, to elevate the level of their relations and join hands dealing with challenges. The two heads of state therefore jointly announced the establishment of China-Saudi Arabia comprehensive strategic partnership, upgrading the strategic implications of the bilateral relations. As the first major step to establish comprehensive strategic partnership, both sides agreed to establish a high-level committee between the two countries so as to guide and coordinate cooperation in various fields at a strategic level.
Egypt is the first Arab and African country that established diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China. China-Egypt relationship is a flag of China-Arabia and China-Africa relations. This visit coincides with the 60th anniversary of the establishment of China-Egypt diplomatic relations. A cycle of 60 years marks a rebirth, and now it is time to start from the new beginning. Both sides issued a special five-year outline on strengthening comprehensive strategic partnership, which enriched the content of the bilateral comprehensive strategic partnership and will have a demonstrative effect on China-Arabia relations and on the overall solidarity and cooperation among the developing countries. To show the importance paid to Egypt's bigger role in international affairs, President Xi Jinping invited President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to attend the G20 Summit in Hangzhou as head of guest country, which is regarded by Egypt as the best New Year gift.
The Chinese President revisited Iran in 14 years, and becomes the first foreign head of state to visit Iran since the official implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the Iranian nuclear issue, which is of great symbolic significance. China made important contributions to promoting the political settlement of the Iranian nuclear issue, and President Xi Jinping's visit has brought a package of proposals on deepening China-Iran all-round cooperation. Iran thanked China many times for its sincere help when Iran suffered difficulties, stressing that China is a reliable friend who shares happiness and woe with Iran. Iran suggested that both sides research on and formulate a 25-year comprehensive cooperation agreement, and China agreed on it with pleasure. Both sides seized the opportunity to declare the establishment of a comprehensive strategic partnership, and China-Iran relations enter a new stage of development.
Over the 60 years since the door opened for exchanges between China and the Arab countries, the strategic cooperative relations of comprehensive cooperation and common development have seen substantial progress. President Xi Jinping visited the headquarters of the League of Arab States, explained China's Middle East policy in the new era comprehensively and systematically, and planned the blueprint of the future development of China-Arabia relations, strongly upgrading the overall China-Arabia cooperation. Both sides agreed to continue mutual understanding and mutual support on matters concerning each other's core interests and to enhance coordination and collaboration on major international and regional affairs. President Xi Jinping pointed out that such mutual trust is unbreakable and invaluable.
An outstanding feature of the visits is that the political relations between China and the visited countries have reached a new level and countries in the region all have a strong will to enhance mutual trust with China. Secretary-General Abdul Latif bin Rashid al Zayani of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (CCASG ) said that the CCASG countries all agree on building a closer connection with China and advocate upgrading CCASG-China relations to a special strategic partnership.
Second, jointly build the "Belt and Road" and broaden the cooperation channel. The three countries lie in the converging area of the west ends of the "Belt and Road". The camel bells could be heard and the vessels be seen long ago between China and them. The history and geography determine that the three countries are natural partners in jointly building the "Belt and Road". A highlight in President Xi Jinping's visits is that he discussed with leaders in the region on the great cause of the "Belt and Road" to upgrade the practical cooperation between China and countries in the region.
During the visits, President Xi Jinping and leaders of the three countries decided to dock their development strategies under the framework of jointly building the "Belt and Road" to realize coordinated development and common growth. The three countries respectively said that they will fully support and actively participate in building the "Belt and Road" and are willing to become pivots of the "Belt and Road" to Africa and Europe. During the visits, the three countries respectively signed a memorandum of understanding with China on jointly building the "Belt and Road". China and Saudi Arabia also signed the memorandum of understanding on strengthening cooperation in building the "Online Silk Road". China signed 14 cooperative documents with Saudi Arabia, 21 with Egypt and 17 with Iran, covering various fields such as economy, trade, energy, finance, communications, aviation, aerospace and climate change which extend to the sky and ocean and link the east with west, and greatly enhancing the breadth and depth of practical cooperation.
President Xi Jinping pressed the start button of the Yasref petrochemical refinery during his visit to Saudi Arabia, inaugurated the second-phase construction of the Suez Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone during his visit to Egypt, and witnessed the signing of cooperative documents on high-speed railway construction during his visit to Iran. All of these are regional and leading projects, showing that following energy cooperation, production capacity cooperation is becoming another important engine for China's practical cooperation with the region. When visiting the Chinese high-tech exhibition together with Prime Minister Sherif Ismail Mohamed of Egypt, President Xi Jinping acted as a "guide" in person. His knowledge of the technological advance, development plan and cooperation blueprint won much admiration from the foreign leaders and guests present.
President Xi Jinping once pointed out that the "Belt and Road" is a real chorus comprising all countries along the routes, not a solo for China itself. The visits have led the region in a new movement of the "Belt and Road". Half of the member states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation are along the route and are China's important partners. Both sides agreed to deepen the convergence and strengthen the bond of interests, borrow each other's strength and develop together under the framework of the "Belt and Road". In this context, China and the CCASG restart negotiations on the free trade area and end the substantial negotiations on the trade in goods in principle. China and the CCASG decided to strive to reach a free trade area agreement within the year to usher in a new prospect for China-CCASG mutually beneficial cooperation in economy and trade.
China upholds the Silk Road spirit of peaceful cooperation, openness, inclusiveness, mutual learning, mutual benefits and win-win results, and practically advances cooperation in building the "Belt and Road", bringing extensive profits and positive expectations for peoples in countries and regions along the routes. Analysts hold that the Silk Road spirit featuring peace and cooperation accords with the Islamic value in many ways, and what China does in the region does not focus on resources alone but truly helps countries in the region strengthen their ability for independent development, so the cooperation between China and the Middle East countries is truly for mutual benefits and win-win results.
Third, carry forward mutual learning among civilizations and consolidate public opinion support. With distinctive features, the Chinese civilization and Islamic civilization respect each other and learn from each other, serving as a model for exchanges among world civilizations. During the visits, President Xi Jinping said that facing various noises instigating clashes of civilizations, we need to spread the concepts of appreciating peace, advocating harmony, removing extremes and pursuing genuine knowledge through exchanges and dialogues between the two great traditional civilizations of Chinese civilization and Islamic civilization. We should resist religious extremism together in particular and oppose the act of linking terrorism to particular nations, religions and religious sects.
As a highlight of the visits, President Xi Jinping and President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi jointly attended the celebration marking the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations between China and Egypt, and declared the launching of the "Year of Chinese Culture" in Egypt and the "Year of Egyptian Culture" in China. The splendid celebration enjoyed a solemn and warm atmosphere, witnessed the grand occasion of exchanges and dialogues between China and Egypt as two great ancient civilizations through time and space, and reflected the time-honored and deeply rooted China-Egypt and China-Arabia friendship. President Xi Jinping also met in Cairo with former Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Gali of the United Nations and other nine friendly personages who won the "China-Arabia Friendship Outstanding Contribution Award", and had genial talks and took a group photo with them. The warm and moving occasion shows again that the Chinese government and people will never forget the old friends.
State-to-state relationship has its root in exchanges between the people. The deeper the root is, the firmer it grows. During the visits, China reached consensus with the three countries respectively on strengthening exchanges in fields such as culture, education, public health, press, think tanks and the youth, including encouraging more tourists to each other's country so as to build a bridge of understanding and friendship between each other and jointly promote the development of human civilization. The "Hundred, Thousand and Ten Thousand" project in people-to-people and cultural exchange declared by President Xi Jinping will definitely ensure a smooth flow of talents and ideas along the "Belt and Road" and enable the tree of China-Arabia friendship to grow luxuriant and evergreen.
Fourth, announce the Middle East policy and focus on peace and development. "The going is difficult when doing it alone; the going becomes easier when doing it with many others." For a long time, China and the Arab countries echoed each other in anti-colonialism and anti-hegemony struggles, and have same pursuit on the road for peace and development. Currently, both sides are at an important stage of development and shoulder the shared mission of achieving national rejuvenation and prosperity, which needs strength from solidarity. Before the visits, the Chinese government issued the first Arab policy paper, which comprehensively reviews the development of China-Arabia relations, summarizes the successful experience and plans the prospects of cooperation.
President Xi Jinping delivered an important speech at the headquarters of the League of Arab States. Focusing on the Middle East question of "where to go" and two prominent issues of peace and development, he proposed Chinese solutions addressing both the symptoms and root causes and implementing policies in all-round way. President Xi Jinping pointed out that the key to the elimination of divergences is to enhance dialogue; the key to tackling thorny problems is to accelerate development; and the key to the choice of path is to accord with national situations. President Xi Jinping stressed that all sides should seek hope on the road of pursuing dialogues and development, and carry out dialogues as a "golden rule". The root cause of unrest in the Middle East lies in development, and the final resolution to it depends on development as well.
President Xi Jinping stressed that China and Arabia should grasp the critical period of the next five years to construct the "Belt and Road" together, establish the action concepts of peace, innovation, guidance, governance and integration, play the role as the builder of peace, promoter of development, facilitator of industrialization, supporter of stabilization and partner with popular support in the Middle East. President Xi Jinping pertinently put forward four major action plans on jointly building the "Belt and Road": holding high the banner of peace and dialogue and launching actions to promote stability, promoting structural adjustment and taking actions for innovation cooperation, facilitating industrialization in the Middle East and launching actions to dock production capacity, advocating communication and mutual learning among civilizations and carrying out actions to enhance friendship. President Xi Jinping pointed out that instead of looking for a proxy in the Middle East, we promote peace talks; instead of seeking any sphere of influence, we call on all countries to join the circle of friends for the "Belt and Road"; instead of attempting to fill the "vacuum", we build a cooperative partnership network for mutual benefits and win-win results.
President Xi Jinping's important speech received warm responses and induced strong resonance. It embodies the profound concept of adhering to development and promoting peace through development, provides a series of public products advancing regional stability and development, and establishes a responsible, action-oriented and constructive image of China as a major country.
Wang Yi said that the visit to the Middle East made us feel that China's diplomatic principles of respecting all countries' independent sovereignty and not interfering in other countries' domestic affairs have won unanimous appreciation from countries in the region. China's basic position on politically solving hot-spot issues and playing the UN's role has been widely recognized by countries in the region. China's promotion of mutually beneficial and win-win corporation with foreign countries has been increasingly rooted in the hearts of people of countries in the region. And China's successful experience in national governance has become a useful reference for countries in the region.
King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt and Secretary-General Iyad Ameen Madani of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation all held that China upholds a fair and objective position on the Middle East issues. Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby of the League of Arab States and others highly appreciated China's long-standing and firm support for Palestine's just cause. All countries hoped China to play a bigger role in regional affairs. International scholars maintained that with an advantage of "fairly good relations with all parties", China can make unique contributions to promoting the settlement of regional hot-spot issues. Media in the region said that to observe China, they should not only stay in its achievements in economic development but also have in-depth analysis of China's development path and management model, especially the recipe for dealing with the relationship among reform, development and stability.
At last, Wang Yi said that President Xi Jinping's visits give a new impetus to the development of the bilateral relations between China and the three countries, bring positive energy for the peaceful and stable development in the Middle East, and mark a brilliant prelude to China's diplomacy in 2016. This year, under the leadership of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China with Xi Jinping as the General Secretary, we will seriously practice the concept of major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics, actively shoulder the corresponding international responsibility, continue to promote the building of the "Belt and Road", strive to successfully hold the G20 Summit in Hangzhou and constantly expand China's "circle of friends", so as to provide assistance for the beginning year of the Thirteenth Five-Year Plan and the first year of achieving moderate prosperity in all respects and keep writing the chapter for the lofty cause of world peace and development.