It is an honor to attend the opening ceremony of the “Global Innovation Investment Forum China-Gulf Innovation Investment Conference” at China International Fair for Trade in Services 2022, where I am delighted to join friends both old and new. Here I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the organizers for their meticulous preparations and my heartfelt congratulations on the success of the conference.
Currently, the world is witnessing unprecedented changes that are ever accelerating, and new global challenges are constantly emerging. The triple-whammy of Covid-19, food crisis, and energy crisis, along with the resurgence of the cold war mentality and confrontation between camps, has posed unprecedented challenges to humanity. In the face of these changes, President Xi Jinping proposed a global development initiative at the United Nations General Assembly last September and a global security initiative at the annual meeting of the Forum for Asia in April 2022. These initiatives, in response to changes in the world, the times, and history, have received enthusiastic responses from the international community, including the Gulf countries.
We speak not only in words, but also in action. State Councilor Wang Yi emphasized the importance of turning initiatives into actions and promoting unity over differences, cooperation over confrontation, and multilateralism in maintaining global peace and promoting common development. The China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS) serves as a crucial platform for the Belt and Road Initiative, service industry development, and technology sharing. Through facilitating international economic and trade cooperation, CIFTIS has played a pivotal role in building a new development paradigm. This forum demonstrates the deepening cooperation between China and the Gulf countries, characterized by stability, innovation, and a win-win cooperation pattern, laying the groundwork for mutual prosperity.
To begin with, it should be noted that the political mutual trust between China and the Gulf countries is now reaching a new height. Over the course of more than three decades, China and the Gulf Arab states have fostered close high-level connections and instituted various strategic dialogues, ministerial cooperation committees, and other collaborative frameworks. The two sides have consistently supported each other on issues concerning their core interests and major concerns, worked closely together on multilateral international occasions to protect the legitimate rights and interests of developing countries, and stood shoulder-to-shoulder in the face of challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrating their solidarity and common destiny.
Secondly, practical cooperation has made remarkable progress. Driven by the principle of mutual benefit and win-win cooperation, China and the Gulf countries have seen a surge in collaboration, with their bilateral trade volume exceeding 232.8 billion U.S. dollars in 2021, representing a more than 150-fold increase compared to 1991. At present, the cooperation between the two sides in fields such as energy, communications, high technology, aerospace, and others is growing rapidly, while talks on a free trade area agreement are being accelerated.
Thirdly, humanistic exchanges are witnessing a new momentum. A growing number of countries such as the UAE, Qatar, and Bahrain have launched direct flights to China and granted visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to Chinese tourists. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and other countries have introduced the Chinese language into their basic education systems. Meanwhile, Oman, the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, and other nations have long been favorite destinations for Chinese tourists traveling in groups.
Lastly, new initiatives have been launched to advance regional peace and security. China and the Gulf countries have reached a broad consensus on promoting regional peace and security. China supports the establishment of a regional security cooperation and dialogue mechanism and advocates the construction of a common, comprehensive, cooperative, and sustainable security framework in the Middle East. The five-point initiative to achieve security and stability in the Middle East proposed by State Councilor Wang Yi on behalf of the Chinese side has been well received by the Gulf countries.
Late 2022, the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China convenes to strategically plan the objectives, tasks and major policies for the Party and the country’s development in the upcoming five years and beyond. As we stand at a new historical juncture, we are prepared to collaborate with the Gulf countries to establish a higher level of partnership, build a closer community of shared destiny and pave the way for a better future.
To achieve this objective, we must reinforce political trust and cement the foundation of friendship. Mutual trust is the backbone of cooperation, and we are prepared to stand by our Arab brothers in the Gulf on issues of core interests and major concerns, work hand in hand to tackle future challenges and risks, and drive inexhaustible momentum for mutual development.
We must activate innovation and deepen cooperation. We will continue to develop the “Belt and Road” initiative with high quality, exploit economic synergies, maximize the potential of the service trade cooperation platform, and extend innovation and sustainable cooperation to attain joint, sustainable development.
We must encourage people-to-people exchanges and cultivate fertile soil for cooperation. Friendship bridges up collaboration. We intend to work in tandem with the Gulf countries to enhance the mutual appreciation of civilizations and humanistic exchanges, boost people-to-people and business interactions between the two sides, and establish a public opinion base that enhances mutually beneficial collaboration.
We must maintain close communication and collaboration to foster peace and security together. China supports the Gulf countries in boosting their strategic independence, unity and self-improvement. We are prepared to enhance communication and coordination in bilateral and multilateral settings to mutually safeguard regional peace and security and fortify the cornerstone of stability and development.
China and the Gulf countries are natural partners in constructing the “Belt and Road” initiative together. Let us capitalize on the valuable resources of mutual understanding, solidarity and collaboration between the two sides, use the “golden key” of peace, development, collaboration and mutual gains to unlock more meaningful dialogue, pool our effort and innovation, and create a brighter future together.
H.E. Special Envoy of the Chinese Government on the Middle East Issue
Former Vice Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of People’s Republic of China