The China-Arab States Expo (hereinafter referred to as the "China-Arab Expo") is an international composite exposition at the national-level co-sponsored by the Ministry of Commerce of the People's Republic of China, the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, and the People's Government of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, and was preceded by the China-Arab States Economic and Trade Forum (hereinafter referred to as the "China-Arab Economic and Trade Forum"). The China-Arab Expo, having evolved from the establishment of the China-Arab Economic and Trade Forum in 2010 to the holding of the 4th China-Arab Expo in 2019, has witnessed a development course of 10 years, and has made positive contributions in promoting China-Arab economic and trade cooperation and accelerating the opening up of Ningxia. At the national level, the holding of the China-Arab Expo has added more dimensions to exchanges and cooperation between China and Arab countries, set up a new platform for bilateral economic and trade cooperation, gained new experience for China's overall diplomacy with Arab countries under the framework of the China-Arab cooperation forum, and thus become an important platform for China and Arab countries to cooperate under the Belt and Road Initiative. At the local level, the holding of the China-Arab Expo has effectively enhanced the influence of Ningxia in foreign economic activities, improved the appearances of its airports, roads and other urban infrastructure, promoted the construction standards of exhibition venues and the supporting service ability of its exhibition economy. It has also fostered a contingent of officials and professionals to serve in the development of an open economy.
At present, new changes have taken place in China-Arab relations and in China's reforms and development. From one perspective, marked by the 8th Ministerial Meeting of the CASCF held in Beijing in July 2018, the overall relationship between China and the Arab world has been upgraded from a "strategic cooperative relation" to a "strategic partnership", injecting new vitality to the constructive interactions between the Belt and Road Initiative and Look East Policy of the Arab world. It also provides new opportunities for the two sides to enhance political mutual trust, accelerate the alignment of development strategies, raise the level of trade and investment, and to enhance people-to-people exchanges and mutual learning. While the new development paradigm, featuring dual circulation, in which domestic and overseas markets reinforce each other, with the domestic market as the mainstay, proposed in the Fifth Plenary Session of the 19th CPC Central Committee, is a major strategic task concerning China's overall development. It requires the central and local governments to work together to shape new advantages in participating in international cooperation and competition, in order to create a bright future for expanding market alignment, industrial capacity cooperation, digital economy cooperation and green development between China and Arab countries.
I. Progress of economic and trade cooperation under the mechanism of China-Arab Expo
Economic and trade effectiveness is an important indicator when measuring the level of the exhibition. Since 2010, the Ministry of Commerce of the People's Republic of China, the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, and the People's Government of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, have held three sessions of the China-Arab Economic and Trade Forum and four sessions of the China-Arab Expo. The exhibition, focusing on infrastructure construction, industrial capacity cooperation, high and new technology, health care, modern agriculture, logistics and other key China-Arab cooperation areas, has been opened with guest countries of honor and subject provinces. The meeting forum, exhibition and investment and trade promotional activities, and the mechanism have all been established, in which China and Arab countries co-host the Expo, with joint efforts of the ministries and assistance from non-governmental organizations. By 2019, more than 80 countries, regions and international institutions, and almost 70,000 exhibitors and buyers, had attended the exhibition, signing 1,247 projects of all kinds. This has played a certain role in the deepening of economic and trade cooperation between China and countries and regions along the Belt and Road, including Arab countries. The economic and trade cooperation of the China-Arab Expo is mostly reflected in three aspects: industrial capacity cooperation, technical cooperation and economic and trade promotion.
(1) Industrial capacity cooperation
Industrial capacity cooperation is a key area of the Belt and Road cooperation between China and Arab countries, and an important topic of the China-Arab Expo. The main way for the China-Arab Expo to promote bilateral industrial capacity cooperation is to facilitate enterprises in signing contracts with overseas industrial parks, and to provide support in subsequent investment attraction and policy coordination. Under the framework of the China-Arab Expo, China has made initial progress in its industrial capacity cooperation with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Oman.
Firstly, in May 2016, Ningxia, the Ministry of Commerce and the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, successfully held a series of activities for the China-Arab Expo in Egypt. Egypt was invited as the guest of honor to the 3rd China-Arab Expo, which promoted the landing of the China-Egypt Mankai Textile Industrial Park in the Sadat Industrial Area, Egypt, and was highly appreciated by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Secondly, the China-Saudi Arabia (Jazan) Industrial Park has become a large-scale investment project to deepen China-Saudi Arabia industrial capacity cooperation. Progress has been made in the communication and coordination mechanism, the infrastructure construction of the park and investment attraction. The first project to enter the park, the Saudi Arabia petrochemical, chemical and fiber integrated project of Pan-Asia PET Resin (Guangzhou) Co., Ltd., has started construction. Thirdly, the National Development and Reform Commission listed the China-Oman (Duqm) Industrial Park as one of the 20 industrial capacity cooperation demonstration parks promoted in 2016; the Ministry of Commerce also listed the China-Oman (Duqm) Industrial Park as one of the 16 key overseas economic and trade cooperation zones to promote international industrial capacity cooperation, and listed it as a key project in "Building a Pearl on the Silk Road" in 2018.
(2) Technical cooperation
As an important part of China's overall cooperation with Arab countries, the cooperation in science, technology and agriculture is of strategic significance to the development and improvement of people's livelihoods in Arab countries. The China-Arab States Technology Transfer and Innovation Cooperation Conference, the China-Arab States Technology Transfer Center, and the China-Arab States Agricultural Technology Transfer Center, all established under the framework of China-Arab Expo, have become the main channels in showcasing the achievements of the scientific and technological cooperation between China and Arab countries, and promotes regular technology transfer.
Firstly, the China-Arab States Technology Transfer Center has promoted all-round cooperation between China and Arab countries in the high-tech field, which is conducive to the scientific and technological progress and social development of the two sides, while also helping developing countries with relatively dated technology keep pace with the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Under the framework of China-Arab cooperation in science and technology, the China-Arab States Technology Transfer Center has propelled the joint innovation of the "4G-LTE" laboratory involving Huawei and Saudi science and technology city. China and Saudi Arabia have also cooperated in the field of satellite navigation, on the China-Arab green intelligent control water-saving technology platform, on the China-Arab (Jordan) potato science and technology experiment demonstration base, and other projects which have all been carried out smoothly. The green, intelligent, water-saving irrigation technology and equipment of Sun Zhaojun's team, from Ningxia University, have been installed in Oman and Qatar. In October 2018, Ningxia University signed a water-saving equipment technology transfer cooperation agreement and a water-saving irrigation technology transfer contract worth RMB 110 million ($16,98 million) with Suwadi Farm in Muscat, Oman. In August 2020, Ningxia University, Qatar NAAAS Group and Huaxin Guolian (Beijing) Enterprise Management Co., Ltd., held the online signing ceremony of the "Beautiful Doha" project, with an investment amount of approximately USD 1.264 billion. After the outbreak of COVID-19, at the request of the Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport (AAST AASTMT), a sub-center of the China-Arab States Technology Transfer Center, the China-Arab States Technology Transfer Center held two online training sessions on COVID-19 prevention and control for countries along the Belt and Road, which was fully recognized by the Arab side. Secondly, the China-Arab Agricultural Technology Transfer Center, based in Ningxia, has played its role as a fulcrum of overseas sub-centers to assist Arab countries in their upgrading of agricultural science and technology. For example, the overseas sub-center in Mauritania has carried out cow embryo transfers, as well as the introduction and trial planting of high-quality forage grass and tropical fruits; the overseas sub-center in Jordan has carried out agricultural cooperation, such as the cultivation, demonstration and promotion of vegetable seeds from Ningxia, the seeds of which have been since exported to 12 countries and regions in the Middle East and Africa; the overseas sub-center in Morocco has focused on the demonstration and experiment of fish meal processing, and the production and aquatic product processing and trade.
In addition, according to the national overall arrangements for international cooperation against COVID-19, from the middle of April to early May, 2020, Ningxia selected and dispatched 8 experts in laboratory tests, the prevention and control of infectious diseases, PCCM, nursing, traditional Chinese medicine and other professional fields, to form a medical team to go to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to help fight COVID-19. They were provided with relevant medical protective supplies, shared China's experience of fighting COVID-19, and given guidance and training on the prevention and control, diagnosis and treatment of the virus. On September 29, 2020, the National Health Commission of the People's Republic of China and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs jointly hosted a video conference for experts from China and members of the League of Arab States (LAS) on the joint fight against COVID-19. Representatives from the Health Commission of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region attended the conference, making positive contributions towards the co-construction of the "China-Arab health community".
(3) Economic and trade promotion
According to statistics, a total of 440 projects of all kinds were signed during the three sessions of the China-Arab Economic and Trade Forum, with a contractual investment amount of RMB 254.766 billion, and a stable average contractual investment amount for each session of around RMB 80 billion. A total of 807 projects of all kinds were signed during the four sessions of the China-Arab Expo, with a total contractual investment amount of RMB 268.571 billion. However, the contractual investment amount for each session fluctuated considerably. Taking the projects signed in the 2nd China-Arab Expo held in 2015 as an example, a total of 60 China-Arab cooperation projects were reached, with an investment amount of RMB 75.43 billion, while there were 15 other foreign cooperation projects with an investment amount of RMB 11.126 billion. The signing of international cooperation projects mostly depends on the support of the Ministry of Commerce and other relevant ministries. The cooperation projects between other domestic provinces and Arab countries are rarely signed during the platform of the China-Arab Expo. However, the bilateral investment cooperation between Ningxia and Arab countries is still in its exploratory stage, and enterprises lack the competitiveness to participate in international economic and trade cooperation. Therefore, the signed projects in the China-Arab Expo reflect the characteristics of having "more projects in the region, less domestic and international projects" and a "high investment in the region, low domestic and international investment".
Yang Zishi is a PhD student in Ningxia University.
This article is an excerpt from "The value, significance and development opportunities of the China-Arab States Expo" (original title "China-Arab States Expo: Origin, Contribution and Outlook"), which was published in West Asia and Africa, No. 4, 2021.
This English version is for reference only. To learn more, please refer to the authoritative Chinese version.