Sino-Arab relations developed rapidly during the twenty-first century. After these relations were centered around political aspects and support for liberation movements, economic cooperation became a title of friendship between the two parties.
China has become the largest trading partner of the Arab countries combined, and the first investor in them, and the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative has formed the basis for strengthening this cooperation and raising it to more advanced levels.
Mutual political support
The success of the Chinese revolution in 1949 constituted a turning point in Beijing’s relations with the Arab world, especially since 1955, when the Chinese Communist Party adopted support for liberation movements in the Arab world, during the Bandung Conference.
China supported the liberation revolution in Algeria (1954-1962), and was the first non-Arab country to recognize the Algerian interim government in 1958.
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China also supported the Palestinian cause, and supported the “Fatah” movement with weapons and training since the mid-sixties.
On the other hand, Beijing recognizes the strong support provided by Arab countries in restoring its permanent seat in the UN Security Council and the United Nations in 1971, and its support in the Taiwan issue.
In 2004, the China-Arab Cooperation Forum was established, with the first Chinese-Arab summit to be held in Saudi Arabia this December.
Growing economic relationships
Before 1990, China was not a big figure in the list of the three largest trading partners of the Arab countries, but the revolutionary transformation in the structure of its economy from closed socialism to openness to a free economy since 1978 led to rapid growth, which helped in the amazing development of its trade relations with Arab countries.
As Chinese trade exchanges with 22 Arab countries did not exceed 36.7 billion dollars in 2004, to rise in 2012 to 200 billion dollars, and then jump in 2021 to 330 billion dollars.
Thus, China tops the list of the largest partners in the Arab world in trade exchanges, and is among the three largest trading partners for each Arab country separately.
According to the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (ALECSO), Chinese investments in Arab countries amounted to $213.9 billion between 2005 and 2021, making it the largest foreign investor in the Arab world.
Saudi Arabia acquired 21 percent of Chinese investments in the Arab world, according to the Union of Arab Banks, then the UAE with about 17 percent, and Iraq came third with about 14 percent, followed by Egypt and Algeria with 12 percent each, or the equivalent of about $26 billion in the period between 2005 and 2021. .
Saudi Arabia competes with Russia for the top oil exporters to China, and Qatar has also turned into one of the largest suppliers of liquefied gas to China thanks to long-term contracts that were recently signed, after the first shipment in 2009.
China is investing hundreds of billions of dollars in the Belt and Road Initiative in establishing ports, highways and railways to facilitate trade with countries of the world, especially the Arab countries.
China also stood by the Arab countries in their battle against the Corona pandemic, and stated that until last October, Beijing had provided Arab countries with more than 340 million doses of anti-virus vaccines.
Although China has been known for decades as a major importer of Russian weapons, in recent years it has been able to develop its military industry and become the fourth largest exporter of weapons in the world after the United States, Russia and France, and even surpass Russia and France in terms of the volume of military industrialization.
China did not achieve a real penetration of the arms markets in the Arab world, with the exception of Sudan, at a certain stage from which American and Russian weapons were prohibited.
However, in the last three decades, China has been able to win a number of arms deals with Arab countries, especially the Gulf ones, such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, as well as Egypt, Algeria and Morocco.
At the beginning of its military industrialization, China resorted to imitating Russian and then Western military industries, and cooperated technologically with Israel, then began the stage of innovation, especially in the field of unmanned aircraft.
In light of the United States’ refusal to export some types of weapons, such as drones and F-35 fighters, to Arab countries, the latter resorted to alternative countries, including China.
Several Arab countries have acquired Chinese drones such as “Wing Long” and “CH” of various types, as well as other types of weapons.
Figures from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reveal that, between 2016 and 2020, China increased the volume of its arms exports to Saudi Arabia by 386 percent, and the UAE by 169 percent, compared to the period between 2011 and 2015.
Political cooperation, which has evolved into economic cooperation, is expanding to include other aspects, primarily military, and even cultural.