by Xinhua Writers Sun Ding, Wang Bowen
BEIJING, Jan. 23 (Xinhua) -- With the further dovetailing of development strategies of China and the Middle East, enormous cooperation potential will be unleashed, thanks to Chinese President Xi Jinping's ongoing trip.
Xi's three-nation tour, which has taken him to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran, has helped further link China's westward opening strategy and its Middle East partners' looking-east policy, in a move that has lifted bilateral ties to a new high and brought vitality to their interaction.
As the two sides are attuning their needs when integrating their development blueprints, a pattern that promotes cooperation in such areas as energy, production capacity and new and high technology is taking shape.
ENERGY COOPERATION BIGGER THAN JUST OIL
Accounting for around one third of the current global oil output, the Middle East has played a key role in the international energy supply.
Recent years have seen a vigorous implementation of China's economic adjustment and the Middle East's endeavor to build new engines for its energy sector.
The strong complementarity of China and the Middle East in economy and trade has enabled the world's second-largest economy and the oil-rich region to forge stable ties in their strategic energy cooperation.
During Xi's Tuesday meeting with Abdul Latif bin Rashid Al Zayani, secretary-general of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC), the Chinese leader said China is willing to carry out comprehensive energy cooperation with the GCC countries and offer a long-term, stable and reliable energy market for the six-member bloc.
Strengthening energy cooperation will promote the development of both China and the Middle East and diversify their economic exchanges, said Wang Qiong, a research fellow with the Institute of West Asian and African Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).
So far, the two sides have set up multiple multilateral frameworks, including the China-Arab Energy Cooperation Conference and the China-GCC Strategic Dialogue.
Those mechanisms are aimed at facilitating cooperation, which have given priority to boosting interconnectivity between China and the Middle East and propped up efforts to build a cross-regional corridor featuring joint energy development and a network of oil and gas pipelines.
The two sides have been increasingly connected to each other in the energy sector, said Li Shaoxian, director of the China-Arab Research Institute at Ningxia University.
As the global oil prices continue to plummet, a production-supply chain jointly created by China and the Middle East is bound to pull the region out of its slump.
It will allow the region to have a bigger say over the international energy landscape, ensuring a stable environment in the long term for the Middle East to build its own energy development mechanism.
By expanding its chain of the energy industry and upgrading its processing and refining techniques, the Middle East will be able to realize the sustainable development in its energy sector, Wang said.
"BELT AND ROAD" INSPIRES PRODUCTION CAPACITY COOPERATION
Spanning the Eurasian continent, the modern land and maritime Silk Roads reach the Middle East, in which all of the three host nations of Xi's visit, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran, are among the important cooperation partners that have actively participated in the China-proposed strategic vision.
Amid various economic and social problems, these countries have been drafting their own economic development plans to speed up the industrialization process, opening the window for production capacity cooperation with China, former Chinese Ambassador to Turkey Yao Kuangyi said.
The Middle East countries, Yao said, have shown great interest in China's development model and its financial and technological support in light of the Asian giant's rapid economic growth, embarking on a looking-east strategy.
In Saudi Arabia, the oil giant's production capacity cooperation with the world's leading developing economy has already seen early win-win results.
Figures showed that up to 160 Chinese businesses have made investment in Saudi Arabia, covering a slew of areas including railways, housing construction, ports, power stations and telecommunications.
China's strength in production capacity could complement the Middle East in that regard, said Xue Qingguo, director of the Arabic language department at Beijing Foreign Studies University.
Their cooperation in production capacity, the professor said, will significantly contribute to industrial development, job creation and the improvement of people's well-being in the Middle East.
With China-Middle East joint efforts in promoting the region's infrastructure development, new sources of economic growth and job creation are expected, along with enhanced internal growth-driving forces and risk-resistant capabilities.
Cooperation with China under the Belt and Road Initiative will benefit all Arab countries, Nabil Elaraby, secretary-general of the League of Arab States, told reporters.
"The Arab countries stand ready to establish strategic cooperative ties with China," the official said.
NEW HIGHLIGHTS EXPECTED
Broad prospects lie ahead for China-Middle East cooperation in the new and high technology field.
Egypt has initiated the construction of the high technology-centered "New Suez Canal Economic Corridor" program following its expansion of the world-renowned canal.
The grand project is designed to turn the 190-kilometer-long river bank into a global economic zone with a series of industrial parks, serving as a bridge to connect Asia and Africa as well as China's "Belt and Roads."
No doubt, China will become one of Egypt's most important partners in the economic corridor, said Fakhry al-Fiky, an Egyptian economic analyst and former assistant to the executive director of the International Monetary Fund.
He looked forward to the combination of the Gulf states' financial resources and China's technological advantages so as to push forward Egypt's cooperation with both China and its own neighbors.
Standing at the juncture of the two initiatives is the 1.34-square-kilometer China-Egypt Suez Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone.
Since its construction started in 2008, the China-funded project has brought together cutting-edge joint ventures in new materials and high-end manufacturing, among others.
With the construction of a 6-square-kilometer expansion area already underway, the investment zone will house more industrial leaders, such as China Glass and Yingli Solar, poised to evolve into a stellar example of China-Egypt win-win cooperation.
China's advanced technology and managerial expertise will strongly promote Egypt's economic development, Muhammad Hassan, an Egyptian supervisor of the expansion project, told media.
For Iran, almost a decade of Western sanctions over its nuclear program has taken a heavy toll on the Islamic Republic. But its industrial system, actually the most complete one in the Middle East, could lay a solid foundation for its cooperation with other countries.
The removal of sanctions could greatly boost Iran's economy, He Wenping, a CASS researcher, observed.
Notably, Xi's visit came only days after concerned parties began the implementation of the Iranian nuclear deal, in which China acted as a key mediator.
Optimistic about Beijing-Tehran cooperation in the post-sanctions era, analysts predicted the two sides would tap their cooperation potential in high-speed railways, aviation, telecommunications, power generation, and industrial and technological parks.
Chinese businesses should seize these opportunities by accelerating cooperation with their Iranian counterparts in major projects, including the Tehran-Isfahan high-speed railway and the China-Iran Industrial Park, Yao said.
(Xinhua reporters Qi Wei, Tamara Treichel and Wang Dier in Beijing, Liu Chang and Ma Yan in Cairo contributed to the story.)
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