by Xinhua writers Li Kun, Zheng Kaijun, Tang Peipei
CAIRO/TIANJIN, Jan. 21 (Xinhua) -- Exactly three years ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping attended the inauguration ceremony of the second phase of the China-Egypt Suez Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone with his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi.
The project, which aims to build a new city out of desert, has witnessed rapid development in the past three years.
The China-Egypt Suez Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone, located some 120 km to the east of Cairo near the Suez Canal, officially began construction in 2008 with an area of 1.34 square km for its first phase.
The second phase of the zone covers an area of 6 square km.
During his state visit to Egypt three years ago, Xi said the project will bring over 100 textile, garment, oil equipment, motorcycle and solar energy companies to Egypt, and create more than 10,000 local jobs.
Xi and Sisi have spoken several times in the past three years, reaching consensus on jointly implementing the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a vision put forward by Xi in 2013 to promote common development along historical land and maritime silk roads.
"Although the zone was launched over a decade ago, lots of new endeavors from both countries have given the program more opportunities in recent years," said Liu Aimin, chairman of China-Africa TEDA Investment Co. Ltd., which is the operation body of the zone in Egypt.
For example, in August 2018, Chinese fiberglass giant manufacturer Jushi, which was introduced to Egypt through the zone, completed the production of 200,000 tons of fiberglass by its local branch, making Egypt the world's fifth largest fiberglass producer.
Liu said infrastructure construction for 2 square km of the second phase has finished, and that eight industry-leading enterprises are already onboard, with an investment of 200 million U.S. dollars, including Chinese motorcycle giant Dayun Group, which will officially start operation this year.
Having seen the fast progress of the zone's first phase, Ahmad Abdel Baqy, an engineering administrator in the zone, said that he has more confidence in its expansion.
In Egypt, the cooperation zone is usually referred to as "TEDA," which is not only the name of the zone's operator, but is seen as a kind of development model.
TEDA is short for Tianjin Economic-Technological Development Area, which is located about 150 km to the east of China's capital city Beijing.
It used to be a land of saline-alkali soil but is now a modern industrial city with an annual gross domestic product (GDP) of over 44 billion dollars after over 30 years' development. In the 1990s, China decided to help Egypt build the economic zone in Suez.
With similar geographical conditions, TEDA had become the body to operate the project.
After more than 10 years, TEDA has been successful in helping Egypt establish industries in new building materials and petroleum equipment, among others.
According to Liu, his program has attracted more than 1 billion dollars of investment and the total output value is about 1.2 billion dollars. Over 1 billion Egyptian pounds (about 56 million dollars) in taxes have been paid to the host country.
More importantly, in addition to being a cluster of industrial enterprises, the cooperation zone will be converted into a city with an array of supporting facilities like restaurants and supermarkets. Residential areas and a shopping mall are planned as well.
"TEDA is a place that takes care of all the details of your daily life," said Baqy, who wants to bring his family here in the future.
TEDA has created an "integrated developmental society, not only factories," said Alaa Abdel Kareem, a consultant of the General Authority for the SCZone.
According to Zhang Bingjun, board chairman of TEDA Investment Holding Co. Ltd., "a vital new city will soon grow up in the desert on the shore of the Red Sea" thanks to TEDA's own experiences.
(Xinhua correspondents Li Binian, Zheng Siyuan, Wu Danni in Cairo, and Zou Duowei in Beijing also contributed to the report.)