|Magdy Amer, Egyptian Ambassador to China|
When H.E President Xi Jinping, the President of the People’s Republic of China made the announcement about his initiative to revive the economic belt of the ancient Silk Road and the Maritime Silk Road during his tour in Central Asian Countries in September 2013, it was clear that China has advanced to take the lead to restore a much needed channel of cooperation, communication and multilayered exchanges which played a significant role in bringing together a vast area of land, thus enabling its peoples to make valuable contributions to the development and prosperity of mankind just as their ancestors had done for centuries in the past. This initiative helped to remove the dust which has accumulated on an event that was almost forgotten, like many important events in history.
The Ancient Silk Road began in China and enabled numerous convoys of traders, merchants, students, ordinary people to go over through this long road which combined several ancient civilizations, thus enhancing not only commercial and economic activities, but also what we call now people to people exchanges which an integral and indispensable part of human interaction nowadays. In the case of Egypt, it has been proven by archeologists and anthropologists that more than two and a half millenniums ago, members of the Ancient Egyptian royal dynasties and nobles – namely bourgeois – used to wear Chinese Silk to express their style and class, which was a clear sign of an early fruitful exchange between the peoples of both Egypt and China, and an undisputed evidence of the role this road had played as an artery pumping prosperity into the body of our past world, and reviving it today will bring forth common development and spread the desperately needed peace and stability.
As for the relations between Egypt and China in modern times, these relations have seen a huge and robust development ever since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two states in 1956, Egypt being the first Arab and African country to establish the said relations with China, hence being the first Arab and African country to recognize the People’s Republic of China.
President Xi Jiniping initiative, with its ambitious content which aims to boost the regional and trans- regional cooperation in various field like infrastructure, railways, ports and airports, logistics and energy, paved the way for the renewal and re-expansion of opportunities, which surpasses any opportunity in boosting ties between the states of the Silk road, and through both multilateral and collective arrangements.
I believe that this initiative comes in a very critical moment to meet the needs of the Silk Road countries to enhance their cooperation, and benefit from the fact that these countries, on top of which is China, have made some advancements in different fields, in which we can take advantage in many ways in enhancing and diversifying relations between Cairo and Beijing.
In addition, the year 2016 will mark the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Egypt and China, in which my Chinese colleagues and I have been in constant contact and cooperation into making this year a “Year of Egyptian Culture in China”, which would last 365 days hosting several cultural events and festivities which we hope to be as a landmark in the cultural cooperation between the two countries. However, this is not the beginning of hosting such events, and when it comes to the facts, such events have been taking place in an active manner over the past months, in which the Egyptian Embassy has hosted several cultural events in cooperation with Chinese institutions such as the Silk Road Committee, the Beijing Women’s Federations, among others.
Apart from the cultural field, both states must avail themselves of this opportunity to take advantage of boosting ties strategically in fields such as people-to-people exchanges, technology, communications, information technology, electricity, renewable energy, and security. Moving to the field of economic cooperation between Egypt and China, I would dare to say that despite some achievements which were reached in this field, but the amount of cooperation is still below our two nations expectations, and does not match by any means neither the excellent political relations existing between the two countries and the strategic importance of both countries to one another in all levels, nor the potentials that both sides has in the field of trade and economy. For instance, the bilateral trade between Egypt and China has exceeded 10 billion dollars in 2013, and over 40 Chinese corporations are operating in the Egyptian market at the moment in various fields. On the other hand, Chinese investments in Egypt are modest, which is again another field that require more efforts to be exerted by both sides to further boost their cooperation in this field. Both countries are the oldest in human history, as well as the fact that China and Egypt are both leading nations in their regions.
Both sides are currently working closely to promote their 1999 strategic partnership agreement to develop it into a much more comprehensive level of strategic partnership. In a similar conjunction, Egypt prepares to receive H.E Mr. Wang Yi, who will pay an official visit to Cairo in early August to further discuss with the Egyptian newly elected leadership the potentials of promoting and reinforcing our bilateral relations on different levels, as well as enhancing and activating bilateral agreements in a step which would definitely signifies the Chinese support to the new Egyptian leadership, and the depth of our mutual friendship, especially due to the fact that the 60th anniversary of bilateral relations is just around the corner.
China has always stood by Egypt’s side on various occasions, especially during and after the Egyptian Revolutions of January 25, 2011 and June 30, 2014. Despite the political instability that engulfed Egypt in the past three years, China has maintained a strong stance as an ally and has taken into consideration the positive relations that happily exist between the two countries. On behalf of the Arab Republic of Egypt, I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to the Chinese efforts in supporting Egypt in the past three years.
Egypt and China must enhance mutual cooperation and mutual interests and take advantage of every opportunity they can achieve. Egypt has one of the most unique opportunities in cooperating with the world’s second largest economy and an emerging superpower and, as well, a permanent representative at the United Nations Security Council, making it a key global decision maker. We must take advantage of the positive relations between both countries in multilateral and collective diplomacy, which is another important domain of our cooperation.
On the Other hand, Egypt has always supported China in core issues concerning China’s National Security, namely the full support of the One-China Policy and fighting the three evils, namely extremism, terrorism and separatism. Both countries are at the gates of a golden age in their relations and should cease every possible opportunity via the revival of the ancient Silk Road in promoting ties and developing a promising future for both governments and peoples.
“The Revival of the Ancient Silk Road” initiative is of great importance, reflected in its multi-dimensional approach that comprises political, economic, social, and cultural aspects. Furthermore, it is not only about the renewal of an ancient international route between both countries, but rather bringing about interdependence, cooperation, and peaceful coexistence back to life, which is a notion all countries must pursue in order to face today’s unbearable and complex challenges and threats at all levels.
To read Chinese version, please click here《埃中合作：丝绸之路战略的有机组成部分》