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Xi pledges industrial boost for Middle East

(China Daily)    09:14, January 23, 2016

President Xi Jinping stressed the need to "advance industrialization in the Middle East", a statement backed up with pledges of billions of dollars in loans and investments to help make that happen, in a speech to the Arab League at its headquarters in Cairo on Thursday afternoon.

"China's competitive production capacity and the human resources in the Middle East, when combined, will deliver more and better job opportunities for the region," said Xi, who is on a three-nation trip to the Middle East. Xi left Egypt on Friday for Iran, the third and last stop on his visit.

Xi announced that China will set up a $15 billion special loan for industrialization in the region to be used on production capacity cooperation and infrastructure projects.

China also will launch a $20 billion joint investment fund with the United Arab Emirates and Qatar to primarily invest in traditional energy, infrastructure development and high-end manufacturing industries in the region, Xi said.

The president said China and the Middle East "need to make good use of the coming five years", a crucial period to jointly build the Belt and Road Initiative, China's plan to link Asia, Africa and Europe via trade and infrastructure investment.

Observers called the concrete measures proposed in the president's latest Middle East policy speech pragmatic and effective in addressing the region's thirst for stability and economic reinvigoration.

Li Guofu, a researcher in Middle East studies at the China Institute of International Studies, said Xi had set the target of realizing the measures proposed in the upcoming five years "in order to make sure benefits are delivered faster to the people of both China and the Middle East".

Xi's speech displayed China's latest philosophy in how to help address regional hot spot issues, and has reaffirmed China's commitment to not interfering in the domestic affairs of other countries, Li said.

Wang Yiwei, director of the Institute of International Affairs at Renmin University of China, said, "China's successful experience in the process of modernizing itself has greatly inspired and encouraged the Arab countries to explore their own developing pathways that adapt to their respective national conditions."

In regard to promoting stability in the region, Xi said China will "set up a China-Arab research center on reform and development". To boost structural adjustments, Xi said China may sign more currency swap and mutual investment agreements, expand renminbi settlement services and accelerate investment facilitation.

Both China and the Middle East will steer the investment funds and private capital of the two parties toward major projects under the Belt and Road Initiative, he said.

Li Shaoxian, a senior expert in Middle East studies at Ningxia University in Yinchuan, in the Ningxia Hui autonomous region, said, "Political stability and economic reinvigoration — the two key elements for ensuring regional stability — are inseparable from each other".

In the case of Egypt, Li said huge endeavors have been made to get its domestic stability back on track, "but problems may return if its economy does not recover quickly".

He Wenping, a senior expert in Middle East studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, observed that the Middle East — standing at the intersection of Europe, Asia and Africa — enjoys a profoundly strategic location, and "it is undergoing a critical phase as it rolls out political restructuring and social transformation".

"China has not been absent from Middle East affairs. It has been increasingly proactive when conducting peaceful diplomacy with the region in recent years … and co-building the Belt and Road Initiative may be a part of the peaceful diplomacy," He said.

In Iran, Xi will meet Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iran's Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani, as well as holding talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

The newspaper Iran published a signed article by Xi on Thursday.


Xi arrives in Iran for state visit

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived here Friday night for a state visit to Iran aimed at further boosting the traditional friendship and economic engagement between the two countries.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Ma Xiaochun,Bianji)

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