Promoting the Silk Road Spirit and Deepening China-Arab Cooperation

—Speech by President Xi Jinping at the Opening Ceremony of the 6th Ministerial

Meeting of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum

(Beijing, June 5, 2014)

As-salamu alaykum! Good to see you, everyone. It's a pleasure to meet with my Arabic friends and exchange views on promoting the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum and China-Arab relations. First of all, please allow me to extend a warm welcome to all the guests present here and sincere congratulations on the opening of the 6th Ministerial Meeting, in my own name and on behalf of the Chinese Government and people.

It always feels like meeting an old acquaintance when first chatting with Arabic friends. Such a feeling derives from our long-standing friendship and mutual trust.

Looking back at the history of the close relationship between China and the Arab states, we think of the overland Silk Road and the maritime spice route. In ancient times, our ancestors struggled through deserts and sailed in boundless seas to transport Chinese products to countries overseas, taking a lead in international friendly contact.

Along that path, Kan Ying, Zheng He and Ibn Battuta were all known as envoys of this China-Arab friendship. Through the Silk Road, Chinese inventions like papermaking, gunpowder, printing and the magnetic compass were spread to Europe, and Arabic conceptions like astronomy, the calendar and medicine were introduced to China.

For hundreds of years, the spirit that the Silk Road epitomizes, namely, peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning, mutual benefits and win-win results, has lived on through generations and written an important chapter in the history of exchanges and mutual learning between civilizations. The Chinese and Arab peoples have supported each other in maintaining national dignity and safeguarding state sovereignty, helped each other in exploring paths of development and achieving national transformation, and learned from each other in deepening both person-to-person and cultural exchanges and revitalizing national culture.

Sixty years ago, China pledged to support the Palestinian people's fight at the Asian-African Conference, and 40 years ago, 13 Arab states along with friendly African nations voted for the resumption of China's seat in the United Nations. Thousands of Chinese medical staff healed the wounded and rescued the dying in the countryside of Arab countries, who generously aided Wenchuan County of Sichuan Province during the great earthquake. These events have been deeply etched in our minds.

The next 10 years are a critical period for the development of both China and the Arab states. China has entered the decisive stage of completing the building of a moderately prosperous society, which is integral to realizing national revitalization. Now, China has formulated a general plan to adopt a more complete and open economic system, carry out all-around and multi-layer international cooperation, expand intersecting points of interest and promote mutual benefit and win-win relationships. The Middle East is undergoing an unprecedented reshuffling, and Arab states too are independently pursuing reforms. To fulfill these common missions and deal with the challenges of national restoration, we should promote the Silk Road spirit, injecting vigor into development and cooperation, reinforcing all-around partnerships and strengthening strategic cooperative relations between China and the Arab states.

To promote the Silk Road spirit, we should also boost mutual learning between our cultures. There is no hierarchy among human civilizations, and equal exchanges make the world colorful. China and the Arab states treat each other with openness and inclusiveness, solve problems through dialogue instead of conflicts and confrontation, and have set a good example of harmonious coexistence between countries with different social systems, beliefs and traditions. China will continue to unswervingly support Arab states' efforts to safeguard their cultural traditions and oppose all discriminative behaviors and biases targeted at certain nations and religions. We should work in concerted effort to advocate tolerance and generosity and prevent extremist forces and thoughts from fostering cultural divisions.

To promote the Silk Road spirit, we should respect each other's paths of development. Shoes are different in size, and what really matters is how well they fit. Countries adopt different patterns of national governance, and what really matters is whether people can benefit from them. The people of a country are in the best position to comment on its development path. Just as people can't turn all flowers into violets, we should not require countries with different cultural traditions, histories and national conditions to follow a single development pattern. Otherwise, the world would be monotonous and tedious. Nowadays, Arab states are independently exploring the paths to development that fit them best, and we are willing to share our experience with them and encourage them to learn from ancient civilizations and past methods.

To promote the Silk Road spirit, we should strive for win-win cooperation. China pursues common development. That is to say, we are trying to improve the livelihoods of both the Chinese people and people throughout the world. In the next five years, China will import commodities worth of over $10 trillion and make as much as $500 billion in outward foreign direct investments. In 2013, China's imports from Arab nations amounted to $140 billion, accounting for a mere 7 percent of its annual import value over the next five years; its outward foreign direct investment in Arab nations totaled $2.2 billion, only accounting for 2.2 percent of its annual outward foreign direct investment over the next five years. The gap signals potential and opportunities. China is prepared to support Arab states in increasing employment, advancing industrialization and pushing economic development.

To promote the Silk Road spirit, we should advocate dialogue and peace. China unswervingly supports the Middle East peace process, in favor of establishing a State of Palestine of full sovereignty based on the 1967 boundary with Jerusalem as the capital. We hope all concerned parties can take measures to eliminate obstacles and resume peaceful negotiations. China respects the Syrian people's appeals, expects the early implementation of the Geneva communiqué, and hopes the political issues in Syria can be properly solved. China pays high attention to the humanitarian situation in Syria and will provide a new round of humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees in countries like Lebanon and Jordan. China backs the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, and opposes any intentions to change the territory thereof. China will play a constructive role in handling regional affairs, advocating for justice and finding interest points along with Arab states to provide more public processes for the settlement of regional hot-spot issues.

"One Belt, One Road" (the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road) is the path to mutual benefit and win-win results, and will push forward the infrastructure construction and system innovations of relevant countries, create new economic and employment growth points, and boost their endogenous power and risk-resistance capacity.

China and the Arab states enjoy mutual understanding and friendship because of the Silk Road, and are natural cooperative partners in jointly building the "One Belt, One Road" path.

The two sides should adhere to the principles of discussion, co-construction and sharing, and build both a community of common interests and a community for a common future. Discussion can ensure the equal consideration of the interests and concerns of parties involved and allow them to put practiced and innovative ideas together. Co-construction means all the advantages and potentials of parties involved should be fully tapped into. Finally, both the Chinese and Arabic people should benefit from the construction of "One Belt, One Road" on an equal footing, building a community of shared interests and destiny.

The two sides should adopt a broader vision and down-to-earth attitude in establishing a "1+2+3" cooperation pattern. "One" means taking energy cooperation as the core, reinforcing cooperation throughout the whole industrial chain of oil and gas, and defending the energy transportation channels to build long-term strategic energy cooperative relations between China and Arab States, featuring mutual benefit, safety and reliability. "Two" means taking infrastructure construction and trade and investment facilitation as two wings, strengthening the China-Arab states partnership in major development projects and projects designed to improve people's livelihood, and making institutional arrangements to promote bilateral trade and investment. China will encourage Chinese enterprises to import more non-petroleum products from Arab nations, striving to increase the bilateral trade volume from last year's $240 billion to $600 billion in the future 10 years. Meanwhile, the country will also encourage its enterprises to invest in the energy, petrochemical, agricultural, manufacturing and service sectors to increase China's non-financial investment stock to the Arab states from last year's $10 billion to over $60 billion in the following decade. "Three" means taking the three high- and new-technology fields of nuclear energy, space satellites and renewable energy as breakthroughs to promote bilateral pragmatic cooperation. The two sides should exchange views on setting up technology transfer centers, establishing training centers for Arab states' peaceful use of nuclear power, and reproducing the Beidou Navigation Satellite System in the Arab region.

Only by adopting a down-to-earth attitude can we have an early harvest. As the proverb goes in Arab states, words that are turned into acts are the most powerful. We should accelerate negotiations on and promote the establishment of the free trade area between China and the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, along with the China-UAE (United Arab Emirates) joint investment fund, and push forward Arab states' participation in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. The earlier the "One Belt, One Road" strategy generates real benefits, the larger the role it can play.

The two sides should rely on and promote China-Arab traditional friendship. Mutual communication and understanding are essential to the construction of "One Belt, One Road." Here, I declare that China and the Arab states have decided to designate 2014 and 2015 as the Years of China-Arab Friendship and to hold a series of friendly exchange events. We are willing to promote cultural exchanges between China and the Arab states, encourage Chinese students to study at universities in Arab states, and strengthen cooperation in tourism, aviation, news and publishing. In the next three years, China will train another 6,000 talents of various types for the Arab states, and share our experiences in reducing poverty, accelerating growth, and promoting technological development. In the coming 10 years, China will organize mutual visits and exchanges by 10,000 Chinese and Arabic artists, promote and support cooperation between 200 Chinese and Arab cultural institutions, and invite 500 Arabic experts to carry out advanced studies and receive training in China.

The establishment of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum was a strategic step the two sides took for the long-term development of the China-Arab relations. After a decade of development, the Forum has morphed into an effective platform to enrich China and the Arab states' strategic relationship and cooperation. The joint construction of the "One Belt, One Road" program is a new opportunity and starting point for both sides to achieve sustainable development. With more growth space, great momentum will be generated. In brief, the Forum should focus on real problems and play the role of an axis.

We should strengthen communication on policy. Both sides need to be honest and straightforward in exchanging opinions on diplomatic policies and development strategies, enhancing mutual political trust and promoting strategic interconnection to give a leg up to China and Arabic states' cooperation.

We should deepen practical cooperation. The strong complementary bonds between the two sides allow us to fully capitalize on the potentials of resource sharing and learning from each other's strong points to offset weaknesses. The focus should be on laying a solid foundation and taking far-reaching measures rather than creating sensations.

We should constantly pioneer and innovate. Innovation is the lifeblood of the Forum. The two sides should take new measures and create new mechanisms to solve various problems in bilateral practical cooperation. Reform and innovation will be the recipe to break development bottleneck and release potentials.

Both the Chinese and Arab nations have created splendid civilizations, and have experienced twists and turns amidst the changes of the times in the modern history, thus making national reforms a constant pursuit of both sides. Let us work together to promote the Silk Road spirit, deepen China-Arab cooperation, realize the Chinese dream and revitalize the Arab States! Let us strive for the lofty cause of peace and development for mankind!

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