The China-Arab Cooperative forum is celebrating its tenth anniversary, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi noted in a statement that the Chinese government is increasingly interested in expanding trade and economic ties with the region, particularly in developing industries like nuclear energy.
In statements provided to Chinese news agency Xinhua, Wang said the forum’s meeting, scheduled for this Thursday, would focus on expanding cooperation in sectors that have yet to be fully developed in relationships between Arab countries and China. “China wants to reinforce cooperation with Arab states in both traditional sectors like energy, trade and infrastructure and emerging sectors like nuclear energy, space and new energy with a view to sharing development benefits and promoting common prosperity,” Wang noted, highlighting the Silk Road ties between China and the Arab world.
Arab countries – which will include in this summit Bahrain, Jordan, Yemen, and others – are “natural and important cooperation partners for China,” according to Wang. Xinhua makes note of highlighting China’s support for Palestine’s “right to be an independent state.” In addition to political support, China has greatly expanded its economic reach in the region. According to a statement from the Chinese government, trade between China and the region has expanded to $239 billion, and China has become the largest trading partner of nine Arab countries.
The summit will extend talks between Arab countries and China, both sides of which have expressed an interest in expanding trade. Wang went on a tour of various Middle Eastern countries in December, including Saudi Arabia, and met with several members of the Gulf Cooperation Council. At the time, the Agence France-Presse reported that Gulf Countries appeared open to stronger ties with China that would allow them to rely less on economic relations with the United States. Saudi Arabian authorities expressed optimism at the time towards opening further trade with China.
While China has expressed interest in expanding trade into other sectors, the oil market has also increased with many Middle Eastern countries. OPEC announced in May that much of its increased demand for oil is coming from China. “Almost half of annual oil demand growth is seen coming from China and the Middle East,” a report released by the organization explained.
In addition to expanding trade with Arab countries and the greater Middle East, China has extended its global offensive to become more involved in world economies. In February, the Chinese government announced its intentions to found a China-Latin America trade forum this year that would work similarly to the Arab arrangement. China has also made inroads in trade with a number of African nations.