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Friendship deepened by frequent visits


As a Chinese saying goes, friendship and kinship are deepened by frequent visits. State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi's recent trip to the Middle East will undoubtedly have strengthened the friendship between the two sides and injected new vitality into bilateral cooperation.

Having good relations with all Middle Eastern countries, China has so far forged 13 strategic partnerships in the region. China has signed documents with 19 Middle Eastern countries for cooperation under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, adding to the good momentum in all fields of cooperation between the two sides. During his recent visit, Wang put forward policy proposals to advance the China-Arab States community with a shared future based on common convictions and pursuit, featuring tranquility and harmony, development and prosperity. The policy proposals chart the course for bilateral relations going forward.

A friend in need is a friend indeed. Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus last year, China and Middle Eastern countries have been helping each other and working together against all odds, with a focus on jointly fighting against the pandemic. Every step of the way has borne witness to their enduring friendship, mutual solidarity, and the shared sense of responsibility for global well-being. The King of Saudi Arabia was the first foreign head of state to call President Xi Jinping to express support for China's fight against the virus, and the United Arab Emirates was among the earliest adopters of Chinese vaccines.

Recently, Wang and his UAE counterpart attended the online launch ceremony for a liquid bottling production line in the UAE for a Chinese vaccine, which indicates the strong bond between China and Arab countries.

Many Middle Eastern countries have expressed solidarity with China on issues concerning China's core interests. China and Middle Eastern countries have never been so closely bonded as they are today, and the friendship has never been so profound.

Wang's visit was not only an opportunity for China and countries in the region to build consensus on how to strengthen cooperation, but also an opportunity for the two sides to share their thoughts on where the Middle East is heading.

During his visit, Wang and Middle Eastern state leaders reached a broad consensus through their exchange of views on regional issues of concern to both sides. In particular, the five-point initiative proposed by China for security and stability in the region, covering mutual respect, fairness and justice, nuclear non-proliferation, collective security and development cooperation, represents China's take on how to address governance, security and development inadequacies in the Middle East, where there are new opportunities for greater cooperation.

Wang's visit has injected fresh vitality into relations. Thanks to the joint efforts of both sides, the relations between China and countries in the region are starting a new chapter.

More efforts will be made for peace and stability. With the rapid changes in the international landscape, both sides are willing to listen to each other when discussing the future stability and peace of the region. China will continue to invite peace advocates from Palestine and Israel to China for dialogue, and welcomes Palestinian and Israeli representatives coming to China for direct negotiations. China has also proposed that a multilateral dialogue conference for regional security in the Persian Gulf region be held in China, which is another concrete action by China to promote regional security.

Cooperation on development and the Belt and Road Initiative will be further advanced. Rich in resources and advantageously located, countries in the Middle East have formulated ambitious development plans in the face of global economic competition and technological advancement, which brings opportunities for cooperation with China. Middle Eastern countries, which contributed a lot to the ancient Silk Road, are natural partners and pioneers in the development of the Belt and Road. As the initiative moves forward, China and the Middle East will prosper together with more accessible transportation, more vibrant trade, more active investment, and more frequent people-to-people exchanges.

Innovative and pragmatic cooperation will be deepened. The friendly relations between China and regional countries date back a long time. Against the backdrop of the once-in-a-century changes taken place in the world, both sides hope to strengthen cooperation in new ways to lead the way along the course of history. Despite the hardships the global economy is suffering due to the pandemic, China and countries in the region have agreed to deepen and expand their cooperation in such fields as 5G, big data, nuclear energy, satellites and e-commerce. A few days ago, China and Iran signed a comprehensive cooperation plan that maps out their long-term collaboration to tap the potential of bilateral economic and cultural cooperation, which neither includes any quantitative, specific contracts and goals nor targets any third party. As a new type of pragmatic cooperation, the plan constitutes a general framework for future cooperation between the two countries. Recently, China and the League of Arab States jointly issued the China-LAS Cooperation Initiative on Data Security, which makes the Arab States the first to have done so. All the above-mentioned cooperation indicates enormous potential for cooperation between China and countries in the Middle East.

There will be more people-to-people and cultural exchanges. The cultural and people-to-people exchanges between China and the Middle East remain uninterrupted despite the inconveniences caused by the pandemic. Cultural exchanges, both online and offline, are on the rise, Chinese language teaching has been formally incorporated into the education systems of some Arab countries, bilateral events such as friendship years and culture years are burgeoning, and stories of friendship on various media platforms have been well received by people on both sides.

As developing countries and good friends, China and countries in the Middle East will become closer with their deepening friendship and together will make greater contributions to peace and development in the region and in the world.

The author is ambassador for Affairs of China-Arab States Cooperation Forum of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.