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Difficult times reveal true friends


The help China and Egypt have extended to each other during the pandemic is a fruit of the supportive relationship

Editor's Note: May 30 marks the 65th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Egypt, which was the start of the People's Republic of China's diplomatic ties with Arab nations and African countries. We invited three veteran diplomats who all served as Chinese ambassadors to Egypt in different times to share their memories and offer their perspectives on China-Egypt relations and their prospects for building a China-Arab community with a shared future.

The People's Republic of China established diplomatic relations with Egypt on May 30, 1956. Back then, I was studying in Cairo and had the opportunity to witness the historic moment.

The 1950s were marked by tides of socialist and national independence movements. In their struggles, respectively, for independence and peace, China and Egypt sympathized with and supported each other. The establishment of diplomatic relations is a very natural fruition of the supportive friendship.

Two months after the two countries established diplomatic relations, Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal, which triggered the Suez Crisis. China sincerely supported Egypt's firm determination to safeguard its sovereignty and independence, and won Egypt's trust.

The establishment of diplomatic relations with Egypt played a demonstration role, paving the way for a number of countries in the Arab world and Africa to establish ties with China.

In retrospect, we can see the sincere friendship and deep cooperation between the two countries, which has no record of any contradictions or conflicts. Both China and Egypt cherish their sovereignty, independence and national dignity. Therefore, both oppose acts of blatant intervention in the internal affairs of sovereign states under the pretext of "promoting democracy". Upholding the principle of mutual respect, support and assistance, the two countries have been close partners through the ups and downs.

In the 1950s and the 1960s, both countries actively participated in anti-imperialism and ant-colonialism movements. At the turn of the century, an era of peace and development, both China and Egypt adhered to a peaceful foreign policy in pursuit of development and growth. Today, as the world is undergoing changes unseen in a century, China and Egypt are standing side by side in supporting multilateralism and free trade, and opposing unilateralism and protectionism. In particular, the two sides are expressing support for and providing assistance to each other in the fight against the novel coronavirus outbreak, while opposing the politicization of the pandemic.

In close cooperation, Egypt plans to produce locally the COVID-19 vaccine developed by the Chinese company Sinovac starting in June. That will benefit Egypt as well as other countries in the region. Such cooperation fully demonstrates the two countries' shouldering of their international responsibilities in the battle against the virus. Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly, who witnessed the inking of the deal to manufacture the Sinovac vaccine in Egypt on April 21, said the deal further manifests the two countries' profound traditional friendship.

In today's world, development remains the primary concern of all countries. A country with sound economic development can avoid and tackle numerous difficulties. China believes that development is the key to solving many problems. Since the launch of reform and opening-up over 40 years ago, China has greatly improved its economic strength and successfully cushioned the impact of multiple global economic and financial crises.

Following the "Arab Spring", Egypt is committed to developing its economy. In addition to strengthening infrastructure construction, the country has been promoting the reclamation of about 630,000 hectares of farmland, expansion of the Suez Canal to allow for simultaneous two-way traffic on a stretch of the canal, and construction of the New Administrative Capital, among others.

Bilateral trade between China and Egypt totaled $14.5 billion in 2020, making China Egypt's largest trading partner. They have jointly established many cooperation projects. Among them, the quite fruitful China-Egypt TEDA Suez Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone was launched during the period when I was the Chinese ambassador to Egypt. I have been closely watching its progress and achievements, especially the success of Chinese fiberglass giant manufacturer Jushi Group in the cooperation zone. Another key project is the joint construction of the huge Central Business District project in Egypt's new administrative capital, which involves the construction of 20 towers and covers a total area of about 500,000 square meters, including the 385-meter-high Iconic Tower, which is expected to be the tallest tower in Africa upon completion. As well as to Egypt's honor, this will also be to the honor of China.

As two ancient civilizations, China and Egypt have always upheld the principle of inclusiveness and good faith in bilateral exchanges. When dealing with problems, the two never interfere in each other's internal affairs and hold dear the spirit of fairness and justice.

The United States and other Western countries made indiscreet remarks or criticisms regarding Egypt's regime change following the turbulent "Arab Spring", whereas China reiterated its stance of "respecting the choice of the Egyptian people". Egypt also firmly supports China's stance when Western countries slander and smear China's policies in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. As a common motto in China and Egypt goes, "Difficult times will always reveal true friends." By standing hand in hand and always helping and supporting each other, China and Egypt have fostered a sincere, deep friendship and such friendship is bound to grow further in the future.

The author was the Chinese ambassador to Egypt from 1993 to 1998.