Promote the Silk Road Spirit, Strengthen China-Arab Cooperation

Xi Jinping: The Governance of China I Updated: 2021-12-13

Promote the Silk Road Spirit, Strengthen China-Arab Cooperation* 

June 5, 2014 

Your Excellency Prime Minister Jaber,
Secretary-General El Araby of the League of Arab States,
Heads of delegations,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Dear friends, 

Al Salam aleikum1! Good morning! I am very happy today to get together with our Arab friends and discuss the development of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum (CASCF)2 and China-Arab relations. Let me begin by extending, on behalf of the Chinese government and our people and in my own name, a warm welcome to all the guests, and let me offer my hearty congratulations on the convening of the sixth ministerial conference of the CASCF! 

Arab friends always feel like old friends to me. This is attributable both to the warm and sincere attitude with which we treat each other, and to the long history of exchanges between the Chinese and Arab peoples. 

Looking back on the history of exchanges between the Chinese and Arab peoples, we immediately think of the land Silk Road and the maritime spice route. Our ancestors "crossed the desert for months on end on post-horses,"3 and "sailed the oceans day and night,"4 putting themselves at the forefront of friendly exchanges between different nations in the ancient world. 

Gan Ying5, Zheng He, and Ibn Battuta6 were goodwill envoys for China-Arab exchanges whom we still remember today. It was by way of the Silk Road that China's four great inventions – paper-making, gunpowder, printing, and the compass – were transmitted via the Arab region to Europe, and it was also by way of the Silk Road that the Arabs' astronomy, calendrical system, and medicines were introduced to China, marking an important chapter in the history of exchanges and mutual learning between civilizations. 

For hundreds of years the spirit embodied by the Silk Road, namely peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning, and mutual benefit, has passed down through the generations. The Chinese and Arab peoples have supported each other in maintaining national dignity and safeguarding state sovereignty, helped each other in exploring development and achieving national rejuvenation, and learned from each other in encouraging people-to-people and cultural exchanges and revitalizing national culture. 

We will not forget the promise to support the cause of the Palestinian people that China made to the Arab states – with which we had not yet established diplomatic relations – at the Bandung Conference7 60 years ago. Nor will we forget the votes cast over 40 years ago by 13 Arab states, together with our African friends, for the PRC to regain its UN seat. We will not forget the 10,000 Chinese doctors who worked to save lives in the Arab states. Nor will we forget the most generous aid China received from our Arab brothers after the massive Wenchuan earthquake. 

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, 

The next decade will be a crucial period for the development of both China and the Arab states. China has entered a decisive phase in its drive to complete the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects, and the fulfillment of this goal represents a crucial step towards the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation. To do so, we have made overall plans for driving our reform to a deeper level. A key focus of this drive is to develop all-round international cooperation within an open economic system of quality and vitality, and to expand our common interests with various countries and regions in pursuit of mutual benefit. The Middle East is in a phase of unprecedented change, and the Arab states are making efforts to seek reform in their own way. The challenge of achieving national renewal calls on us to carry forward the Silk Road spirit, bolster development and cooperation, and constantly reinforce a strategic China-Arab relationship of comprehensive cooperation and common development. 

To promote the Silk Road spirit, we need to boost mutual learning between civilizations. There is no such thing as a good or a bad civilization. Rather, different civilizations are enriched through exchange. As a Chinese philosopher said, "The matching of different colors leads to greater beauty, and the combination of different musical instruments creates harmony and peace."8 China and the Arab states have always viewed each other with an open and inclusive attitude, and engaged in dialogues and exchanges rather than conflict and confrontation. We have set a good example of harmonious coexistence between countries with different social systems, beliefs, and cultural traditions. China will never falter in its support for the Arab states in safeguarding their national cultural traditions, and will oppose all discrimination and prejudice against any ethnic groups and religions. We should work together to advocate tolerance towards different civilizations, and prevent extremist forces and ideas from creating division between us. 

To promote the Silk Road spirit, we need to respect each other's choice of development path. "People don't need to wear the same shoes; they should find what suit their feet. Governments don't have to adopt the same model of governance; they should find what benefits their people."9 Whether the path of a country is the right one is a matter to be decided by its people. Just as we do not expect all flowers to be violets, we cannot demand that countries with diverse cultural traditions, historical experiences, and contemporary national conditions should adopt the same development mode. That would make for a dull world. The Arab states are making their own efforts to explore their own development paths. We are willing to share our experience of governance with our Arab friends, so that each can draw on the wisdom of the other's time-honored civilization and development mode. 

To promote the Silk Road spirit, we need to focus on mutually beneficial cooperation. What China pursues is common development, which means we are aiming for a better life for the Chinese people and for the peoples of other countries. In the next five years, China's imports will surpass US$10 trillion-worth, and our outward FDI will surpass US$500 billion. In 2013, China's imports from the Arab states were worth US$140 billion, accounting for only 7 percent of the annual US$2 trillion in imported goods that China plans for the years ahead; and China's outward FDI to the Arab states was US$2.2 billion, accounting for only 2.2 percent of the US$100 billion in annual outward FDI that China plans for the years ahead. These facts represent an indicator of great potential and opportunity. China is happy to connect its own development with the development of the Arab states, and to support them in promoting employment, industrialization and economic growth. 

To promote the Silk Road spirit, we need to advocate dialogue and peace. China firmly supports the Middle East peace process and the establishment of an independent State of Palestine, with full sovereignty, based on the 1967 borders, and with East Jerusalem as its capital. We hope the parties involved will take concrete measures to remove obstacles to peace talks and break the stalemate as soon as possible. China respects the reasonable demands of the Syrian people, and supports the early adoption of the Geneva communiqué and the opening of an inclusive political transition, to bring about a political resolution to the Syrian issue. China is deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation in Syria, and will provide a new batch of humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon to alleviate their plight. China supports the establishment of a Middle East nuclear-weapon-free zone, and opposes any attempt to change the political landscape of the Middle East. China will play a constructive role in regional affairs, speak up for justice, and work with the Arab states to encourage dialogue as a way to find the greatest common denominator on issues of concern to all parties. We will direct a greater level of diplomatic effort to the proper settlement of regional flashpoints. 

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, 

The Belt and Road, namely the Silk Road Economic Belt and the Maritime Silk Road of the 21st Century, represent paths towards mutual benefit which will bring about closer economic integration among the countries involved, promote development of their infrastructure and institutional innovation, create new economic and employment growth areas, and enhance their capacity to achieve endogenous growth and to protect themselves against risks. 

As friends brought together by the Silk Road, China and the Arab states are natural partners in a joint effort to develop the Belt and Road. 

To develop the Belt and Road, the two sides need to follow the principles of extensive consultation, joint contribution, and shared benefits. "Extensive consultation" requires that we pool collective wisdom and carry out relevant initiatives through negotiations, so that the interests and concerns of both sides are balanced, and the wisdom and ideas of both sides are reflected. "Joint contribution" requires that we give full play to the strengths and potential of both sides, so that a combination of efforts will lead to sustained progress. As the saying goes, "A tower can be built one stone at a time; a pool can be formed from single drops of water." So we must persist in doing so. "Shared benefits" requires that both peoples benefit equally from the fruits of development, with a view to joining China and the Arab states even more closely through our shared interests and destiny. 

To develop the Belt and Road, the two sides need to be both far-sighted and down-to-earth. To be far-sighted, we need to produce the optimum top-level design, identify our orientation and goals, and establish a "1+2+3" cooperation pattern. 

"1" refers to cooperation in energy as the core. We will strengthen cooperation in the whole industrial chain of oil and natural gas, safeguard the security of energy transport corridors, and establish mutually beneficial, safe and reliable strategic cooperation in energy based on long-term friendship. 

"2" refers to "two wings" – one being infrastructure and the other being trade and investment. We will strengthen cooperation on major development programs and landmark projects for public wellbeing, and devise relevant institutional mechanisms to facilitate bilateral trade and investment. China will encourage its enterprises to import more non-oil products from the Arab states and optimize its trade structure, in a bid to increase the bilateral trade volume from last year's US$240 billion-worth to US$600 billion-worth in the decade ahead. China will also encourage its enterprises to invest in energy, petrochemicals, agriculture, manufacturing, and services in the Arab states, aiming to increase China's investment in the non-financial sector in the Arab states from last year's US$10 billion to over US$60 billion in the following decade. 

"3" refers to using three advanced technologies – nuclear energy, space satellites and new energy – as breakthrough levers in an effort to raise the level of pragmatic China-Arab cooperation. The two sides may discuss the establishment of technology transfer centers, jointly develop training centers in the Arab states for the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and launch programs to introduce China's BeiDou Navigation Satellite System to the Arab states. 

To be down-to-earth, we need to aim for quick successes. As an Arab proverb goes, "Words proved by action are the most powerful." We need to step up negotiations on programs on which consensus has already been reached and for which the foundations have been laid – programs such as the Free Trade Area between China and the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, the China-United Arab Emirates Joint Investment Fund, and the Arab states' participation in the preparations for the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. These programs must be launched as soon as the conditions are ripe. The sooner we have substantial results to show from the development of the Belt and Road Initiative, the easier it will be to keep the various parties motivated and set examples for other programs. 

The two sides need to rely on and enhance the traditional friendship between China and the Arab states. The fostering of friendship between the peoples of the two sides represents a key foundation and an important element of the Belt and Road Initiative. I hereby declare that China and the Arab states have decided to designate 2014 and 2015 as Years of China-Arab Friendship and to hold a series of friendly exchange events. We are also willing to enhance cultural exchanges by hosting arts festivals, to encourage more students to engage in social exchanges with the other side such as study, and to strengthen cooperation in tourism, aviation, journalism, and publishing. In the next three years China will train another 6,000 Arab people in various skills to be applied in the Arab states. We will share our experiences of development and poverty alleviation with the Arab states, and introduce those of our advanced technologies that are suited to their needs. In the next decade, China will organize mutual visits and exchanges by 10,000 Chinese and Arab artists, promote and support dedicated cooperation between 200 Chinese and Arab cultural institutions, and invite and support 500 Arab cultural and artistic personages to study in China. 

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, 

The establishment of the CASCF was a strategic step taken for the long-term development of China-Arab relations. After 10 years, the Forum has become an effective means by which we are able to enrich the strategic content of China-Arab relations and promote pragmatic cooperation between the two sides. Our joint efforts to develop the Belt and Road Initiative represent a new opportunity and a new starting point for upgrading the Forum. Only by seizing this opportunity will we be able to maintain our current progress while ensuring sustainable development in the future; and only by starting from this new point will we be able to broaden our prospects and give further impetus to development. In one sentence, the Forum needs to serve as the basis of and support for further development between the two sides. 

We should take the Forum as a lever to enhance communication on policy. Instead of sidestepping the differences and problems between us, we need to treat each other in a frank and honest way, communicate with each other with regard to our respective foreign policies and development strategies, enhance political trust, and facilitate coordination strategies, with a view to providing policy support for our cooperation. 

We should take the Forum as a lever to extend cooperation in a pragmatic fashion. The development initiatives of both sides are mutually complementary. We need to promote the sharing of resources on both sides, and talk and cooperate with each other with the greatest possible frankness and sincerity. Instead of trying to achieve headline-grabbing successes, collective cooperation should aim for measures that lay the foundations for long-term development. 

We should take the Forum as a lever to forge ahead with innovation. Innovation constitutes the lifeblood of the Forum. The two sides need to adopt new ideas, new measures, and new mechanisms in a bid to resolve the difficulties that we encounter in pragmatic cooperation, and clear practical bottlenecks and unlock potential for cooperation through a spirit of reform and innovation. 

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, 

The rapid development of China-Arab relations has created a close link in the future of the peoples of both sides. In Zhejiang Province where I used to work, there is a Jordanian businessman named Muhamad who runs a genuine Arabian restaurant in Yiwu City, where a lot of Arab business people gather. Through bringing genuine Arabian cuisine to Yiwu, he has achieved business success in this prosperous Chinese city, and has gone on to marry a Chinese girl and settle down in China. Integrating his own goals with the Chinese dream of happiness, this young Arab man has built a marvelous life for himself through his perseverance – he embodies a perfect combination of the Chinese Dream and the Arab Dream. 

Both the Chinese and the Arab nations have created splendid civilizations, and both have experienced setbacks amidst the changing times of modern history. Therefore, national rejuvenation has become the goal of both sides. Let us work shoulder to shoulder to promote the Silk Road spirit, strengthen China-Arab cooperation, realize the Chinese Dream and Arab revitalization, and strive for the lofty cause of peace and development for humankind! 

Shukran10! Thank you! 

* Speech at the opening ceremony of the Sixth Ministerial Conference of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum.


1 Al Salam aleikum, Arabic, meaning "Hello." 

2  Consisting of China and the 22 member states of the League of Arab States, the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum was established on January 30, 2004, aiming at strengthening the dialogue and cooperation between China and the Arab states to promote peace and development. 

3  Fan Ye: The Book of Eastern Han (Hou Han Shu). Fan Ye (398-445) was a historian of the Northern and Southern Dynasties. 

4 Records of the Manifestation of the Goddess' Power (Tian Fei Ling Ying Zhi Ji), commonly known as the "Inscription by Zheng He," records the seven voyages by Zheng He to the western ocean (Indian Ocean). See note 4, p. 288. 

5  Gan Ying (dates unknown) was an envoy of the Eastern Han Dynasty. Being sent to the Roman Empire in 97, Gan Ying traveled to as far as the Persian Gulf before returning. Although he did not reach Rome, his mission served to enhance China's knowledge of Central Asian countries. 6  Ibn Battuta (1304-1377) was a Moroccan explorer. 

7  The Bandung Conference was a meeting of India, Indonesia, Burma (Myanmar), Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Pakistan, China, and 23 other Asian and African countries, which took place during April 18-24, 1955, in Bandung, Indonesia. 

8  Feng Youlan: "Inscription on the Monument of National Southwestern Associated University," Complete Works of Sansongtang (San Song Tang Quan Ji), Vol. 14, Chinese ed., Henan People's Publishing House, Zhengzhou, 2000, p. 154. Feng Youlan (1895-1990) was a Chinese philosopher and historian of philosophy. 

9  Wei Yuan: Treatise on Scholarship and Politics (Mo Gu). Wei Yuan (1794-1857) was a thinker, Confucian classicist, historian, and poet of the Qing Dynasty. 

10 Shukran, Arabic, meaning "Thank you."

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