Ahmed Abul Gheit
Ahmed Abul Gheit is the Secretary General of the Arab League.

Arab-Chinese Relations and the Chinese-Arab States Cooperation Forum

Arab-Chinese ties are deeply rooted in history. The Arabs have always recognized China as a nation with a rich and ancient civilization. For their part, the ancient Chinese were familiar with Arab civilization, with the historic Silk Road playing an important role in this regard. The Silk Road was not merely a trade route but also a bridge for cultural exchange and engagement between civilizations.
These ties have fostered fruitful engagements over the centuries. Arab travelers, geographers, and historians, who wrote of their voyages and shared their observations after returning, played a particularly significant role in enhancing mutual understanding between the two peoples by visiting China. A prime example is the renowned Arab traveler “Ibn Battuta.” He provided a detailed account of his time in China, speaking very highly of the respect Muslims were met with in various Chinese cities, which he noted in his famous work, "The Masterpiece of the Spectators of the Wonders of Lands and Oddities of Travels."
In modern times, the two sides have remained in solidarity and supported one another on matters of mutual concern. Diplomatic relations were established between the People's Republic of China and the Arab states as soon as it was founded in 1949 and the Arab countries successively gained their independence. Arab states also helped the People's Republic of China secure its seat at the United Nations.
However, cooperation between the two sides has seen significantly vitalized in the 21st century. Enhancing relations with the People's Republic of China has become a central focus of collective Arab diplomacy. Indeed, the establishment of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum twenty was among the most significant milestones in Arab-Chinese relations in the past fifty years. The Forum was announced during the historic visit of former Chinese President Hu Jintao to the headquarters of the Secretariat General of the League of Arab States on January 30, 2004, and the founding document was then signed on September 14, 2004, in Cairo.
The creation of this forum marked the beginning of a major shift in the trajectory of Arab-Chinese relations. It created a crucial institutional framework for joint cooperation that brought China together with all Arab countries for the first time in history. The Forum was established at a time when global interest in the Asian continent was increasing, and the Arab League recognized the importance of diversifying its partnerships by strengthening its engagement with the East and strengthening cooperation with influential countries in Asia, most notably China.
Arab-Chinese cooperation has boomed since the establishment of the Forum. The frameworks for cooperation it laid out have expanded to encompass various fields, including political, economic, cultural, media, and developmental domains. The many meetings and events that have been held through the Forum reflect the deepening and broadening of these relations.
The first Arab-Chinese Summit, which was held on December 9, 2022, in Riyadh, was another milestone for cooperation between the two sides. The first of its kind in the history of relations between the two sides, the Summit yielded important outcomes. Three key documents were signed: the Riyadh Declaration, the Outline of the Comprehensive Cooperation Plan between the People’s Republic of China and the Arab States, and the Document on Deepening the Sino-Arab Strategic Partnership for Peace and Development.
The main reason for this Forum’s success is the political will shown on both sides to ensure that it thrives, as well as their mutual commitment to implementing the provisions of the Forum’s executive programs. The gradual approach to expanding the forum and developing its mechanisms has also helped, allowing for the achievement of tangible results. These efforts have significantly contributed to enhancing communication and cooperation between China and the Arab states in various fields, including political, economic, social, media, and other matters.
The evolution of this relationship has contributed strongly to the growth and expansion of trade relations between the Arab countries and China. China has become one of the Arab nations’ leading trading partners, as the volume of trade between China and the Arab countries has increased more than tenfold since the establishment of the Forum, rising from $36.7 billion in 2004 to $400 billion in 2023. This Forum is expected to continue to evolve steadily, given the promising opportunities presented by Arab-Chinese cooperation and the mutual commitment of both sides to continue along this path.
Arab-Chinese cooperation is founded on their respect for the principles and objectives of the United Nations Charter and the Charter of the League of Arab States, as well as their commitment to peaceful coexistence. Both sides strive for peace and stability across the globe through the diplomatic resolution of international disputes, and they both reject the use of force or threat to use force in managing international relations. Their cooperation is also founded in upholding the principle of sovereign equality, as well as mutual respect for the independence, unity, and territorial integrity of states, and opposition to interference in other states’ domestic affairs.
The Arab and Chinese sides have also sought, through joint meetings, to coordinate their responses to regional and international issues of common concern, supporting one another’s efforts to safeguard their independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity. China supports the Arab countries in their just and legitimate pursuits and their actions to secure their national interests, while the Arab countries affirm their support for the One China principle.
In this context, China has repeatedly affirmed its support for the Palestinian people’s efforts to retain their legitimate national rights, establish an independent Palestinian state along the borders of June 4, 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and advance the peace process within the framework of United Nations Resolutions, the principle of land for peace, and the Arab Peace Initiative. China has also consistently provided large amounts of humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people.
In his speech at the first Arab-Chinese summit held in Riyadh on 12/9/2022, Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed his country’s support for the Palestinian cause. “The historical injustice suffered by the Palestinian people cannot continue indefinitely, and the legitimate national interests cannot be traded. The demand for an independent state cannot be vetoed... the Chinese side firmly supports the establishment of an independent state of Palestine that enjoys full sovereignty based on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital. China supports granting Palestine full member status at the United Nations, and it will continue to provide humanitarian aid to the Palestinians.”
These positions in support of the Palestinian cause, along with China’s humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people and UNRWA, have been highly appreciated by the Arab side. The nations of the Arab world look forward to seeing this support continue and have endorsed China's efforts to back the Palestinian cause at the United Nations. This role is particularly significant given China's status as a permanent member of the Security Council. The stance that China has taken during the brutal assault on the Gaza Strip exemplifies this commitment. It has stood by truth and justice, expressing its clear support for the just cause of the Palestinian people.
It has been twenty years since the establishment of the Chinese-Arab States Cooperation Forum. Both sides are eagerly anticipating the 10th Ministerial Conference of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum that will be held in Beijing late this month, and they both expect it to yield positive results. The Conference is expected to meet the aspirations of the Arab and Chinese peoples and to reflect their shared cultural heritage and high hopes for a promising future.