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  Home > Latest News
An Interview with Egyptian Ambassador to China, Mahmoud Allam
2010/07/06

Source: The Contemporary World, July issue, 2009

Reporter: China and Egypt have enjoyed a long history of friendship. In 1956 the two countries established diplomatic relations. In 1999, the two countries established a strategic partnership. This friendship has a very special significance for both sides. Mr. Ambassador, what is your view on the current status of China-Egypt relations?

Ambassador: Egypt is the first Arab and African country to establish diplomatic relations with China. Egypt is also the first Arab and African country to establish strategic partnership with China. China-Egypt relations may be considered exemplary for relations between two regional powers or even between developing countries. We have not only achieved great results in many areas through cooperation, but we also support each other on many international occasions, holding relatively consistent positions on many regional and international issues. Both being peace loving countries, China and Egypt have been striving to make vigorous contributions to international security and stability.

The strategic partnership provides a new driver for China-Egypt strategic cooperation in many areas. China-Egypt economic and trade relations have made great progress in the last 4 years, with trade volume doubling from 3 billion U.S. Dollars to 6.4 billion U.S. Dollars. Egypt is attracting more and more Chinese enterprises and investors. Aside from economic cooperation, we are also conducting good cooperation in other areas such as military, education and culture.The two sides have conducted strategic visits in a frequent manner, and the two governments and parliaments have also opened a regular dialogue mechanism. From strategic partnership'sperspective, our relations are not limited to bilateral fields. Instead, we are making many contributions to regional cooperation initiatives such as China-Arab States Cooperation Forum and Forum on China-Africa Cooperation.

Reporter: He Guoqiang, member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and Secretary General of CPC Disciplinary Committee, just headed a CPC delegation to visit Egypt. What is the significance of this visit in terms of development of China-Egypt relations?

Ambassador: From June 13 to June 15 in 2009, visit by He Guoqiang, member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and Secretary General of CPC Disciplinary Committee, toEgypt strongly promoted the continued development of China-Egypt state and party-to-party relations.

Egypthighly valuesthis visit. President Mubarak met Mr. He Guoqiang and his delegation and discussedbilateral relations and ways to facilitate the development of bilateral ties. In terms of party-to-party exchanges, the delegation had extensive contacts with Egyptian political parties, including especially the meeting between Mr. He Guoqiang and Mr. Safwat Al Sherif, General Secretary of National Democratic Party. The two parties also signed a cooperation memorandum, which will greatly facilitate the development of the party-to-party relations. For example, the memorandum stipulates that the two parties may send work teams or observation teams to each other for research purpose on certain issues when such needs arise.The parties may formulate exchange plans at the beginning of each year based on their work schedules and arrangements. The parties will support the exchanges between women, youth and other mass organizations. The parties may also hold forum on issues of mutual concern, and will actively participate in bilateral and multilateral international conferences organized by each other. The parties will encourage information sharing and personnel exchange, to realize the healthy development of bilateral ties. The parties will continue to strive to create a healthy environment for the economic and trade cooperation between the two countries. The parties will support cooperation between scientific research institutions from both countries. The parties will conduct wide-ranging exchanges and contacts on global and regional hot spot issues, particularly issues concerning world and regional security, stability, peace and development.

The visit by Mr. He Guoqiang helps Chinese leaders to understand the development level of Egypt, as well as the function performed by National Democratic Party in the development of Egypt.

Reporter: China has always valued the development of relations with African and Arab countries. Mr. Ambassador mentioned China-Arab States Cooperation Forum and Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, both of which are platforms for China to strengthen cooperation and exchanges with relevant countries. What is Mr. Ambassador's view on the two multilateral mechanisms, and what are Egypt's expectations forthem?

Ambassador:China-Arab States Cooperation Forum and Forum on China-Africa Cooperation can be categorized as new models of cooperation between regional countries and a major power. These two mechanisms enable China to open effective dialogues with African and Arab regional countries, and at the same time have createdan exemplary model for establishingmore suchforums. A Russian representative to Arab League once indicated intention to create a dialogue mechanism between Russia and Arab League. European Union, Japan and Turkey all hope to establish such forums with Africa to strengthen exchanges. Since its founding in 2004, China-Arab States Cooperation Forum has achieved many results.Forum on China-Africa Cooperation will see its 10-year anniversary in 2010. China and African countries have used this Forum to carry out fruitful exchanges and cooperation. In 2006 during the Beijing Summit of this Forum, President Hu Jintao announced proposals on the development of China-Africa relations, which added more substantive significance to the Forum. The two Forums allow both sides to cooperate in a greater number of fields and wider areas through sincere dialogues. China and Africa have cooperated in areas such as infrastructure development, agriculture, public health and human resources training, and are expanding cooperation into new areas. For example, there would be another Ministerial Conference of Forum on China-Africa Cooperation at Sharm el-Sheikh in 2009, with an associated Women' Forum at the same time. Separately, China and Africa have begun discussions on exchanges between their legislatures and government ministries, to enhance mutual understanding between their respective legislatures. These exchanges will also allow the two sides to jointly explore ways to establish more effective legal mechanisms to coordinate their relations, in the context of continual development of bilateral ties. The two sides will also cooperate on scientific research. Chinese and African research institutions may collaborate on research into current issues in Africa, such as desertification, prevention and treatment of epidemic diseases, in order to provide solutions.

I believe the two Forums should be able to continue to innovate anddevelop itself and exercise its full dynamic energy. Furthermore, their scope should not be limited to official and political spheres, and should be extended to other areas. This would enable more publicand non-governmental organizations to participate, and conduct exchanges within the Forum frameworks.

Reporter: On June 8, 2009, the International Liaison Department of the Central Committee of the CPC and the Zhejiang provincial government jointly held a "China-Arab States, China-Africa Small and Medium Enterprises Cooperation Forum". This is also an important event organized by CPC through party-to-party channels within the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum and Forum on China-Africa Cooperation frameworks. What is Mr. Ambassador's view on this event?

Ambassador: I am very glad to see the value CPC places on the development of China-Africa state and party-to-party relations. Such in-depth cooperation helps to facilitate win-win for bilateral relations. CPC has played a very direct role in guiding Chinese enterprises to invest in Egypt. Furthermore, National Democratic Party of Egypt has also responded positively to CPC proposals on advancing the development of bilateral economic and trade cooperation. China and Egypt have opened new ways for development of small and medium Enterprises (SMEs) through party-to-party channels.

National Democratic Party of Egypt responded to the Chinese invitation on the SME cooperation forum in a very pragmatic way, sending two important figures to attend. One is a member of the party General Secretariat, while the other is responsible for the Egyptian social development fund that is responsible for SME development. From this forum, Egypt learned small and medium project development experiencesfor SMEs. We strongly support Chinese SMEs to come to Egypt, cooperate with Egyptian SMEs, so they can learn from each other, utilize each other's strengths to compensate for their own weaknesses, and foster Egyptian SMEs for further development.

Reporter: The current ongoing global financial crisis may be the direct driver for holding this SME cooperation forum. Please brief us on the impact of financial crisis on Egypt.

Ambassador: These days the world is becoming smallerand smaller, and issues atone place can certainly have an impact somewhere else. Therefore inevitably, Egypt has been impacted by the financial crisis. Egyptian economy has consistently enjoyed 7% - 7.5% growth rate from2004and was expected to reach 8%in 2009. However, according to the latest statistics, the growth rate is only 4% so far. On the other hand, due to the shrinking global market size and reduction of international trade, the traffic volume through Suez Canal and resulting revenues from it have both decreased dramatically.

Not everything from financial crisis is negative though. There are some positive influences as well. Many enterprises including Chinese enterprises have started to go out and look for new investment destinations. As the Egyptian currency exchange rate is relatively low and fairly stable, it offers many benefits to foreign investors. Therefore Egypt has become one of the new hot destinations for foreign investors. In the past 5 years, Egypt has been hailed as the latest emerging economy and the most attractive country for foreign investors in the African and Middle East regions. In the meantime, we also recognized the importance to develop economic and trade relations with developing countries, especially China.

One of the most direct causes of the financial crisis was the control mechanism of major powers in the financial system. In the future, the financial system should be more democratic, rather than dominated by a few Western powers.

Reporter: China and Egypt have continually maintained steady pace of economic and trade cooperation. What are your comments on the current economic and trade relations? Aside from economic and trade cooperation, in what other areas should they strengthen cooperation?

Ambassador: In terms of economic and trade relations, currently China enjoys a relatively large surplus in bilateral trade. One of the main reasons we invite Chinese enterprises to invest in Egypt is to achieve bilateral trade balance. Development in economic and trade relations requires both sides to engage in more and deeper thought and cultural exchanges. Since ancient times, China and the Arab world have exchanged visits through trade via Silk Roadson the land and sea. During these trade journeys, Chinese merchants were not only concerned about investment and materials aspects, but also about cultural and spiritual exchanges. It was through these exchanges that the Chinese and Arab peoplesbuilt mutual understanding and cultivated friendly relations. We hope both sides can reach consensus through contacts in all areas, and extend this consensus to all areas in our social lives.

Separatelyspeaking, in terms of cultural exchanges and dialogues, the Dialogue of Civilizations is a topic worthy of exploringby both sides. I always believe there were far more dialogues between the West and the East than those within the East itself. In the past 20 years the trend of globalization has emerged and yet we do not wish to see the end result to become domination ofthe West and Western civilization model. We hope to reach a balance, which can only be realized when the Eastern civilization is widely disseminated and understood by the world.

Chinais in continual development and is in a rising trend, which is pulling the entire East into arising trend as well. Chinese traditional culture including Confucianism and Taoism is still influencing the entire Chinese society. At the same time, this ancient thought system still holds positive significance for the development of the world.

The Arab world and China do have many differences due to historical and environment factors, but they share more similarities amongthem than that withthe West. I support deeper dialogues in the cultural area, to cultivate our common ground, and build a balanced value system for the world.

Reporter: Speaking of Dialogue of Civilizations, Obama delivered a speech in Cairo on June 4, 2009, hoping to improve relations with Islamic world. What is your view on this?

Ambassador: United States is the most powerful country in the world. Since 2001, the United Stateshas taken a new style and model in its interactions with other countries. But this style and model proved to be a mistake. After hearing the speech from Obama, I think it is very significant. Dialogues and exchanges between civilizations should have more historical depth, and done on a deeperlevel instead of on the surface, in order to achieve good results. The problems to be solved through dialogue of civilizations are not only problems in the relations between U.S. and Islamic world, but also thoseconcerning the future of the world, and thosein the future world concerning how to handle relations between world powers and those who are not world powers. This also shows the importance of the concept of Harmonious World proposed by China. A Harmonious World is built on the basis of fairness, justice and mutual care. Currently, there are more and more interactions between different countries, and yet it is also these interactions that have caused many extreme incidents. For those countries that are capable of advancing dialogues between civilizations and support using dialogue to bring a new model of interactionto the world, they arerequired to take up the responsibility and make possible such dialogues. From this perspective, I think China is the most suitable one.

Reporter: What is Mr. Ambassador's view on Obama administration's Middle East policy? Does Obama's speech indicate an adjustment in his administration's Middle East policy?

Ambassador: From ideological and political perspectives, Obama's policy,especially his latest speech,fully reflectshis considerations for civilizations. Obama hopes to reshape the American valuesandU.S. relations with other countries. If the United Statescan view the world not just from its own interests, but also from a moral perspective, then it can come up with a historically correct position, including its position on the Middle Eastand Palestinian people.

Since its founding, Israel has been taking retributions for its past sufferings, by engaging the world powers and acting as an agent for their interests. But Israel has failed to recognizethat its sufferings were caused by the West instead of the Middle Eastpeople. After the Cold War, Israel has been representing U.S. and other Western countries to fight for oil interests. Today it is striving to ensure that the War on Terror waged by the Western countries in this region will prevail. Due to this reason, the Western countries have ignored the interests of people in Middle East, and ignored the fact that the majority of Palestinians have become refugees. Their behaviorisin complete disregard tothe principles of international laws, and the basic principles of fairness and justice. Currently, Israel is concerned with the further development of terrorist and extremist forces in the region, yet ithascompletely forgottenthat these terrorist forceshave come out of the unfair treatment tothe people in Middle East by the Western countries. As a country, Israel sees itself as someone outside of its region, not a member of it. Currently, the main problem in Middle East is whether the United Stateswill apply moral or interest-based considerations inhandling its relations with Middle East countries, and whether Israel can abandon its current position and work on regional issues as a member of the region. In the near term, the United Stateswill continue to fight for Israel's interests, but this will not last very long. Israel cannot use its victim status to deal with regional issues forever. Egypt signed a series of peace treaties with Israel, and has had no major disputes with itfor many years. But Egypt has sparedno effort in advancing the cause of Palestinian state, without any compromises. I think China is a country that can deeply understand the term "rights". China can understand our ideals and principles, and support our approaches.

Reporter: 2009 marksthe 60thanniversary of the founding of People's Republic of China. What is your view on China's status and model of development? What suggestions do you have for China's development?

Ambassador:The 60thanniversary of the founding of People's Republic of China is a historic moment for China, a major milestone event. China's independence and development was led by the CPC. If we say China's reform and opening up have achieved outstanding results in the last 30 years, then CPC is instrumental in all of this.TheCPC has not only led China's domestic development, but also properly handled various historical and global incidents. At the same time, it has also led the Chinese people to a speedy development. The CPC is capable of uniting people from all walks of life in China and building a strong country. As forthe question of how to build a country like China with a huge population and how to conduct exchanges and cooperation with other countries whilstretaining its own characteristics, the CPC has a wholesome way of thinking.And this way of thinkingis not just in the minds of the top leadership, but also recognized and practiced by common Chinese people. We call this way of thinkingthe success model of China. It is through following this way of thinkingand using itto guide everyday work that hasit made possible for Chinato have achieved full results in its development.

In terms of the challenges China faces in its development, other countries have challenges too. I believe China's social system and the CPC have the capacity to renovate governance, foresee regionalchanges, overcome challenges, and achieve even greater development.

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