Written Interview with Al-Ahram by State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi
Q1. Welcome to Egypt. Could you share with us the purpose of your visit? What will be the focus of your discussions with Egyptian leaders?
Wang Yi: I am delighted to pay a visit to Egypt at the start of the new year. This is the first stop of my first overseas trip in 2020. Both China and Egypt are ancient civilizations and we enjoy a time-honored friendship. Egypt is the first Arab and African country to establish diplomatic relations with New China. Over the 60-plus years of the diplomatic relationship, the peoples of our two countries have always rendered each other understanding, trust and support. The China-Egypt relationship has stood the test of the shifting international landscape and set a fine example of relations between developing countries.
China highly values its traditional friendship and mutually beneficial cooperation with the brotherly country of Egypt. In the past few years, President Xi Jinping and President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi had multiple meetings and reached important common understanding on a wide range of issues. Together, they have charted the course for the further growth of our bilateral relationship and cooperation. With the shared commitment and strong guidance of the two Presidents, we have established and grown a comprehensive strategic partnership. Our two countries now enjoy solid mutual political trust, fruitful practical cooperation, productive cultural exchanges and a close bond of friendship between the two peoples.
I am visiting Egypt to follow through on the important agreement reached by our Presidents in an effort to bring the China-Egypt comprehensive strategic partnership to a higher level. During the visit, I will call on President Al-Sisi and hold with Foreign Minister Shoukry a new round of strategic dialogue between the two Foreign Ministries. I look forward to an in-depth exchange of views with the Egyptian side, focusing on pursuing all-round growth of the bilateral ties, greater synergy between the Belt and Road Initiative and Egypt’s Vision 2030, stronger practical cooperation in various fields, and closer communication and coordination on regional and international affairs.
Q2. Will Egypt and China have more economic and trade cooperation in the new year, especially on the Suez Canal Corridor Development Project and the New Administrative Capital?
Wang Yi: Recent years have seen a boom in the economic cooperation and trade between China and Egypt, which has brought tangible benefits to the peoples of both countries. Despite the complex and fluid international trade environment, trade between our two countries crossed, for the first time, the US$10 billion mark in 2013, and has since stayed on an upward trajectory. It reached US$13.8 billion in 2018, and China is now Egypt’s largest trading partner.
China is committed to the opening-up policy and wishes to work with all other countries to build an open and inclusive world economy driven by innovation. China has hosted the international import expo for two years running. Egypt was an active participant on both occasions. And it was the guest of honor country at the first expo. In the face of the current situation, China and Egypt are both unequivocal in opposing trade protectionism, firm in safeguarding the multilateral trading regime, and resolute in upholding free trade with concrete actions.
Our commercial cooperation is far more than trade. We are also making steady progress in cooperation in such areas as investment, industrial capacity, infrastructure and financial services. The Chinese government encourages Chinese companies in taking an active part in Egypt’s strategic projects to support the Egyptian economy, including the two major strategic projects, namely, the Suez Canal Corridor Development Project and the New Administrative Capital. As a matter of fact, the China-Egypt Suez Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone is located right in the Suez Canal Economic Zone, and the development priorities and management model of the cooperation zone are highly compatible with the strategy of the Suez Canal Corridor Development Project. The over 60 companies in the cooperation zone have created a great number of local jobs and helped raise Egypt’s industrial manufacturing capacity. They export many of their products to Europe and other parts of Africa. They are now a source of foreign currency revenues, and serve to bring out Egypt’s geographical advantage as a link between Asia, Africa and Europe.
The CBD project of the New Administrative Capital undertaken by the China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) has been widely acclaimed in Egypt for both construction and technical prowess. Moreover, the CSCEC contracted with many local companies, hired local employees and sourced local raw materials, all contributing to enhancing Egypt’s overall engineering capacity.
In addition, our cooperation projects in electricity, transportation and other areas that concern people’s lives, including the EETC power transmission project, the 10th of Ramadan City railway project and the Benban Solar Park, are either already up and running or making solid progress.
I am confident that with the deepening of our economic and trade cooperation, more and more Chinese companies will get involved in Egypt’s economic development and contribute their part to Egypt’s national development and rejuvenation.
Q3. What will be the priority areas of China’s investment in Egypt?
Wang Yi: Recent years have seen growing investment cooperation between our two countries as we deepen the Belt and Road cooperation and forge an effective synergy between our development strategies. To date, Chinese companies have made over US$7 billion of investment in Egypt, registered 1,560-plus local firms and created more than 30,000 local jobs in energy, infrastructure, manufacturing, agriculture and mining.
Building on this solid basis, China will scale up its investment in more areas in light of Egypt’s actual needs to pursue mutual benefit and win-win results. President Al-Sisi said at the opening of the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation last April that Belt and Road development dovetails with the priority areas outlined in the Egypt’s Vision 2030, and that Belt and Road development is very much aligned with Egypt’s direction of development. Going forward, China will continue to tilt its investment toward Egypt’s priority areas. And technology-intensive emerging sectors such as new energy, electric cars, aerospace and telecommunications are expected to be the new drivers of our bilateral cooperation. This will lend new impetus to our cooperation under the Belt and Road framework.
Q4. Have Chinese entrepreneurs or companies encountered any obstacles or problems in Egypt? If yes, have they held back Chinese investment in Egypt? And what are the obstacles and problems?
Wang Yi: An enabling business environment is widely seen as essential for attracting business investment. For China and Egypt, the good relationship and strong friendship between the two governments and between the two peoples, are our natural strength in fostering a sound business environment. Against this backdrop, we have been working together to bolster our investment cooperation. China has encouraged its companies to invest and do business in Egypt, and asked them to abide by local laws and regulations and fulfill due social responsibilities. Egypt, on its part, has made active efforts in improving its business climate in recent years, including introducing the new investment law, and other regulations and policy incentives. Thanks to our joint efforts, Chinese companies now enjoy an ever-improving business environment and feel more confident about investing in Egypt.
I should point out here that for some time, certain countries have been smearing and spreading rumors about Chinese investment overseas, especially investment in Africa. They use various means to disrupt China’s cooperation with African countries. Such practices against China have no factual basis and are driven by ill intentions. China firmly opposes such moves and they are bound to be rejected by the African countries too. To our encouragement, these contemptible moves do not work in Egypt, as the Egyptian government and people truly welcome Chinese investment, truly appreciate the technologies and jobs such investment brings, and truly expect China-Egypt practical cooperation to contribute more to Egypt’s development. This fair and positive position of Egypt is highly meaningful in boosting Chinese firms’ confidence in the Egyptian market.
Q5. Last year saw a surge of Chinese tourists to Egypt who made 500,000 visits. That said, given the fact that China is the world’s largest source of overseas tourists, this figure still looks rather moderate, especially when compared with the number of Chinese tourists visiting the ROK or some other countries. What are your thoughts on increasing Chinese tourists to Egypt and what plan on the Egyptian side are you aware of?
Wang Yi: Egypt is a major tourist destination with rich tourism resources. Tourism is one of Egypt’s pillar industries and tourism cooperation is also an important part of China-Egypt practical cooperation. As you rightly noted, recent years have seen a steady increase of the Chinese tourists traveling overseas, not only to China’s neighboring countries but also to distant destinations with exotic attractions. And Egypt is one of such places. In the past three years, the number of Chinese tourists to Egypt has been growing at over 30% on average annually. This remarkable speed is far higher than the overall growth of overseas trips by Chinese tourists, and reflects the huge potential of our tourism cooperation. China will continue to encourage Chinese tourists to visit Egypt. We also hope that Egypt will further tap the Chinese market, enhance safety protection for tourists and provide them with convenience. We welcome Egyptian authorities and companies to stage tourism promotions in China. The relevant departments of our two sides may discuss the possibility of holding Year of Tourism activities in each other’s countries to further invigorate our tourism cooperation and attract more Chinese tourists to Egypt.