On 1 September, a seminar themed “China-Egypt cooperation in the context of the Belt and Road Initiative” was held by the Department of Arabic Language and Culture, jointly sponsored by Peking University and Cairo University. On the Egyptian side, participants included Dr. Gaber Gad Nassar, President of Cairo University, Saed Yehia Mahmoud Daw, Vice President of Cairo University, Dr. Rehab Mahmoud, Dean of the Confucius Institute and Director of the Department of Chinese Language and Literature of Cairo University, and other members of the Egyptian delegate. On the Chinese side, participants included Yang Fuchang, former Vice Foreign Minister, Lin Fengmin, Dean of the Department of Arabic Language and Culture, Wu Bingbing, Director of the Research Institute for Arab-Islamic Culture, Sha Zongping from the Department of Philosophy and Li Teng from the international office of Xinhua News Agency. Former Palestinian Ambassador to China H.E. Mustafa, who now teaches in PKU, faculty members and students of the Department of Arabic Language and Culture and overseas students from Egypt were also present.
The seminar was chaired by Prof. Lin Fengmin. Mr. Yang Fuchang made the first speech in which he emphasized that the Chinese leaders attach great importance to bilateral relations. President Xi Jinping visited Egypt this year and President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi visited China twice in three years and was invited to attend the G20 summit in Hangzhou this September. The Belt and Road Initiative put forward by the Chinese government has attracted world attention, which not only benefits China, but also neighboring countries, including many Arab countries. Mr. Yang has a profound sentiment for Egypt and has always been following Egypt’s development. After a studying experience at Cairo University back in the 1950s, he served as the ambassador to Egypt and visited Egypt many times. In his speech, he also diagnosed the problems facing Egypt and offered his insightful suggestions for its development.
President Gaber Nassar echoed Mr. Yang Fuchang’s views by pointing out the multiple crises present in Egypt which include a grave economic crisis and a more serious cultural crisis. He also believed that political reform should go hand in hand with economic reform. In addition, religious crisis is also prevalent in Egypt which is one of the sources of extremism and terrorism. But having said that, he was optimistic about Egypt’s future development in the sense that it boasts a huge market and a population of over 90 million. The appetite for infrastructural development is growing and the government encourages foreign investment by revising and rolling out new legislations. On the Belt and Road Initiative, he thought that it was built on the Chinese notion of mutual benefit which is far different from the western thinking of hegemony and coincides with the development ideas of Egypt and many Middle East countries, and that China should strengthen its cultural influence in Arab and African states. China and Egypt need to promote cooperation across the board and create a favorable cultural environment. He hoped that more foreign students could learn Chinese and more Chinese cultural classics would be translated into Arabic.
Ambassador Mustafa said that relations between China and Arab countries were underpinned by culture and people-to-people exchanges. Currently, bilateral relations are sound between China and Arab countries and there is great potential for economic cooperation between China and Egypt.
Mr. Li Teng elaborated on China-Egypt cooperation in media. He traced its history to over 60 years ago which culminated in the official establishment of the Middle East branch headquartered in Cairo and briefed on the current presence of Xinhua News Agency in the Middle East. He stressed that the Agency paid special attention to coverage on Egypt with altogether 1,380 reports of all kinds and analytical pieces accounting for 30% of the total coming from the Egyptian branch in the first half of this year. As to future cooperation, Li held that news in the Arab world need to be interpreted and covered from a Chinese perspective and that the coverage could be more diversified.
Director Wu Bingbing maintained that Egypt held an extremely important geo-political position in that it was the first Arab and African country to establish diplomatic relations with China and is now one of the two major pillars for China-Arab cooperation. It is a leader in Arab culture and plays an important religious role in the Arab world. Egypt is a moderate Islamic country and China’s diplomatic policy on Egypt always features peaceful development. The Belt and Road Initiative is not only a corridor, but also a network that spans across economic, trade and cultural cooperation, through which, China will on the one hand demonstrate its culture, and on the other hand offer its experience to the world.
Prof. Sha Zongping shared his views through the lens of religion. He said that, given the fact that both China and Egypt are multi-ethnic countries and both had dealt with the United States and the Soviet Union in its history, China could learn from Egypt in terms of domestic governance, in particular, border and minority issues, as well as east-west relations. He also discussed the problem of the abusive use of the mark of “halal”in packages.
This seminar is an important component of the China-Africa “20+20” program, which also adds splendor to the serial events under the China-Egypt Cultural Year held by Peking University.
President Gaber Nassar was invited by PKU Party Secretary Zhu Shanlu, President Lin Jianhua and Vice President Li Yansong. During his visit, the aforementioned three leaders and Ning Qi, Dean of the School of Foreign Languages, met respectively with the delegate from Cairo University to discuss cooperation on joint graduate students’ programs for Middle East studies and academic exchanges by faculty and students. Initial consensus was reached and both sides expressed their readiness to promote the Confucius Institute in Cairo University. (Li Haipeng and Gu Yun’an)