During my participation in the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, I have seen and heard many things that I have heard before, but the vital question here is: how could we activate the strategic relationship between Egypt and China? I think the relations of the two countries are weird. A senior Egyptian official told me that Chinese investments in Egypt are less than Yemen’s! I told him that I was surprised to know that Thailand is the largest Asian investor in Egypt. Moreover, the number of Chinese tourists who come to Egypt does not exceed 180,000, out of 120 million Chinese tourists worldwide.
I was also surprised that there was no Arab leader at the summit held on the sidelines of the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, which included 28 leaders, notably Vladimir Putin. I think that the Chinese side has the right to be deeply disturbed by the absence of Arabs. There was a strong debate over western confusion and the problems of the Belt and Road Initiative, as the Chinese side has been forced to change the name several times as a result of claims that “China attempts to dominate the world” or “a new way to plunder the wealth of developing countries.”
I think Beijing needs to exert more effort and increase its investments in Egypt so as to gain more friends who appreciate its efforts. Egypt is one of the first countries to join the initiative. I think that Egypt can dispel the doubts of developing countries, especially African ones, and work with Beijing in mega projects on a multilateral scale, as it does with Japan. Egypt should set a successful model as the Suez Canal is one of the six main axes of China’s project. I think that Egypt is really the “Silk Road Gate” as it was described in the Egyptian investment summit, held in Beijing on the sidelines of the forum.
I think China really understands the importance of Egypt, but it has not yet realised that Egypt changed after two revolutions and that Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi is a popular leader who has an “ambitious project” and not enough time to turn his hopes into reality.
The current Egyptian situation obliges the Egyptian leadership to deal with serious investment partners, whether the United States, Japan, South Korea, or even Taiwan. There is now a long line of countries willing to establish a “fruitful partnership” with Egypt. These powers understand the importance of Egypt. The Chinese speakers from major Chinese companies and institutions in the Egyptian Investment Summit held on the sidelines of the Belt and Road Forum praised the historical relationship between Cairo and Beijing. They all know that Egypt is the gate of the golden triangle, which includes the countries that signed the free trade and partnership agreements with Egypt, whether in the European Union, Africa, or Arab countries. A representative of one of the largest Chinese companies said, “they do not see other powerful nations in Africa but Egypt. He asked me to keep it as a secret because his company was negotiating over the largest project ever seen on the African continent. He promised that we would meet in Cairo soon to complete our dialogue because they would be attending further negotiations in Egypt.
I think the new thing in the game is that Egypt is actually negotiating well, and the ministers do not spend their time abroad for fun, because they know very well that the Egyptian political leadership expects certain results. It may explain why only the ministers of trade, industry, and investment attended the forum, while the other six ministers that were to take part in it did not travel.
I believe that Minister of Trade Tarik Kabil revealed some messages that indicate that the Chinese side understands the situation in Egypt has changed, referring to the decline of Chinese investments in Cairo. The minister expressed Egypt’s desire to obtain a large part of the advantages of the Belt and Road initiative, mainly the spinning and weaving industry that China wants to transfer abroad because of its inability to compete.
Beautiful statements are no longer sufficient. Egypt now needs huge investments, labour-intensive projects, and millions of tourists. Egypt wants more than 10 million Chinese tourists. It is no secret that Cairo evaluates its relations with others on all levels.