Roundtable dialogue on a number of regional and international issues of common interest between ECFA and the Chinese Embassy in Cairo
On August 10, 2021, ECFA held a round-table dialogue with a number of members of the Chinese Embassy in Cairo, to consult on a number of regional and international issues of common interest between Egypt and China, at the request of the embassy. The meeting, on the part of ECFA, included Ambassadors Dr. Ezzat Saad, ECFA Director, Mohamed Hegazy, Ali El Hefny, and Dr. Mohamed Fayez Farahat, Director of Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, while the Chinese delegation included Minister Plenipotentiary/ Xiao Junzheng, Chinese Deputy Head of Mission in Egypt and a number of embassy diplomats.
The meeting focused on a number of issues, including the Ethiopian Dam and the chances of reaching an agreement; China-US relations and their potential impacts on the Middle East; and the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) on the occasion of its twentieth anniversary. In this regard, the Egyptian side affirmed the importance of the Nile River for the Egyptian state, especially since the latter is located in one of the world’s most water-scarce regions, indicating the need to reach a binding legal document specifying the Dam’s filling and operation, as well as the necessity for coordination between the three countries regarding any procedures or projects related to the River. In this context, the Egyptian side called on its Chinese counterpart to try to persuade Ethiopia to enter into a constructive negotiating process with Egypt and Sudan, and also to urge Ethiopia to accept Egyptian proposals such as establishing a railway or a land road between Ethiopia and Egypt, which Chinese companies would build, which could be a gateway to similar projects across Africa.
On the other hand, the Chinese side noted that the hostile attitude taken by the United States towards China, which continued under the new U.S. administration, stems from an American miscalculation of China’s growth, which is a right guaranteed to all countries, in connection with the principles of global governance. It added that the Chinese Foreign Minister put forward in March 2021 an initiative on achieving security and stability in the Middle East region. In this regard, the Egyptian side stressed the importance of enhancing China’s involvement in the region’s issues and continuing to put forward initiatives on all its issues, especially in light of the decline of the United States’ interest in the region as a result of its interest in its internal challenges. Likewise, the 2021 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation should witness Chinese economic and political momentum to enhance Beijing’s presence in the African continent, thus contributing to adding a strategic character to China-Africa relations, to counter the purely pragmatic plans that the United States and its allies intend to embark on within the continent.
Nevertheless, some issues must be addressed in this regard, mainly the African debt crisis due to Chinese loans, as well as the issue of transparency that requires the announcement of all the projects undertaken by China in this regard, including the strengthening of consultations with the countries that the initiative brings together in order to determine priorities, objectives, policies…etc.
In conclusion, the Egyptian side suggested the possibility for the Chinese side to consider establishing another industrial zone, in addition to the existing one in the Suez Canal economic zone, since this would contribute to strengthening relations between the two countries, as well as increasing the desired export operations from such areas in Egypt.