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Sharing opportunities and growth

JUL . 05 2021

Moustapha Saphariny has witnessed China's development into an important force indispensable for global peace and stability and a key pillar of global economic growth. [Photo by Pan Yiqiao/China Daily]

China's historic CPC-led development set to help other countries amid greater globalization, veteran diplomat and scholar says, reports Alexis Hooi.

Having been in China for the past half century, veteran Arab diplomat and scholar Moustapha Saphariny says he has had an invaluable "front-row seat" to the country's unprecedented achievements and development.

"China has developed from a relatively backward country to the second-largest economy in the world," says Saphariny, 72, a former Palestinian ambassador to China and director of the Arab Information Center in Beijing. "From the 1960s and 1970s, when Chinese people used tickets and coupons to obtain basic necessities like clothes and food, to today's digital shopping and e-commerce.

"I've witnessed the development of China from a relatively closed country into an important force indispensable for global peace and stability, and an important pillar of global economic growth."

Saphariny arrived in China in 1969 under a special work-study arrangement, and started learning Chinese and studied history at Peking University in the early 1970s, subsequently attaining a doctorate in international politics.

Amid the centennial celebrations of the Communist Party of China this year, Saphariny points to what he considers to be three major stages in the country's impressive development under CPC leadership.

The first stage marks how the country "stood up" to achieve liberation and independence.

"After years of heroic struggle, the Chinese people finally overthrew the rule of imperialism, feudalism and bureaucratic capitalism," he says.

"China's achievements included adopting an independent foreign policy of peace, the 1955 Bandung Conference of Asian and African states marking a turning point in diplomatic relations that broke the isolation imposed by imperialism and its Western allies on China, and the restoration of its legitimate seat in the United Nations in 1971," he says.

Moustapha Saphariny, the then Palestinian ambassador to China (first from right), with other Arab diplomats, during a field trip in 1996 visiting the Shengli Oilfield in Shandong province, organized by China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. [Photo provided to China Daily]

The second stage involves the economic growth and progress sparked by the policy of reform and opening-up, Saphariny says.

"China steadily moved forward on the road of scientific and technological progress. The process of reform and opening-up is not one of random deployment, but an unprecedented, innovative theory with clear objectives, dimensions and results.

"Socialism with Chinese characteristics is a development path chosen by the Chinese people in accordance with the country's special conditions.

"Reform is the foundation of opening-up. Opening-up means enhancing China's comprehensive strength through the exchange of technology and experience, as well as mutual benefits from the cultural achievements of other countries. Introducing everything that conforms to the interests of the people and the country, and rejecting everything that does not conform to them," he says.

To create a peaceful and cooperative regional environment of mutual benefit while maintaining international relations, China has also built on its domestic achievements to strengthen cooperation with neighboring countries, Saphariny says.

The third, current stage is how China is "becoming stronger" as it works toward establishing a "well-off society in an all-round way", building "a prosperous, strong, democratic, civilized, harmonious and beautiful modern socialist country", says Saphariny, whose rich experiences in China and seminal study at Peking University have been compiled under a major oral history project of the elite educational institution.

"Peking University is a very special place for me. When I first arrived here, I didn't know much about the world.... It was in China and at Peking University that I realized that force was not necessarily the only way to resolve disputes between states or any international affairs," he recalls.

"There is also dealing with any dispute and international affairs through dialogue and consultation. I think that's a very good, very valuable point of view."

Teaching Arab courses in Ningxia University a decade ago. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Win-win approach

With the Chinese economy becoming an important pillar of global economic growth, the country is also "firmly safeguarding the international system with the UN as the core and the international order based on international law, practicing multilateralism, and maintaining fairness and justice as the mainstay", Saphariny says.

"China continues to support and practice true multilateralism, continues to promote the democratization of international relations, adhere to the common values of peace, development, fairness, justice, democracy and freedom for all mankind, as well as jointly building a community of human destiny that transcends differences in system and civilization."

The Belt and Road Initiative alone reflects an "economic development strategy centered on openness, tolerance, mutual learning, mutual benefit and win-win cooperation through in-depth and comprehensive research of the domestic and international situation. It turns the risks and challenges facing China and the world into opportunities for development", he says.

Arab countries in effect form a "convergence point" of the BRI; the initiative, important for the world and especially so for developing countries, is thus particularly significant for the Arab community as the natural partner for China to jointly develop the Belt and Road, he says.

"China and Arab countries have a deep tradition of friendship and cooperation. The Silk Road 2,000 years ago was the beginning of friendly exchanges between China and Arab countries," he says.

China is one of the first countries to recognize the Palestine Liberation Organization and the state of Palestine, setting up a Palestinian diplomatic institution in its capital, Beijing. It has called for the restoration of the legitimate national rights of the Palestinian people, including the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in accordance with relevant United Nations resolutions, Saphariny says.

"The economies of China and Arab countries are highly complementary, providing broad advancement for bilateral economic and trade cooperation. Arab countries enjoy an important geographical location, rich resources and a huge consumer market (400 million people).

"Arab countries, especially the Gulf countries, have the richest oil reserves in the world and are China's most important energy partner."

Arabs also "need China's advanced technology, investment and manufacturing products" in leveraging the "many common advantages" shared by the two sides, he says.

Meeting people in a local factory in Beijing during field studies in 1975. [Photo provided to China Daily]

In the past eight years alone, China-Arab relations have been at their "best stage of development" he says, with politics, economics, technology and other fields recording significant achievements-total trade volume between the two sides hit $240 billion last year, with Arab countries becoming China's sixth-largest trading partner.

The crucial fight against the pandemic has similarly demonstrated China's growing importance for the global community, Saphariny says.

"Amid the outbreak of COVID-19, the Chinese government has always put people's lives, safety and physical health first, and has resolutely adopted the most comprehensive, strict and thorough prevention and control measures.

"Solidarity and cooperation are the most powerful weapons to defeat the epidemic. Countries should transcend the differences in regions, race, historical cultures, and even social systems, to join hands and build a community with a shared future for mankind, jointly maintaining the only planet on which we humans depend," he says.

To that effect, "China has formulated the most stringent and thorough prevention and control measures in dealing with COVID-19. At the same time, actively providing material assistance within its capacity to various countries, dispatching multiple medical expert teams, and enabling foreign countries to purchase pandemic prevention materials", he says.

"China's response to the pandemic and the effective measures it has taken reflect China's responsibility and the correctness of its system and governance. In the face of pandemics and other natural disasters, China will remain a beacon and model for mankind."

As the country pushes ahead on its development road, there will still be obstacles, such as the threat of unilateralism, politicization and hegemony from some in the West, that it will have to overcome, he says.

"The world today is not the world of yesterday. The world is moving toward peace and stability. With development, justice and fairness, there will be no room for hegemony and domination."

China Daily