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Displaced Iraqis from the embattled city of Fallujah cook at a camp where they are taking shelter, some 18 km from Ramadi on Saturday. — AFP
Displaced Iraqis from the embattled city of Fallujah cook at a camp where they are taking shelter, some 18 km from Ramadi on Saturday. — AFP

Iraqi camps overwhelmed as residents flee Fallujah

By Zhang Jianwei

Chinese Ambassador to Kuwait

March 22 this year will mark the 53rd anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Kuwait. Since the establishment of diplomatic ties, China-Kuwait relations have withstood the vicissitudes of the international landscape and enjoyed sound and steady growth, ensuring productive cooperation in various fields. Our bilateral relationship, always a pacesetter in China’s exchange with other countries in the region, has played an exemplary role, creating many “firsts” and records.

(I) Kuwait was the first among Gulf countries to send a senior delegation to visit the People’s Republic of China (PRC). In February 1965, the late Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah who was then Minister of Finance, Commerce and Industry led a delegation to the PRC. The senior delegation, the first from Kuwait and even from Gulf countries to visit the PRC, was given a warm reception by the Chinese side. The then Chinese leaders met with Sheikh Jaber during his visit when he stressed that Kuwait recognizes the PRC and supports the one-China principle. That visit, a prelude to official exchanges between China and Kuwait, paved the way for the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two nations several years later.

(II) Kuwait was the first Gulf Arab country to establish diplomatic relations with the PRC. In March 1971, China and Kuwait announced the establishment of diplomatic relations, opening the door to friendly exchanges between Gulf Arab countries and China. In the same year, Kuwait voted in favor of China’s return to the United Nations (UN). Over the years, Kuwait has been committed to the one-China principle, and China has been giving Kuwait firm support for its efforts to maintain national stability and explore a development path suited to its national conditions.

Our two nations have always supported each other on issues involving our respective core interests and major concerns. After Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, China expressed firm opposition to it, and made utmost efforts in its capacity as a permanent member of the UN Security Council for the restoration of Kuwait’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. Following the end of the Gulf War, China has always supported firmly Kuwait’s legitimate aspirations on legacy issues of the war and worked to promote the proper settlement of the relevant issues.

(III) Kuwait has in China the largest diplomatic presence across the world. Kuwait is now represented by four diplomatic missions that include the embassy in Beijing and three general consulates in the cities of Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Shanghai. The size of its diplomatic representation in China attests to the significance of China-Kuwait relations and the breadth and depth of bilateral cooperation.

(IV) Kuwait was the first Arab state to offer and has made itself the Arab state offering the largest amount of government concessional loans to China. In 1982, the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED) started to offer China concessional loans. Over the past 40 years and more, it has granted concessional loans worth about KD 305 million in total to 40 projects in the areas of infrastructure, education, health, agriculture and environmental protection, making positive contributions to the development of local areas in China especially the central and western regions. Today, China has become the second largest source of foreign direct investment in Kuwait, while Kuwait continues to give China support on the rural revitalization strategy. This longstanding friendship is particularly precious to us.

(V) Kuwait is the only GCC country where a Chinese medical team is stationed. As early as 1976, China began to dispatch a medical team to Kuwait. In the ensuing four decades and more, China has sent to Kuwait a total of 245 medical workers in 24 groups that have diagnosed and treated over 800,000 patients. China sending medical teams epitomizes bilateral cooperation on healthcare and demonstrates the special bonds of friendship between us. Facing the challenges posed by COVID-19, China and Kuwait have stood together and looked out for each other, as China dispatched a medical expert team to assist Kuwait and Kuwait donated medical supplies to China. Out joint efforts to beat the virus has left a splendid chapter in the annals of bilateral cooperation on health safety and healthcare.

(VI) China has become the largest trading partner of Kuwait. China has remained the biggest trading partner of Kuwait for nine years in a row, meaning that economic and trade cooperation between the two sides has become and will continue to serve as an important anchor. In 2023, China-Kuwait trade volume reached $22.39 billion, soaring more than 100 times over the early days of diplomatic ties. And China imported 24.53 million tons of crude oil from Kuwait, making itself the second largest crude oil importer of Kuwait. In addition to traditional trade of crude oil, bilateral trade has been on the upgrade, with a notable increase in China’s export of machinery products and automobiles to Kuwait. As China’s high-quality development is advancing at a faster pace, economic and trade cooperation between our two nations will embrace broader prospects.

(VII) Kuwait was the first country in the Middle East to sign Belt and Road cooperation documents with China. In response to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) proposed by President Xi Jinping, Kuwait signed in June 2014 memorandums of understanding with China to jointly promote cooperation concerning the Silk Road Economic Belt and the development of Kuwait’s Silk City, opening up broader prospects for China-Kuwait win-win cooperation. In recent years, both sides have worked to better synergize China’s BRI and Kuwait’s Vision 2035, which has achieved positive outcomes in the areas of infrastructure construction, energy, investment and communications. Chinese enterprises have undertaken the construction of many signature projects in Kuwait, making prominent contributions to the country’s economic and social development. This year marks the 10th anniversary of China and Kuwait signing the Belt and Road cooperation documents. China is prepared to work with Kuwait to write a new chapter in the joint pursuit of high-quality Belt and Road cooperation.

(VIII) The Kuwait Investment Office (Shanghai) is the only overseas investment office established by the Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA) after Kuwait’s independence. KIA opened its representative office in Beijing in 2011 and then an investment office in Shanghai in 2018 which is the only overseas investment office that KIA has set up after the country’s independence, marking a solid step toward stronger cooperation with China and the Asian-Pacific region. Investment cooperation has now become a new highlight of practical cooperation between the two sides. As part of its efforts to diversify investment portfolio, KIA has invested in the Jinan-Qingdao high-speed railway project, making it the first time that a domestic high-speed railway has attracted capital from a foreign institutional investor.

(IX) The China Cultural Center in Kuwait is the first of its kind in service in the Gulf region. Diverse interactions and cooperation in cultural and people-to-people fields between the two sides have registered many highlights. Over the years, multiple Chinese art troupes have given great performance during their visits to Kuwait, while people of cultural circles in Kuwait have taken an active part in cultural events held in China. On September 17 last year, the China Cultural Center, located in Kuwait’s Salmiya, launched its trial operation.

Built as the first of its kind in the Gulf region, this center will serve as a key platform for promoting cultural exchanges between the two countries and fostering closer ties between the two peoples. It will also be a gateway for Kuwaiti friends in all sectors to learn Chinese language, understand the fine traditional culture of China and experience the development dynamics of contemporary China. It will play an active role in consolidating the cultural foundations for building a China-Arab community with a shared future.

(X) His Highness the Amir Sheikh Mishal is the first head of state among the leaders of GCC countries who explicitly expressed his support for three Initiatives proposed by President Xi Jinping. When President Xi Jinping and Amir Sheikh Mishal had a meeting in Hangzhou in September 2023, HH the Amir Sheikh Mishal voiced his support for the Global Development Initiative (GDI), the Global Security Initiative (GSI) and the Global Civilization Initiative (GCI) put forward by President Xi Jinping.

During their meeting, they reached broad consensus on deepening China-Kuwait strategic partnership and witnessed the signing of the Joint Statement on the Five-Year (2024-2028) Cooperation Plan between the People’s Republic of China and the State of Kuwait, as well as multiple bilateral cooperation documents in such fields as renewable energy, infrastructure construction and environment governance, charting the course for future bilateral relationship.

Though far apart geographically, China and Kuwait have been working hand in hand, as good friends and good partners that support and trust each other, to pursue a shared future. Our bilateral friendship provides an example for state-to-state relations. Through two fruitful meetings, President Xi Jinping and HH the Amir Sheikh Mishal lay out a new blueprint for future China-Kuwait strategic partnership. Today, China-Kuwait relations have entered a crucial phase of building on past successes to strive for new progress.

China stands ready to work with Kuwait to implement the common understandings reached by the two heads of state and develop greater synergy in our development strategies. Through enhanced cooperation in investment, energy, infrastructure, environmental governance and digital economy and closer people-to-people and cultural exchanges, we will be able to build a high-quality China-Kuwait community with a shared future and contribute to the greater vision of jointly building a community with a shared future for mankind.

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