China and Kuwait strategic partnership enters new era

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Chinese Ambassador to Kuwait Zhang Jianwei

His Highness the Crown Prince Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah departed Kuwait on September 20th, heading to China to attend the opening ceremony of the 19th Hangzhou Asian Games. This is the first visit to China by a highest-ranking Kuwaiti leader in five years. President Xi Jinping will meet with Crown Prince Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah in Hangzhou. They will witness the signing of a number of bilateral cooperation documents, which will lay out the blueprint for future China-Kuwait relations.

His visit is of important significance, as China and Arab states are working together to build a China-Arab community with a shared future in the new era. It will significantly deepen strategic mutual trust between China and Kuwait and elevate our practical cooperation to a higher level. China-Kuwait strategic partnership will thus enter a new stage.

China-Kuwait relationship is steeped in history. The friendly exchange between the two sides along the ancient Silk Road dates back to thousands of years ago. As early as in 1965, the late Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah who was then Minister of Finance, Industry and Commerce, paid a visit to China, during which he reaffirmed that Kuwait firmly supports the People’s Republic of China in defending national unity and territorial integrity, supports the one-China principle and supports the PRC in restoring its lawful seat at the United Nations at an early date.

Establishment
That visit paved the way for the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Kuwait and the later bilateral cooperation in political, economic and other fields. In 1971, the leaders of the two countries made a visionary decision to establish ambassadorial- level diplomatic relations, making Kuwait the first Arab state in the Gulf region to do so. In the ensuing five decades and more, despite the shifting global dynamics, China and Kuwait have been committed to the original aspiration upon the establishment of diplomatic relations which features mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit, and shared development. The two countries have maintained friendly exchanges and worked closely together in the fundamental interests of the two peoples, sharing weal and woe along the journey.

China- Kuwait relations now become a forerunner of relations with other countries in the region and a shining example of friendly state-to-state relations. China and Kuwait always give each other support on the issues bearing on our respective sovereignty and territorial integrity. After Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, China expressed firm opposition to the invasion and made utmost efforts in its capacity as a permanent member of the UN Security Council for the restoration of Kuwait’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Following the Gulf War, China immediately sent a 60-member firefighting team that braved danger and helped Kuwait extinguish ten 10,000-ton oil wells in a short period of two months. Chinese people will not forget that Kuwait offered China valuable support for the restoration of its lawful seat at the UN. Chinese people also bear in mind that every time China was hit by a serious natural disaster, Kuwaiti leaders would extend their sympathies and lend a helping hand to China at the earliest possible time.

Facing the once-in-acentury pandemic, China and Kuwait have stood by each other to tide over the difficulties. At the height of China’s fight against COVID-19 in Wuhan, Kuwait’s then-Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah instructed the cabinet to provide three million U.S. dollars of supplies for China, which was very encouraging for the Chinese people to battle with the pandemic at that time. When Kuwait’s fight against the pandemic came to a crucial stage, China sent a medical expert team to help with its epidemic control at the request of the Kuwaiti side. Moreover, Chinese people will keep in mind that Kuwait has made positive contributions to local infrastructure construction, environmental protection, and health and educational development in China, making itself the Arab state offering the largest amount of government concessional loans to China. The Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED) started to offer China loans since 1982.

Concessional
So far, it has provided 40 projects in China with concessional loans worth about one billion U.S. dollars in total. Kuwait is the only GCC country where a Chinese medical team is stationed. Since 1976, China has dispatched medical teams to Kuwait where Chinese medical workers apply TCM therapies like acupuncture and moxibustion, and cupping, bringing local patients health and happiness and strengthening the friendship between the two peoples. These are just some of the many touching stories about the friendly exchange between the two sides.

The Chinese saying “nothing, not even mountains or oceans, can separate those with a shared goal” aptly describes the state of China-Kuwait friendship that has grown even stronger over the years. Over the past decade, with the personal guidance and commitment of the leaders of the two countries, China-Kuwait relations have realized a leapfrog growth. As a key gateway in the Gulf region and an important part of the land and maritime Silk Roads, Kuwait is a natural partner of Belt and Road cooperation. In 2014, Kuwait signed the Belt and Road cooperation documents with China, the first among Middle Eastern countries to do so. The two sides have worked actively to synergize the Belt and Road Initiative and Kuwait’s Vision 2035 and deepen cooperation in traditional areas such as infrastructure and energy, thus injecting a strong impetus to Kuwait’s economic and social development. In 2018, Kuwait’s then-Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah visited China. President Xi Jinping met with him and they jointly announced the establishment of a strategic partnership between China and Kuwait, steering the bilateral relationship to a fast track. Under the framework of the Belt and Road cooperation, we have delivered a steady stream of signature outcomes for major projects including the new headquarters of the Central Bank of Kuwait, the Sabah Al Salem University City, the Dhaman Hospital, the Al-Zour refinery, infrastructure work for the South Al Mutlaa City, the 7th ring road, and soil remediation. These outcomes have become an emblem of China-Kuwait practical cooperation in the new era. The breakthroughs in bilateral cooperation in business, trade, investment, communications and other areas have delivered tangible benefits to the two countries and peoples. As of 2022, China has remained as the largest trading partner of Kuwait for seven consecutive years, with two-way trade hitting a record 31.48 billion U.S. dollars in 2022. Kuwait has become China’s 7th largest source of crude oil imports, as a result of a steady increase of crude oil imported by China.

Moreover, the Kuwait Investment Authority opened its second office in Shanghai to actively expand its financial investment in China. It has been the first foreign investor in China’s high-speed rail network. Meanwhile, statistics released by Kuwait suggest that China’s direct investment in Kuwait totaled about 550 million U.S. dollars, making China the second largest source of foreign direct investment in Kuwait. Automobiles with Chinese brands have gained increasing popularity among Kuwaiti consumers for their superior quality and considerate service.

The nationwide commercial 5G network built in Kuwait in collaboration with Huawei, the first of its kind in the Middle East, will give a strong boost to Kuwait’s economic transformation. Furthermore, our two peoples enjoy closer ties. Now there are four direct flights per week from Kuwait City to Guangzhou, compared with only one when it was launched in 2020. This air route operates just like bridges over the air, facilitating travelers between the two countries. The first China Cultural Center in the Gulf region, which was put into trial operation recently, will enable the people of Kuwait to get a first-hand experience of the fascinating Chinese culture. All this shows that the development interests of both countries are closely interwoven, the two peoples are more closely connected to each other, and our exchanges and cooperation in many areas have been thriving.

International
The international landscape today is going through profound transformation. China and Kuwait share similar visions and ideals in global governance. Although we are different in social system and traditional culture, both countries belong to the family of Eastern civilizations and uphold an independent foreign policy and the principle of non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs. In addition, both countries advocate multilateralism, uphold the UN-centered international system and the international order based on international law, and work to safeguard regional and international peace and stability and promote an open world economy. We both stay committed to promoting exchanges and mutual learning among civilizations, diversity of global civilizations and the common values of humanity. China and Kuwait are close partners that coordinate with each other on the international stage.

High-level exchange plays an important role in guiding bilateral relations. President Xi Jinping and His Highness the Amir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah have kept frequent interactions and strategic communication. They expressed in their messages to each other the strong desire to take forward the traditional friendship and deepen bilateral cooperation on various fronts under the framework of the Belt and Road cooperation. In December last year, President Xi Jinping met for the first time with Crown Prince Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah in Riyadh. President Xi Jinping stressed during the meeting that China will remain as a trustworthy friend of Kuwait and will continue to enhance the synergy of our development strategies.

China will take an active part in the construction of major projects in Kuwait, tap the potential of bilateral cooperation in such sectors as new energy, 5G communications and digital economy, and support cultural exchanges and cooperation. At the same time, Crown Prince Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah emphasized that China is always a friend of Kuwait and that Kuwait will abide by the one-China principle and work with China to deepen mutually beneficial cooperation in various areas so as to open up new horizons for the strategic partnership. Today, China and Kuwait face a new opportunity for expanding bilateral ties. As China is making unwavering efforts to advance Chinese modernization and promote high-standard opening up, it will bring more confidence, hope and opportunities for China- Kuwait relations and the development of other countries across the globe including Kuwait. China stands ready to work with Kuwait to create an even brighter future for bilateral relationship. I would like to wish Crown Prince Sheikh Mishal’s visit to China a full success, which will thus write a new chapter of China-Kuwait strategic partnership.

By H.E. Zhang Jianwei
China Ambassador to Kuwait

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