Last week, Ben Simpfendorfer, the Hong Kong-based chief China Economist for the Royal Bank of Scotland and the writer of the new book "The New Silk Road" had an interview with the New Yorker magazine, talking about the long-term interaction between China and Arab World.
The first batch of Arabs came to China 1,400 years ago through the mysterious silk road, shaping up a relationship between the Middle East and China. Over the centuries, the business relationship had experienced ups and downs, but now, it has been tightened again as China is eager to expand its economic power all over the world.
The trading volume between China and the Arab countries has boomed in the past decade. Exports from China grew to US$50.3 billion last year, up 37 percent from a year ago. Imports from the Middle East hit US$ 110.5 billion in 2008, up 55 percent from 2007, according to the Ministry of Commerce of China(MOC).
In Yiwu city, the famous commodity trading market in Zhenjiang province, Arabic restaurants can be easily spotted in the town, and there are even Arabic-Chinese language schools sponsored by the local government to train interpreters for the fast growing Arab clients.
The government statistics also show direct investment from China to the Arab countries had reached US$6 billion as of July 2007, mainly in industries such as energy,automobile,home appliances and information technology.
Large Chinese companies, including Shenzhen-based telecom solution provider Huawei Technologies Co.,Ltd and Qingdao-based home appliances manufacturer Haier Co.,Ltd, have built operations in countries like Jordan, Syria and Tunis.
Meanwhile, US$ 1 billion had flowed into China from the Arab countries, with focuses on real estate, energy and petrochemicals, according to the MOC.
China has establised business relationship with all Arab countries but Somalia so far.