CAIRO, Jan. 13 (Xinhua) -- The bilateral relations between China and Egypt got a strong push at the start of the new year as Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi paid a visit to Egypt from Jan. 7 to Jan. 9.
During his African tour running until Jan. 13, the Chinese foreign minister also visited Djibouti, Eritrea, Burundi and Zimbabwe.
This is the 30th consecutive year since 1991 for Chinese foreign ministers to visit Africa at the beginning of every year. Such visits aim at highlighting the great importance China attaches to its relations with Africa while demonstrating their enduring friendship.
Making Egypt, which currently chairs the African Union, the first stop for the Chinese foreign minister reflects the strong relations between Beijing and Cairo, especially after their bilateral ties were upgraded to a comprehensive strategic partnership in 2014.
The comprehensive strategic partnership between China and Egypt witnessed an unprecedented push in 2019 during which the two countries deepened cooperation in various fields.
"For 30 years, China has been keen on starting every year with an important visit by the Chinese foreign minister to countries in Africa. This means that China is greatly interested in strengthening its relations with the African continent," Samir Ghattas, president of the Cairo-based Middle East Forum for Strategic Studies, told Xinhua.
Egypt and other African countries highly appreciate this visit given the distinguished position China enjoys in Africa, Ghattas noted, saying China has great economic, cultural and political ties with Africa.
"China has important and significant investments in many African countries. Such cooperation has contributed greatly to the human, financial and economic development of many African countries," the expert explained.
MUTUAL INDUSTRIAL, BUSINESS COOPERATION
In 2019, China and Egypt signed several agreements in various fields, mainly involving infrastructure and industrialization projects in Egypt, under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) proposed by China in 2013 which seeks mutual development of participating states via win-win partnerships.
Under the BRI, China State Construction Engineering Corporation, a world leading construction company, is currently building a huge business district in Egypt's new administrative capital city, some 50 km east of Cairo, including a 385-meter-high tower that will be the tallest skyscraper in Africa upon completion.
Other renowned Chinese corporations are also working on a number of giant energy projects in Egypt, including Sinohydro, Dongfang Electric, Shanghai Electric, State Grid Corporation of China and Huawei.
In September, Egyptian and Chinese teams announced the start of the implementation phase of the China-funded "MisrSat II" satellite project, a small high-resolution remote sensing satellite.
During the kick-off meeting, which was held at the Egyptian Space City near Egypt's new administrative capital, the two sides signed the documents of launching the project funded by the Chinese government.
In January, Egypt and China signed an agreement on a 72-million-U.S.-dollar Chinese grant for the "MisrSat II" satellite.
China is now the biggest trade partner of Egypt, and tops other foreign investors in terms of the growth rate of investment in the Arab country.
The trade exchange between China and Egypt hit a record 13.87 billion dollars in 2018 during which Egyptian exports to China grew to 1.8 billion dollars for the first time, according to official statistics.
By the end of 2018, the Chinese investments in Egypt had exceeded 7 billion dollars. More than 1,500 Chinese companies are currently operating in Egypt, providing 30,000 job opportunities for the Egyptians.
CULTURAL COOPERATION AND TOURISM
The year 2019 saw a notable increase in cultural cooperation and exchanges, with artists, cultural and musical delegations paying mutual visits.
"Last year, the Chinese Cultural Center in Cairo held more than 100 events in Egypt. All these events were meant to boost Sino-Egyptian cultural cooperation," Chinese Cultural Counselor to Egypt Shi Yuewen told Xinhua in a recent interview.
China provided more than 300 scholarships for Egyptians to finish master and PhD degrees in 2019, according to the Chinese Embassy in Egypt.
The recent flows of Chinese tourists revived the Egyptian tourism sector which has been suffering recession over the past few years because of political turmoil and relevant security challenges that resulted from the ouster of two heads of state in 2011 and 2013.
To encourage more tourists to visit the country, Egypt exempted Chinese tourists from visa requirements, allowing for visa-upon-arrival if they are sponsored by a tourist agency and are financially comfortable.
EgyptAir, the flag carrier airline of Egypt, announced last November the first non-stop flight from Egypt's capital Cairo to the city of Hangzhou in eastern China.