Global Times: Come and experience: Arab diplomats, officials explore Chinese modernization practices in dynamic, inclusive Shanghai

BEIJING, Aug. 5, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Tamer M.A. Shehab, an official from the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, experienced being a “pilot” during his recent trip to Shanghai.

At a local exhibition center of the G60 Science & Technology Innovation Valley (G60 valley), Shehab sat in a flight simulator of a passenger aircraft. He saw the vast blue sky through the windows on each side of the simulator.

The simulator was made by a Shanghai-based tech company, which also produces flight simulator equipment for China’s self-developed large passenger aircraft C919. After exiting the simulator, Shehab asked the exhibition center for information on the latest scientific and technological achievements of the G60 valley in the field of aerospace.

“They [the achievements] are the future,” he said.

The G60 valley in East China, containing Shanghai and its eight surrounding cities, is one of the country’s most urbanized economic belts and home to tens of thousands of innovative high-tech entities. The valley’s exhibition center in a Shanghai suburb that Shehab visited is a must-see destination for many foreign officials and scholars who try to explore the experiences of the Chinese path to modernization in Shanghai.

The G60 valley showcases the latest technological developments in China, and supports sustainable economic development, said Iyad Zoukar, professor and deputy director of the Syrian Diplomatic Institute at Syria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates.

“The innovative spirit and cutting-edge technologies showcased at the G60 valley were truly impressive,” Zoukar told the Global Times.

“It was fascinating to witness firsthand advancements in various fields there, such as in renewable energy, electric technology, and silicon chip manufacturing,” he recalled.

Charming Metropolise

Zoukar and Shehab are among the delegation of officials who visited Shanghai early this summer under the “Seminar for Arab Officials by the China-Arab Research Center on Reform and Development (CARC)” or the “Seminar for Arab Diplomats in China by the CARC” programs.

The CARC is sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Education, and the Shanghai Municipal Government, and is hosted by the Shanghai International Studies University.

Starting in 2017, the two programs hold several seminars almost every year, welcoming Arab officials or Arab diplomats in China to visit Shanghai and its environs. The seminars also include exchanges and discussions on practical cases about Chinese path to modernization, advanced development concepts, as well as policies on China’s ethnic and religious policies.

Zoukar attended the 13th Seminar for Arab Officials held in early June, traveling over 4,000 miles from Syria to Shanghai.

“I saw this as a chance to learn from China’s successful experience in reform and sustainable development, and explore ways to apply those lessons to benefit Syria’s development,” he told the Global Times.

Normally, Shanghai impresses newcomers at first sight with its dense, modern neon-lit skyscrapers. But the city is much more than skyscrapers. During their period in Shanghai, the Arab officials walked through the city and took a closer look at its openness, diversity, and the excellent combination of modernity and tradition.

Ziad Zaitoun, an economy, commerce and finance official at Syrian Embassy in China, participated in the “Seminar for Arab Diplomats in China by the CARC” program in Shanghai between June 12 and 16. He recalled his exciting visit to Shanghai’s Yangshan Port during the seminar, the world’s largest automated container port.

“We were amazed by the sheer size and capacity of the port, witnessing massive container ships being loaded and unloaded with precision,” Zaitoun told the Global Times.

The Yangshan Port is renowned for its large-scale operations and its role as a major global trade hub, Zaitoun said. “Exploring the port offered us insights into the impressive port infrastructure and efficient marine logistics with cutting-edge AI application,” he noted.

Zoukar also mentioned cultural and religious destinations he visited in Shanghai. He said the 400-year-old Yuyuan Garden, a historical and cultural landmark in the city downtown, left a lasting impression on him. “Exploring the beautiful landscapes, elegant pavilions, and intricate rockeries within the garden provided a glimpse into China’s rich cultural heritage,” he said. “It was a remarkable opportunity to immerse myself in the local culture and appreciate the beauty of traditional Chinese gardens.”

The visit to Xiaotaoyuan Mosque was also a memorable experience to Zoukar. “As a symbol of religious diversity and cultural coexistence, the mosque showcased the social and historical aspects of Shanghai,” he told the Global Times.

“The Xiaotaoyuan Mosque served as a testament to the importance of promoting mutual understanding and respect among diverse communities,” said Zoukar. “It was inspiring to witness the peaceful coexistence of different religions in the city and learn about China’s policies on nationalities and religions.”

An effective model

In the process of realizing modernization, China has achieved two miracles: Rapid economic development and long-term social stability, said Wang Guangda, secretary-general of the CARC.

“For countries that want to develop their economies and establish effective national governance models, the Chinese path to modernization provides successful cases and inspiring experiences,” noted Wang.

Probably, the best way to learn about the Chinese methods of achieving modernization is to come and experience the country. Zaitoun, who just ended his term as a diplomatic officer in China this summer, shared with the Global Times the key elements contributing to Chinese path to modernization as he had observed during his stay in China and his latest trip to Shanghai.

“First, China places great emphasis on economic growth and development,” said Zaitoun. He added that China has successfully implemented policies that have fostered rapid industrialization, technological innovation, and infrastructure development. “These have allowed China to become the world’s second-largest economy and lifted millions of people out of poverty.”

Second, China has prioritized the development of its human capital, Zaitoun noted.

He mentioned that China has invested heavily in education and skills training, leading to a highly skilled workforce and a thriving research and development sector. “This emphasis on human capital has contributed to China’s advancements in science, technology, and innovation.”

Zaitoun referred to the Shanghai Electric Group Company which he visited during his Shanghai trip under the CARC program. “The visit provided us with an opportunity to witness cutting-edge technologies and advancements in new energy power generation equipment,” he recalled. “One might be impressed by the company’s massive achievement in providing top quality service to one of China’s largest cities.”

The infrastructure improvement is an important aspect in the process of realizing modernization. Zoukar said that his trip to Shanghai and the city’s surroundings enabled them to better learn about China’s advanced technology and infrastructure.

“Using the high-speed train and experiencing the Shanghai subway system, I saw China’s remarkable achievements in land transportation,” Zoukar commented. “It was impressive to witness how the country’s transportation network is organized and efficiently utilized.”

All these can be valuable lessons and insights for Arab countries in developing their economies and achieving modernization. Zoukar shared several aspects he believes Arab countries can consider using China’s experience as a reference.

The aspects include further developing infrastructure networks, establishing partnerships and collaborations with other countries or regions, investing in human capital and nurturing a skilled workforce, promoting poverty alleviation and rural development, establishing effective partnerships between the government and private sector entities, exploring the possibility of establishing designated economic zones, as well as drawing inspiration from China’s advancements in technology – particularly in areas like renewable energy and electric technology.

A shared future

At the first China-Arab States Summit in December 2022, President Xi called on China and Arab states to carry forward the spirit of China-Arab friendship, and foster a closer China-Arab community of shared future.

Based on his trip to Shanghai and observations about China, Zoukar suggested that China and Arab countries should make efforts to further promote exchanges in several sectors of mutual interest, such as transportation infrastructure, energy, technology, agriculture, and tourism.

“Sharing experiences in areas such as reform, sustainable development, and modernization can benefit Arab countries,” said Zoukar. “China can provide insights and expertise to Arab officials, helping them to adapt and implement successful Chinese practices in their respective countries.”

China’s development concept provides a new path for Arab countries to achieve modernization, said Moroccan diplomat Abdelrhani Charfi, who also participated in the CARC’s program in Shanghai.

“The construction of a China-Arab community of shared future in the new era is a joint exploration of modernization processes by China and Arab countries, which will serve as an example of South-South cooperation for developing countries,” he said.