China will continue to promote the Middle East peace process. The Middle East deserves a peaceful and beautiful future. Since World War II, the Middle East region has been plagued by incessant wars and conflicts. Numerous lives have been lost and many innocent people displaced. The stark reality shows that the an eye for an eye approach can only stoke deeper hatred, and peace can only be achieved by turning swords into ploughshares. We highly appreciate the Arab Peace Initiative, which demonstrates to the whole world the sincere wish and strategic decision of Arab countries to peacefully resolve the Middle East issue. The fundamental way to resolve the Middle East issue is to replace confrontation with dialogue, promote reconciliation by increasing understanding, and stop the bloodshed and conflicts. We hope that disputes and conflicts will soon come to an end and peace and tranquility will return to the Middle East. China is ready to step up consultation with Arab countries and other parties concerned and play a constructive role in promoting a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the Middle East issue in order to achieve peace, security and stability in this part of the world.
China will push forward economic cooperation and trade with Arab countries. The mutually beneficial economic and trade ties between the two sides have been growing rapidly since the 1980s, the last few years in particular. Trade volume between China and Arab countries jumped from US$36.7 billion in 2004 to US$132.8 billion in 2008, a 2.6-fold increase in a short span of five years. By the end of 2008, the total value of contracted projects between the two sides had approached US$100 billion. There is great scope and enormous potential for business cooperation between China and Arab countries. In response to the serious impact of the international financial crisis, it is all the more important for us to take more concrete and effective measures to expand practical cooperation in economy and trade, energy, investment, finance, tourism and human resources training. The Chinese government encourages capable Chinese enterprises to make investment and set up businesses in Arab countries. The Chinese government and enterprises will place more emphasis on helping build up the economic strength of our partner countries and on promoting local job creation, comprehensive resource utilization and environmental protection. China will, as always, provide humanitarian assistance to underdeveloped countries and help them improve people's livelihood, eradicate poverty and expand capacity for self-development.
China hopes to step up cultural exchanges and cooperation with Arab countries. The Arab region is the converging point of ancient civilizations. The splendid literature and art, beautiful music and dance, unique food and dress and exquisite craftsmanship epitomize its colorful culture. The Chinese government encourages growing educational, cultural, tourism and other exchanges with Arab countries. We will encourage more young people to study in Arab countries and welcome young Arab students to come to China for study or visits. Cultural exchanges will help deepen mutual understanding about each other's history and current conditions, strengthen the bond of friendship and build strong public support for our friendship.
Over the past half century and more, the League of Arab States has been dedicated to enhancing cooperation among its members and safeguarding the independence and sovereignty of Arab states. We hope that the Arab League will play a bigger role in the international community, particularly in promoting peace and development in the Middle East.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
You may be interested in China's development. Let me say, in this connection, that we have made notable progress in economic and social development since the founding of New China 60 years ago, particularly in the last 30 years since reform and opening-up. At the same time, we are keenly aware that China is still a developing country. While our aggregate GDP may be quite large, our per capita GDP is very low. The global financial crisis has made a big impact on China's economy. Though the target of an 8% growth for 2009 is within reach through our efforts, the foundation of a full recovery is not yet firmly established. We still face many difficulties and pressing problems in the course of modernization. This requires that we press ahead with reform and opening-up, economic development and social progress. We must strike the right balanceamong development, reform and stability. And we must always put national reunification, ethnic unity and social stability high on our agenda. Otherwise, we can accomplish nothing. I think this logic holds true for all countries in the world.
My current visit to Egypt is aimed at enhancing dialogue among civilizations and promoting closer friendship and cooperation. The friendship and cooperation between China and Egypt represent a good example of respect for diversity of civilizations and a model for relations between developing countries and South-South cooperation. We will never forget that Egypt was the first country in the Arab world and in Africa that established diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China and the first one that entered into a strategic and cooperative relationship with China. Our two countries have always maintained friendly relations, our cooperation in all fields has made steady progress and we have coordinated with and firmly supported each other on the overarching and strategic issues concerning peace and development. The strategic cooperation between China and Egypt has yielded rich results and brought tangible benefits to people of both countries. China will continue to support Egypt in playing a greater role in regional and international affairs.
The Chinese nation values friendship and keeps its word. China and the Arab world were friends in the past; we are friends today; and we will remain friends forever. No matter how the international scene may change, the Chinese people will always be the trusted brothers of the Arab people. Let us work together to build a harmonious world of enduring peace and common prosperity.