Egypt’s president was to meet Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) in Beijing yesterday, seeking in his first state visit outside the Arab world to win badly needed investment and expand diplomatic ties.
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi took over in June as Egypt’s first freely elected civilian and Islamist leader after protests toppled his long-ruling, US-allied predecessor.
Egypt has struggled to boost its economy and secure foreign investment since the uprising last year. It still receives US$1.3 billion in annual aid from the US a year, although most of that goes to the military.
Cairo and Beijing will sign agreements for seven major projects, including a power station, a desalination plant, industrial bakeries and Internet development, according to Egyptian Assistant Planning Minister Nabil Abdel Hamid.
Egypt will also propose development of a high-speed train line between Cairo and Alexandria, Hamid told state-run daily al-Ahram.
Egypt expert Peter Mandaville said Morsi’s visit marked a “broader effort by Egypt to signal that it’s going to diversify its portfolio of relationships.”
“In the short term, I think it’s absolutely the case that Egypt, given its own economic situation, is pretty desperate to attract some lucrative Chinese investment,” said Mandaville, a professor at George Mason University in the US.
Unlike Chinese economic support, US aid to Egypt comes with conditions — a sore point for Egyptians, Mandaville said.
After his trip, Morsi will attend the Non-Aligned Movement Summit in Iran, becoming Egypt’s first leader in 30 years to visit the nation.
He is scheduled to go to Washington next month after attending the UN General Assembly in New York, and Chinese media have highlighted his decision to make Beijing his first official trip outside the Arab world.
“The Egyptian president is indicating that these are changing times for his country’s foreign policy,” a recent article posted on the Web site of the People’s Daily said, citing analysts.
The paper is seen as a mouthpiece for the Chinese Communist Party.
Morsi’s spokesman Yasser Ali said the visit was “meant to attract Chinese investment in Egypt.”
Trade between the two countries reached US$8.8 billion last year, up 40 percent from 2008, according to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce.
Morsi will meet Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (習近平), Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) and top legislator Wu Bangguo (吳邦國) today.
China is hosting Morsi despite its uneasiness with the Arab Spring revolution that helped bring him to power.
Morsi is an Islamist who took office in June as Egypt’s first freely elected civilian president. He was to be welcomed yesterday at the Great Hall of the People at the start of a two-day trip.