China is looking for more trade and investment from Arab states, based on strong political ties, senior government officials say.
Minister of Commerce Bo Xilai forecast the trade volume between China and Arab countries would exceed US$100 billion in five years.
'The trade volume, which was only US$1 billion in 1978, hit a record US$36.7 billion last year, with China's total investment exceeding US$5 billion in Arab states,' he told a China-Arab business conference yesterday in Beijing.
His upbeat assessment of Sino-Arab ties was supported by Assistant Foreign Minister Lu Guozeng , who described Arab states as China's close friends.
Speaking on the sidelines of the two-day conference which ended yesterday, Mr Lu said China was happy to see the fast expansion in economic links between the two sides.
'The Sino-Arab co-operation forum is a very good opportunity for entrepreneurs from both sides to expand business links and for China to foster closer ties with nations in the Middle East.'
The forum was established during President Hu Jintao's visit to the headquarters of the Arab League in Cairo in January last year, Mr Lu said.
He said the co-operation between the two sides was far from being confined to the oil sector, although half of the country's oil imports in the past five years had come from Middle East nations.
'People usually think the Sino-Arab economic co-operation is dominated by China's need of oil from the Middle East. It is not true.'
Mr Lu said China was interested in attracting more investment from oil-rich Arab states, which boasted a combined investment of nearly US$1 trillion globally.
A total of seven contracts worth more than US$300 million were signed yesterday, he said.
This year would see more high-level exchanges between Beijing and Arab states, he added.