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29 Aug, 2012

Egypt Looks East: New President Visits China Before U.S.

Source: Global Times

Global Times Editor’s Note: New Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi picked China rather than the US for his first visit to a big power, which has caused some stir. The visit, scheduled from August 28 to 30, is intended to bring Sino-Egyptian relations into a new stage. Is Egypt looking east? What does the visit mean to the US? Global Times invited two scholars to share their views.

Morsi starts his visit to China on Tuesday. This diplomatic activity has upset some US observers

Morsi attended the Islamic Cooperation Summit held in Mecca, Saudi Arabia during August 14 and 15, where he shook hands with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Now he has chosen visiting China as his first major bilateral diplomatic activity and will attend the Non-Aligned Movement Summit in Teheran on his way back. Some observers argue that these actions mean that the reality of present-day Egypt has contradicted the high US expectations of the Arab Spring.

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(Global Times/ Sun Ying)

The US has been trying to interfere in Egyptian domestic affairs for many years

The US has pressed Egyptians to establish a Western-style democratic system since the outbreak of the Arab Spring. But when Morsi, who doesn’t favor the US, was elected as the new president through legal procedures, the US expressed strong disappointment and suspicion, which aroused dissatisfaction of the Egyptian public. We cannot say that US aid to Egypt has lost its influence, but one certain thing is that it cannot make the new Egyptian government follow the US lead in domestic and foreign policies any more.

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Morsi’s visit to China is a timely and positive development underscoring China’s important role in the Middle East

For over a decade, Egypt has been restive under its arrangements with the US and Israel. Not only the man in the street, but also significant elements in political, military, and religious leadership circles, questioned Egypt’s foreign policy. It was clear to me during a 2002 visit to Egypt that key secular leadership elements had reached the end of their rope with Washington. Diplomats and politicians were frank about Washington’s one-sided pro-Israel policy and its consequences in the region.

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For Egypt, a Look East policy makes sense

The Egyptian leader’s stop in Tehran is also positive. The visit gives a boost to Cairo as a reawakened regional and international factor. It also presents the opportunity for Cairo and Tehran to develop friendship and cooperation. Increased cooperation between Egypt and Iran on regional economic, political, and security matters could contribute substantially to peace and development in the region.

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