Rabat — "China-Morocco relations will start a new journey at a higher level, as 2018 marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of bilateral diplomatic relations," said Chinese Ambassador to Morocco Li Li.
Morocco and China formally established diplomatic relations on Nov. 1, 1958, and Morocco became the second African and Arab country to establish diplomatic relations with China, Li said in an interview with Xinhua.
Over the past 60 years, China-Morocco relations have developed steadily, and bilateral cooperation has covered various fields, Li said, adding that the two countries have provided important support for their development.
In 1971, Morocco gave firm support in the process of restoring China's legitimate seat of the United Nations. In 1975, China sent the first medical team to Morocco. In 2009, the first Confucius Institute was officially set up at Mohammed V University.
China-Morocco exchanges have also reached new levels in recent years, as the two heads of state signed a joint statement on establishing a strategic bilateral partnership in 2016, Li said.
In 2016, Morocco also decided to exempt Chinese nationals from visa requirement to enter the Moroccan territory, which played a demonstration role, as countries such as Tunisia successively exempted visas requirement for Chinese citizens.
In 2017, the two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the Belt and Road Initiative, which provided important support for the two countries to further promote cooperation in fields under the initiative.
The initiative, proposed by China in 2013, refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, which aim at building a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient trade routes of the Silk Road.
Since Morocco's visa exemption for Chinese citizens, the number of Chinese tourists to Morocco has soared from 43,000 in 2016 to 120,000 in 2017, and it is expected to reach 200,000 in 2018.
"The increasing number of personnel exchanges will further promote mutual understandings between people in the two countries," Li said.
He said that China and Morocco have also developed strong economic ties. China is Morocco's third largest trading partner. In 2017, the bilateral trade volume between China and Morocco was 3.83 billion U.S. dollars, with a year-on-year increase of 5.3 percent.
"China's investment in Morocco is on the rise," he added.
In addition to cooperation in traditional sectors, the two countries actively promote cooperation in ports, high-speed railways, industrial zones, finance, and new energy.
"Recently, CITIC Dicastal and the Moroccan government signed an industrial project agreement for the production of aluminum wheels, with an investment of 350 million euros (about 402 million dollars)," Li said.
Li said that the two countries will also explore new modes to carry out pragmatic cooperation under the framework of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation.