BEIJING // The Egyptian president, Mohammed Morsi, met his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, here yesterday to drum up investment and breathe life into his country's stuttering economy.
Mr Morsi, who took office in June as Egypt's first democratically elected leader, was making his inaugural foreign visit outside the Middle East and Africa. His choice of Beijing indicates the importance Cairo attaches to ties with the world's second-largest economy.
As Egypt looks to modernise its infrastructure and kick-start an economy that has suffered as a result of 18 months of political instability, China could prove to be an important source of foreign investment.
The countries signed several agreements yesterday, including a pledge by Beijing to provide police cars to Egypt and an agreement for the China Development Bank to offer US$200 million (Dh734.5m) in credit to the National Bank of Egypt.
Mr Morsi would like to increase exports, not least because bilateral trade is heavily skewed in China's favour.
About 80 Egyptian businesspeople travelled to China to attend a joint business forum in Beijing ahead of Mr Morsi's arrival for this three-day visit.
Mr Morsi's spokesman, Yasser Ali, said the two leaders also discussed the conflict in Syria.
Mr Morsi wants to strengthen ties with Beijing as part of a policy pivot away from the United States.
"China is in a position to offer some aid and the new [Egyptian] president is trying to diversify aid sources since [Egypt] doesn't want to be solely dependent on the United States," said Joseph Cheng, a political analyst at City University of Hong Kong.
The desire to improve relations is mutual, said Mr Cheng.
"China certainly would like to establish closer relations with one of the key countries in the Middle East to promote China's influence in the region and facilitate a more multipolar situation in the Middle East," he said.
Before leaving for a historic visit to Iran, Mr Morsi will meet Wen Jiabao, the Chinese premier, Wu Bangguo, the top legislator, and Xi Jinping, the vice president and Mr Hu's likely replacement in a forthcoming leadership transition.
* With additional reporting by Agence France-Presse and the Associated Press