ㄑ Belt and Road ㄑ Opinion

Belt and Road Initiative brings significant opportunities for Lebanon

Xinhua | January 12, 2024

Waref Kumayha, a dedicated stamp collector and the founder of the Lebanese-Chinese Dialogue Road Association, receives an interview from Xinhua at his office in Beirut, Lebanon, Jan. 4, 2024. (Xinhua/Bilal Jawich)

In an interview at his office, Waref Kumayha, a dedicated stamp collector and the founder of the Lebanese-Chinese Dialogue Road Association, shared his profound connection with China and the transformative impact of the Belt and Road Initiative.

Kumayha's passion for China traces back to his childhood, ignited by a simple hobby -- collecting stamps. "My relationship with China goes back to my childhood more than 40 years ago, starting with my hobby of collecting stamps," reminisced Kumayha.

Over the years, Kumayha's dedication to stamp collection led him to embark on a journey that spanned 40 cities in China, covering the vast expanse from north to south and east to west. "Those experiences added to my knowledge about China as well as my passion for China," he shared.

Stamps, according to Kumayha, served as "traveling ambassadors," playing a crucial role in showcasing China's culture and heritage on a global stage. "So the stamps were an important measure for me to discover China, its history, and its development," he explained.

Kumayha established the Lebanese-Chinese Dialogue Road Association in 2017 with the aspiration of fostering closer ties between Lebanon and China, seeking to capitalize on additional opportunities within the initiative's framework.

Despite setbacks caused by economic crises, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Beirut port explosion, Kumayha remains optimistic about the future of Lebanese-Chinese relations within the BRI.

Kumayha specified key areas for collaboration, such as energy, electricity, gas exploration, infrastructure projects, and transportation developments, which are vital elements to tackle Lebanon's economic crisis.

He also praised China's achievements in developing rural areas, eliminating poverty, and fostering equality among ethnic groups, adding that Lebanon could learn from China's experience, given its diverse religious background.

Kumayha also commended China's global initiatives, including the Global Security Initiative, the Global Development Initiative, and the Global Civilization Initiative, emphasizing their role in building a community with a shared future for mankind.

He has written two books on China, titled "The Dragon and the Phoenix" and "China: The Pearl of the Eye," providing an understanding of China from a Lebanese and Arab perspective.

He revealed that he is working on his third book, which will focus on Chinese-Arab relations and use stamps as a visual narrative. The book will document the diplomatic and economic ties between China and Arab countries, as well as their historical and cultural exchanges.