If the role of multilateralism can be inferred from an examination of the principled meanings it embodies, (15) I argue the role of FOCAC and the SACF has to be seen as that of providing a social infrastructure giving permanence to embedded principles and values that stand in contrast to those associated with the present hegemonic configuration of the international system, particularly in regards to sovereignty, trade liberalisation and third party intervention.
Whereas Ruggie sees indivisibility, generalized principles, and diffuse reciprocity as those constitutive principles, both the SACF and the FOCAC seem to depart from that kind of approach.
The patterns of multilateral design characterising SACF and FOCAC are better explained assuming that "rationality cannot be separated from any politically significant episode of normative influence, or normative change, just as the normative context conditions any episode of rational choice.
In this train of thought, I argue that SACF and FOCAC represent "institutional platforms" (23) in which China, acting as entrepreneur, can facilitate such intersubjective processes ultimately directed to the making of full-fledged international norms.
In little more than five years, the SACF has blossomed as an original framework for multilateral cooperation between China and the 22 Arab countries making up the LAS, which acts as the single Arab counterpart to China.
The SACF has also established collateral cooperative frameworks like the China-Arab Friendship Association, or the Arab-Chinese Businessmen Forum, which was set up following the first Action Plan, and has held two editions: in Beijing in 2005 and in Amman in 2007.
This section will highlight the main elements characterising Chinese discourse regarding the SACF.
45) As for the SACF a periodic entrepreneur's conference also exists.
The rhetorical and discursive practices around which China is building a sense of solidarity are similar to the ones deployed in the SACF context.
Thirdly, and as in the case of the SACF, shared interests, historical friendship, and a consolidated relationship based on the 'trademark' Five Principles is indicated as the source of values and principles to promote a "new type of strategic partnership.
The scope of the SACF and FOCAC is evaluated below on the basis of the three functions that the adopted theoretical definition ascribes to international institutions: 1) the facilitation of a learning process among members; 2) the mobilisation of trust enabling the achievement of interdependent goals; and 3) the promotion of norms.
This is done by reviewing speeches of African and Arab leaders or opinion-makers on the SACF and FOCAC respectively, or mutual cooperation in general.