Saudi-Egyptian World Cup bid could make Qatar’s experience look like a walk in the park
Over the past decade, China has become a crucial partner for many West Asian countries. Sino-Arab relations have progressed steadily. China prioritizes this region because of its abundant natural resources, huge commercial market and strategic location. Since the announcement of the Belt and Road Initiative, West Asia has taken on new importance as a link between China and the world’s three ancient continents.
Commercial Culture Trends
The volume of trade between the Arab world and China reflects two trends: for 2018, it was 244.3 billion dollars, up 28% compared to 2017, against 25.4 billion dollars in 2003. According to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, it will reach 266.4 billion dollars. in 2020, an annual increase of $15 billion. In 2019, China imported $146 billion worth of goods from Arab countries, an increase of 4.8%.
There was a 14.7% increase in Chinese exports to Arab countries, totaling $120.4 billion. Compared to 2018, Chinese FDI in Arab countries increased by 18.8% to $1.42 billion in 2019. Despite an 8.7% year-on-year decline, Chinese companies signed $32.5 billion in project contracts with Arab countries in 2018, bringing their total trade value to $30.5 billion.
For the period between 2004 and 2018, China made a total investment of $224.3 billion in the Arab region. More than two-thirds of Chinese aid to Arab countries in 2018 took the form of loans, of which $90.6 million went to the four countries of Syria, Yemen, Jordan and Lebanon. To build a 68-kilometre electrified railway to the new administrative capital, Egypt received $1.2 billion from the World Bank. Egypt has received $3 billion in Chinese investment for the construction of eight buildings in the business district of the administrative capital.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia helps China; An oil and petrochemical complex in China and a recreation area near Beijing Daxing International Airport.
In February 2019, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia signed 12 agreements worth $28 billion with China. Due to the company’s deal to build an oil and petrochemical complex in China, Aramco contributed $10 billion of its own money. More than a dozen trade, petroleum and environmental agreements have been concluded between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and China. An $11 billion grant has been awarded to Emirati developer Emaar to build a residential and leisure area near Beijing Daxing International Airport.
One hundred and seventy-seven billion dollars was spent on Arab oil exports to China in 2018, and three Arab countries provided most of the country with all the energy it needed. Iraq came in fourth with $22.4 billion, followed by Saudi Arabia ($29.7 billion) and Oman ($17.3 billion).
According to the China-Arab Cooperation Forum, the number of tourists between China and Arab countries has increased by 16.5 percent annually.
Arabs made a total of 338.8 thousand trips to China, while Chinese made a total of 1.456 million trips to the Arab world, an increase of 0.7% and 8.9% compared to 2017 -2018. China and the Arab world each have an average of 28 flights per day.
The Belt and Road Initiative
As for the Belt and Road Initiative, it will help strengthen Arab-Chinese relations. 18 Arab countries have signed agreements with China to participate in this initiative, while the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) includes 9 Arab members.
The China Atomic Energy Agency and the Arab Atomic Energy Agency have signed agreements to establish a training center for the peaceful use of atomic energy in the Arab region with the World Cooperation Organization and development of energy interconnection in China.
The Chinese Society for Works of Arabic Literature was established in 1987, and many classical Chinese literary studies have been translated into Arabic. There has been an increase in the number of Chinese and Arab students in universities.
In 2019, 20,149 Arab students studied in Chinese universities, while only 1,129 Chinese did the same. Twelve Confucius Institutes and four Confucius Classrooms have been established in the Middle East by China.
Arab-Chinese relations are pacifist, as evidenced by the absence of Chinese military bases in the Arab region. In terms of regional arms sales, China is not in first place.
There are 32,000 to 35,000 US troops in the Gulf states, including Syria and Jordan, according to Western sources.
While the United States, France, Italy, Russia and the United Kingdom each have more than a dozen military posts in Arab countries (13 in total), China has only one station logistics in Djibouti.
According to the Xinhua news agency, the Chinese naval bases could be located in the Egyptian provinces of Port Said or Tripoli in Lebanon. The construction of more aircraft carriers for international operations is underway.
China has indicated its willingness to engage in fighting against the Islamic State in Iraq if China’s security and interests are threatened, according to Wang Yi’s December 2014 statement. China’s intervention in Libya to save 36,000 people may be an indication of this trend, especially since China lost $20 billion in Libya, making it realize that neglecting other places can generate the same experience, so the basis of overseas non-military activity must be changed.
China’s policy of “adapting” to the security situation in the Middle East is confirmed by the March 2021 strategic agreement between China and Iran, especially since the agreement does not refer to the dimensions security or cooperation in defense industries, while some reports indicate that there are possibilities for military cooperation, particularly in the fight against terrorist movements and cooperation in intelligence.
Data shows that the Arab region is one of the most volatile geopolitical areas in the world today. Since Arab-Chinese trade, investment and BRI in the Arab area could be affected by this climate, Chinese foreign policy is concerned. This means that China may have to rely on “soft” outside influence, which can then become “coercive”, in order to exert influence.
ISIS previously released a map showing the Silk Road passing through Khorasan (which includes parts of China) and Islamic countries in West Asia, including Iran, Syria and Iraq, before to come to an intersection with elements of the caliphate state.
It is a threat to the proposed New Silk Road, the land route and the sea route. Since its extension, the Suez Canal has become an important link between the maritime silk route and the Italian land route, which is also in direct contact with the planned caliphate of the Islamic State of Iraq and al- Sham (ISIS) (in Asia and the Sinai desert).
Thus, the Chinese project is threatened by ISIS or other radical Islamic groups. After the withdrawal of NATO and United States forces, Chinese officials fear that Islamic movements will strengthen in Afghanistan and that the Wakhan corridor between the borders of China and Afghanistan, which was used by the Taliban movement to train fighters, can reopen.
Oil sources estimate that China gets 20% of its oil from Iraq. It is also possible that a resurgence of Islamic movements in Iraq poses a threat to China’s energy resources and interests. In the Muslim regions of West Asia, Chinese energy ambitions are growing (60% of its oil comes from the Middle East).
Considering that 60% of Syrian oil is controlled by Islamic groups, this will prompt China to protect its major oil sources. China’s defense and security spending has increased every year in response to these changes and to protect China’s interests both domestically and internationally.
China’s defense and homeland security spending increased significantly between 2010 and 2021, rising from $84.6 billion to $293.35 billion, respectively. Fighter jets and battleships, which come under the Ministry of Heavy Industry, are not included in China’s defense spending accounting system. Additionally, tens of thousands of military retirees are not included in the defense budget, but rather in social services and other programs.
China’s announced defense spending will be higher if China adopts the usual method of calculation. China’s military spending has grown linearly from 2010 to 2021, while estimates from other countries suggest that actual spending could be much higher.
In 2022, China is expected to spend $300 billion on defense, which will increase defense spending by 7.1%, faster than last year. For the China-Russia “multipolarity” paradigm to work, the international community, especially its central powers, must contribute. In the years since 1978, Chinese political literature indicates a change in the country’s perspective on international relations and the world order.
The political literature in China before the 1990s was largely focused on the international system. Questions raised by Chinese scholar QIN in 1978 included whether the international system should be viewed from the perspective of war and struggle or peace and development, as well as whether China achieved its goals by integrating into the international system or vying for power.
According to Zheng Bijian’s idea, a multipolar international system should be established and the focus should shift from a country willing to change the current system to a country seeking to integrate into it and take the lead in globalization. As the country’s global importance grows, it demands a specific role in the international system.
Immediately after Mao Zedong’s death, there was a dominant theory in Chinese thought, Deng Xiaoping’s “Birdcage Doctrine”, which integrated socialism and capitalism. Chinese pragmatism is expressed in Lou Jiwei’s “cat color theory”. Cats hunt mice, not because they’re orange. Economic and political results are more important than “ideological color” in these times.
Programs have also changed to reflect major signs, such as a shift in interpretation of the construction of the wall, from resisting invaders to promoting national unity and using watchtowers to improve communication between Chinese tribes.
A return to Westphalian state conceptions in China can be observed in this case. The qualitative shift in Chinese political and economic thought has direct repercussions on Sino-Arab relations, particularly with regard to trade and the protection of economic interests, even if it leads to direct military intervention.