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China schmoozes with the Muslim world

As the Trump administration’s Middle East policies alienate and confuse allies, enemies, and everyone else, China is wasting no time reassuring Muslim-majority nations that Beijing is a reliable partner. The China-Africa Project reports (paywall):

Chinese Foreign Minister Wáng Yì 王毅 wrapped up the first stop of his five-nation African tour following a full day of high-level meetings with Egyptian and Arab regional leaders. Security issues in Libya and the situation in Iran were key items on the agenda at several of the meetings, according to news reports.

Wang found a friendly audience in Cairo to speak out against critics of China’s controversial policies in Xinjiang where an estimated 1 million Muslim Uyghurs are being interned. At a press briefing with his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukry, Wang accused western media of “fabricating lies to drive a wedge between China and Islamic countries.” [Xinhua has a version of Wang’s remarks here, in Chinese.]

What’s interesting here is that in the heart of the Arab world, home to the fabled “Arab Street,” Wang’s position on Xinjiang was well-received by his hosts and Egyptian state media that re-printed his comments almost verbatim without any challenge. This highlights the strong coalition of Muslim countries, especially in Africa, that China has mobilized to support its policies in Xinjiang.

See also from the Chinese foreign ministry: Chinese FM calls for promoting Sino-Egyptian comprehensive strategic partnership to higher level; Chinese FM calls for deepening China-Arab strategic partnership.

Meanwhile in Iraq, OilPrice.com reports that last week “saw key developments in China’s cornerstone project of making Iraq into a client state”:

The first of these developments was the announcement from Iraq’s Finance Ministry that the country had started exporting 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil to China in October as part of the 20-year oil-for-infrastructure deal agreed between the two countries…

The second key announcement in this vein made last week from Iraq was that the Oil Ministry has completed the pre-qualifying process for companies interested in participating in the Iraqi-Jordanian oil pipeline project…Baghdad expects that such tender offers will be dominated by Chinese and Russian companies, according to the Iran and Iraq source.

Moving a little east, Pakistan got its near-daily dose of love from Beijing today. VOA reports:

Pakistan and China have launched a major joint naval drill in the Arabian Sea to, as officials put it, deepen their security cooperation and consolidate an “all-weather strategic partnership” between the two allied nations.

The nine-day “Sea Guardians 2020” exercise went into action Monday. It is the sixth in the bilateral cooperation plan between Chinese and Pakistani military forces.

An official statement Wednesday noted that warships, including frigates, destroyers, and fast attack craft “along with air and sub-surface assets” as well as marines and special operations forces from China and Pakistan, are participating in the drill.  

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Jeremy Goldkorn

Jeremy Goldkorn worked in China for 20 years as an editor and entrepreneur. He is editor-in-chief of SupChina, and co-founder of the Sinica Podcast.

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