China and the Arab League publish joint statement that showcases Beijing’s growing geopolitical ambitions

Foreign Affairs

China’s reach and influence in the Middle East and North Africa continue to grow.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi meets with Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul-Gheit
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi meets with Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul-Gheit in Alamein, Egypt, on July 18, 2021. Xinhua.

China and the Arab League published a sweeping joint statement (in Chinese) on Monday that highlights Beijing’s increasingly ambitious geopolitical agenda in the Middle East and Persian Gulf regions.

Context: There’s a widespread perception in many corners of the Chinese foreign policy community that growing fatigue in both the U.S. and Arab countries over Washington’s presence in the region is providing a new opening for Beijing to become a more visible player.

Key highlights from the China-Arab League Joint Statement

  • COVID-19 cooperation, including the local manufacturing of vaccines in Egypt, the UAE, and Morocco.
  • Belt and Road expansion.
  • Xinjiang: The statement does not mention the western Chinese region or the Uyghurs by name, but the reference to “uphold non-interference in internal affairs, continue to support each other on issues involving each other’s core interests and major concerns” is clear in this context. (The Arab League has been a vocal supporter of China’s Xinjiang policies in Xinjiang.)
  • Middle East peace: China has been angling to become more involved in the Arab-Israeli peace process and used this joint statement as another opportunity to bolster its lagging credibility as a mediator.

For further links and details, please click through to SupChina’s partner site, the China-Africa Project.