China’s growing influence in the Middle East and Mediterranean


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China’s crude imports from Saudi Arabia surged last year by 47%, highlighting the kingdom’s growing importance to Beijing as a key oil supplier. This is a concern for Africa because the Chinese no longer feel as dependent on the continent for strategic raw materials as they did even just a few years ago.

And as the Chinese expand their economic and political influence deeper into the Middle East, Persian Gulf, and Mediterranean regions, they’re being welcomed in every capital.

It’s somewhat surprising, though, that the Chinese aren’t encountering more resistance, especially since they’re coming to these politically combustible regions with their own set of complex issues. But, apparently, it doesn’t seem to bother anyone that the Chinese do business with both the Iranians and the Israelis as well as the Qataris and the Saudis, and have launched a massive campaign against Uyghur Muslims in which more than a million people are now forcibly detained in internment facilities. 

In fact, quite the opposite. Earlier this year, Chinese Foreign Minister Wáng Yì 王毅 brought Beijing’s messaging about Xinjiang to Cairo, the heart of the proverbial “Arab Street,” and was warmly embraced by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

For some perspective on the growing Chinese presence from the Persian Gulf to Morocco and everywhere in between, we’re joined this week by two leading scholars of geopolitical trends in those regions:China-africa

Andrea Ghiselli is a researcher at the School of International Relations and Public Affairs of Fudan University in Shanghai and at the ChinaMed Project, which covers Chinese engagement in the Mediterranean. 

Mohammed Turki Al-Sudairi is the head of the Asian Studies Unit at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies and also a researcher at the Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Hong Ko