April 2018

China looks at the Mediterranean Region
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In April, the Mediterranean region not only receivedsignificant attention from the Chinese media, but from the Chinese government as well. Indeed, the CPC Central Committee and Director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs, Yang Jiechi, visited Kuwait and the UAE as a special envoy on behalf of President Xi Jinping. While in Kuwait,Yang met with Sheikh Sabah IV Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and both the Defense and Foreign Ministers. During his visit to the UAE,he met the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. China's temporary representative to Libya also met with the Deputy Prime Minister of the Libyan Government of National Accord.

Liu Zhongmin, the Director of the Middle East Studies Institute of Shanghai International Studies University, wrote in the Global Times that the region is becoming increasingly polarized over the competition between the US and Russia with different countries seeking support from one or the other external power. However, the composition of such emerging blocs remains rather fluid depending on how the situation of the numerous regional hotspots evolves. Qatar, Israel, and Turkey are three countries analysts should pay attention to because they are all pursuing different strategies with different and unexpected partners, such as Israel and Saudi Arabia with regards to the Iranian nuclear deal. These differing strategies can destabilize the simple, albeit risky logic of the US-Russia competition. According to Gu Zhenglong, a researcher at Xinhua's World Affairs Research Center, the US and its allies will not, however, be able to sustain the momentumof their military intervention in Syria. The small scale of the strikes is indicative of the limited goals that they aim to achieve. Their goal is no longer to bring down Assad, and they do not want to directly challenge Russia, which is something they cannot afford to do. Regarding China's actions in the Syrian crises, Xinhua reported that China has delivered USD 1 million worth of aid to 80.000 Syrian refugees located in Lebanon. Meanwhile, they have already assembled the sixth batch of troops to join the peacekeeping mission in Mali. According to Xinhua, it is the first time since its reorganization that the 80th Army Group will send troops for overseas peacekeeping. Among them, almost one hundred have already served abroad.

In North Africa, two important projects have been completed. The most important being the first Beidou overseas center was opened in Tunis on April 10th. The center will manage operations in the Middle East and North Africa and will provide a platform for the promotion of that location’s system and cooperation with relevant regional partners. Tunisian officials stated that they see the presence of the center in their country as an important step forward in further developingits aerospace cooperation with China. The second project to be completed was a highway built by the China State Construction Engineering Project in northern Algeria. 22 km of this highway can already be used and the remaining 31 km is set to be completed by the end of the year. The Algeria Minister of Public Works and Transport stated that the highway will greatly contribute to local economic development.

At the same time, as the China-Egypt TEDA Suez Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone celebrated the tenth anniversary of its foundation, a promotional event in the Egyptian city of Ismailia was held to promote the economic zone and attract the attention of Chinese companies. The chief representative of the China Development Bank (CDB) to Egyptwas in attendance,and stated thatas the Egyptian economy improves, the CDB will continue to expand its operations there. So far, the CBD has financed projects roughly totaling USD 5-6 billion. Around seventy companies are already operating in the economic zone. They have invested more than USD 1 billion and currently employ 1800 local workers (97% of their total workforce).

China's engagement in the construction of logistical infrastructures, such as a bridge, also brought the attention of Chinese media to the southern part of the Mediterranean region, in Croatia. The China Road and Bridge Corporation and Croatia Roads officially signed an agreement for the construction of the Peljesac bridge (you can find comments from local media on this project in January issue of the ChinaMed bulletin). Croatia also hosted the second Silk Road Tourism Conference organized by the Silk Road International Chamber of Commerce, the China-South East Europe Chamber of Commerce, and with support from the governments of Croatia and Montenegro. Also in attendance were representativesfrom Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovenia, and Macedonia.

• Guo Yuandan, Zishen zhongdong wenti jizhe: mei dui xu xiao guimo daji bu hui chijiu, telangpu bu yuan yu e zhengmian jiaofeng 资深中东问题记者:美对叙小规模打击不会持久,特朗普不愿与俄正面大交锋 [Veteran reporter on Middle Eastern affairs: the small-scale American strikes against Syria will not last long, Trump does not want to confront Russia directly], Global Times, 14 April 2018, http://world.huanqiu.com/exclusive/2018-04/11851456.html.

• Huang Ling, Zhongguo gongsi chengjian de aerjiliya gaosu gaolu xiangmu bufen luduan tongche 中国公司承建的阿尔及利亚高速公路项目部分路段通车 [Part of the highway built by China State Construction Engineering opened to the traffic], Xinhua, 20 April 2018, http://www.xinhuanet.com/overseas/2018-04/20/c_1122711745.htm.

• Li Liangyong, Zhongguo xiang zai li xuliya nanmin de yuanzhu xiangmu zhixing wanbi 中国向在黎叙利亚难民的援助项目执行完毕 [China completes an aid project for the Syrian refugees in Lebanon], Xinhua, 13 April 2018, http://www.xinhuanet.com/world/2018-04/13/c_1122674915.htm.

• Li Yiyan and Zheng Siyuan, Tongxun: "Shamo zhi hua" shi nian zhanfang - ji taida suyishi jingmao hezuoqu chengli zhounian通讯: "沙漠之花"十年绽放 - 记泰达苏伊士经贸合作区成立周年 [Communication: Ten years of blossoming for the "flower of the desert" - Reporting the anniversary of the foundation of the China-Egypt TEDA Suez Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone], Xinhua, 27 April 2018, http://www.xinhuanet.com/fortune/2018-04/27/c_129860932.htm.

• Li Yiyan, Zongshu: suyishi yunhepan yongdong zhong ai touzi hezuo xin rechao 综述: 苏伊士运河畔涌动中埃投资合作新热潮 [Summary: The new enthusiasm for the Sino-Egyptian investment cooperation in the banks of the Suez Canal], Xinhua, 2 May 2018, http://m.xinhuanet.com/2018-05/02/c_1122773311.htm.

• Liu Zhongmin, Liu zhongmin: "zhanying duikang" zujiu zhongdong yi zhang luanwang 刘中民: "阵营对抗"织就中东一张乱网 [Liu Zhongmin: "confrontation between bloc" transforms the Middle East into a chaotic network], Global Times, 11 April 2018, http://opinion.huanqiu.com/hqpl/2018-04/11824003.html.

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