April 2018

The Mediterranean Region looks at China
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The Mediterranean media did not write much about China in April. Nonetheless, it is important to note that China is, probably unwillingly, becoming intertwined in the commercial tensions resulting from the spat between Yemen, Djibouti, and the UAE over the Doraleh and Aden container terminals. These tensions started after the Yemeni and Djiboutian authorities terminated the Emirati DP World's contract over the management of those ports and subsequently offered them to China. While in last month's issue of the ChinaMed Bulletin we discussed the Qatari outlet Sasa Post, in this issue we focus on a long interview with Djibouti's President Ismail Omar Guelleh conducted by the Jeune Afrique.

Guelleh argued that the UAE is playing the "Chinese card" to create alarm among Western countries and to put pressure on the Djiboutian government. However, the real problem stems from DP World’s refusal to renegotiate several terms of the contract with Djiboutian authorities. Guelleh then stated that Djibouti currently has no intention to contract another foreign company to manage the Doraleh container terminal. Continuing to defend the close relations with Beijing, Guelleh expressed his confidence in the economic sustainability of the three main China-sponsored projects in the country (the railway Djibouti-Addis Ababa, the water pipeline Ethiopia-Djibouti and the construction of a multipurpose port) and called for the emphasis given by international media to the presence of a Chinese military base in Djibouti to be reduced. In fact, there are other countries with far larger bases in the area. He also stated that currently the US spends USD 58 million, France spends USD 30 million, China spends USD 20 million, and Japan spends USD 3,5 million to support their individual bases.

Meanwhile, the Al Shorouk's commentator Mohamed Elmenshawy lamented the persistent lack of interest among the Arab elites to invest in developing a deeper understanding of China. Specifically, he argued that the elites in many Middle Eastern countries have strong ties and are familiar with the US, Britain, and France, but lack the instruments to understand China, a country whose ambitions in the region are already visible. Yet, numerous events have been held in Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, and Turkey to promote bilateral cooperation between those countries and China.

Reporting in Egypt focused on the tenth anniversary celebration of TEDA Investment Company's operations in the China-Egypt TEDA Suez Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone. Tariq Metwally, a member of the Council of Representatives in the Governorate of Suez, told Youm7 that the territory has greatly benefited from the presence of TEDA Investment Company. He hopes to see the Suez economic zone continue to be a gateway for Chinese investments in Egypt and Africa. The Tunisian Foreign Affairs Secretary of State Sabri Bachtobji, hoping to see his country to play a similar role, participatedin the "China’s Belt and Road Initiative: The Return of the Silk Road to the Mediterranean" conference, organized by Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung and the Tunisian think-tank Global Prospect Intelligence. At the same time, Morocco's Hassan I University and Ningxia University jointly established a center for "Belt and Road" studies. Ningxia University has similar cooperative programs with ten other universities in the Arab world.

Nonetheless, misunderstandings remain. Itzik Bader, Chairman of Granot Central Cooperative told the Israeli newspaper Globes that the Chinese state-owned company Food Bright has so far failed to deliver on the promise that its acquisition of a majority stake in Tnuva, an Israeli food processing cooperativespecializing in milk and dairy products, for USD 2,5 billion would had helped Israeli kibbutzim to enter the Chinese market.

• Alnaib tariq mutiwali: shirakat siniya tunafis ala alistithmar bi alantiqa alsinaiya bi alsuis النائب طارق متولى: شركات صينية تتنافس على الاستثمار بالمنطقة الصناعية بالسويس, [Deputy Director Metwally: Chinese companies are competing to invest in the Suez industrial zone], Youm7, 21 April, 2018, https://www.youm7.com/story/2018/4/21/%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%86%D8%A7%D8%A6%D8%A8-%D8%B7%D8%A7%D8%B1%D9%82-%D9%85%D8%AA%D9%88%D9%84%D9%89-%D8%B4%D8%B1%D9%83%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%B5%D9%8A%D9%86%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%AA%D8%AA%D9%86%D8%A7%D9%81%D8%B3-%D8%B9%D9%84%D9%89-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%AA%D8%AB%D9%85%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D8%A8%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D9%86%D8%B7%D9%82%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B5%D9%86%D8%A7%D8%B9%D9%8A%D8%A9/3756207.

• François Soudan, Ismaïl Omar Guelleh: "Djibouti n’est pas à vendre" [Ismaïl Omar Guelleh: "Djibouti is not on sell"], Jeune Afrique,  5 April 2018, http://www.jeuneafrique.com/mag/551088/politique/ismail-omar-guelleh-djibouti-nest-pas-a-vendre/.

• Hasan Halim, Iftitah almubadirah alhizam va altariq bein alsin va almaghrib bi almarakish إفتتاح مؤتمر مبادرة الحزام والطريق بين المغرب الصين بمراكش [Rabat and Beijing hold the Belt and Road Conference in Morocco], Maghress, 26 April, 2018, https://www.maghress.com/ahdathpress/582449.

• L’emplacement stratégique de la Tunisie lui permet de jouer un rôle important dans la mise en place des nouvelles "Routes de la soie du XXIème siècle [The strategic location of Tunisia allows it to play and important role  in the implementation of the Silk Roads of 21st century], Huffpost, 11 April 2018, https://www.huffpostmaghreb.com/entry/lemplacement-strategique-de-la-tunisie-lui-permet-de-jouer-un-role-important-dans-la-mise-en-place-des-nouvelles-routes-de-la-soie-du-xxieme-siecle_mg_5acdc224e4b09212968d0031.

• Muhammad Almanshawi, Ila ain tamdi alalaqat al-Arabiya alsiniya إلى أين تمضى العلاقات  العربية مع الصين؟ [Where are Chinese-Arab relations headingto?], Al-Shorouk, 19 April 2018, http://www.shorouknews.com/columns/view.aspx?cdate=19042018&id=fce9773f-f58a-4f80-9e37-53a15ca22c21.

• Tnuva lu nimcera benezid adashim, aval hayu efsharoyut tuvu yoret תנובה לא נמכרה בנזיד עדשים, אבל היו אפשרויות טובות יותר [Tnuva was not sold for cheap, but there were better options], Globes, 14  April 2018, http://www.globes.co.il/news/article.aspx?did=1001232289.

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