August 2019

The Mediterranean Region looks at China
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We begin the review of Mediterranean media with news of contrasting trends in the economic relations between Greece and China, on the one hand, and Spain and China, on the other hand. Greek media expresses optimism in the development of the Sino-Greek relations and describes China as an important actor— committed to help the Southern European economy in its recovery. Indeed, in June, China became the twelfth most important market for Greek products, up four positions and +42,7% in exports compared to the situation one year ago. [1] At the same time, the announcement that Bank of China will establish a branch in Greece by the end of the year is taken as a sign of support for the Greek economy and that new investments will be coming soon. [2] Unfortunately, things are going differently in Spain as an article published by La Región shows that Spanish imports from China multiplied by fifteen in just over two decades, going from 1.756 million euros in 1995 to 26,908 million at the end of 2018. [3] These data come from a report issued by the Spanish embassy in Beijing. The same report identifies China’s growing middle class as an important market for Chinese products.

Meanwhile, other countries, too, are looking at China as an opportunity for their economic development. For example, in Turkey, the completion of a railway connecting the DP World Yarımca port with Baku through the Kars-Tbilisi-Baku railway was portrayed with great trepidation as an important step to connect Turkey to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. [4] Minister of Transport and Infrastructure Mehmet Cahit Turhan, who was present and the inauguration ceremony stated that this is a great achievement for Turkey’s logistical network and that “the Yarımca port provides a direct connection from China to London through this line.” At the same time, an expert from the Egyptian Center for Economic Studies told to Youm7 that the current trade war between China and the United States could be beneficial for Egypt, especially in terms of exports of clothing, furniture, leather, food and handicrafts. [5] Khalid Qandil, Chairman of the Economic Committee of the Wafd Party (one of the minority partners of the government coalition) argued that Egypt should continue to leverage on its geographical position to take advantage of China’s growing engagement with Africa. [6] Such statements are consistent with the analysis written by Elena Aun and Thierry Kellner about the recent development of the Sino-Egyptian relationship. [7] According to them, “the Sino-Egyptian rapprochement is done directly to the detriment of the latter in a kind of zero-sum game - Egypt is careful to cultivate other partners - but what Beijing offers today in Cairo allows the latter to extend space of maneuver, to diversify its support and to depend less closely on its traditional partners.”

The situation remains more uncertain in Israel. Zhan Yongxin published a commentary in The Marker in an attempt to counteract the strong narrative of the risks of growing Chinese investments in Israel that, as we noticed many times, has been mounting steadily in the past. [8] While it is up to the readers to decide the robustness of Ambassador Zhan’s defense, the situation is surely more nuanced than what the media describes. Indeed, Israel Defense reports that the cooperation between Israel and China in the IT realm continues without significant downturns as senior Israeli government officials regularly participate in important conferences in China, such as the World Internet Conference and the Internet Security Conference. [9] As always, Matan Vilnai, former Israeli ambassador to China, raised a moderate argument: Chinese businesses and money are an opportunity if all the necessary security check are done. Interestingly, the journalist also points out that the establishment of a special committee to screen Chinese investments, as Washington would prefer, could put Israel in an awkward position as this move would signal to companies from other countries that they, too, could have problems in Israel because of the United States.

Moving toward the Gulf, the reporting becomes more political. Sabq, a Saudi newspaper, published a report praising the efforts of the Saudi government and the Xinjiang local government to encourage and help up to 11.000 Uyghurs to travel to Mecca to perform the Hajj in early August. [10] Head of the Chinese Hajj Delegation, Mr. Abdullah Saidullah, told the journal that everything is fine for Chinese Muslims and that the number of Chinese Muslims able to visit Mecca every year keeps on increasing. Similarly in favor of China, the Bahraini newspaper Akhbar-Alkhaleej launched an attack against Western media, accusing them of distorting the truth about the protests in Hong Kong, ultimately, to attack China. [11] Perhaps, this can be partly considered the result of the training sessions that Chinese media have been providing to Chinese journalists, such as that that took place between August 22 and September 11 in Beijing. [12]

Against this background, diplomacy proceeds more discretely. The Kuwaiti Minister of Information and Minister of State for Youth Affairs, Emir Muhammad al-Jabari, met with the American ambassador, Lawrence Silverman, and the Chinese one, Li Minggang, in two separate meetings. [13] In both occasions, he told to his counterpart that Kuwait wishes to continue to develop strong relations with China and the United States, respectively, thereby signaling a more cautious and balanced approach to the two superpowers than the just-mentioned articles underscore. Meanwhile, just a few days earlier, the recently nominated Chinese ambassador, the veteran Chen Weiqing, to Saudi Arabia had a meeting with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)’s Assistant Secretary for Political Affairs and Negotiations Dr. Abdulaziz Hamad Al-Owaisheg. [14] In their discussion, they reviewed positive results achieved by GCC secretariat delegation’s visit to Beijing at the beginning of August to discuss trade and international affairs.

We close with two articles that we selected from those published in Iran, both published by Tabnak News Agency. The first is a classic example of the narratives about China that are proliferating in Iran as well as Syria, that depict China as a powerful ally engaged in the fight against the common enemy, the United States. [15] According to it, China’s purchase of Iranian oil despite the American sections could both strengthen Iran’s economy and undermine the American position in the region. Yet, as the data in the article shows well, China has drastically decreased the quantity of oil imported from Iran. Iran’s oil revenues fell by 60% compared to one year ago—the same drop of Chinese imports. Last month the Iranian Vice President, Eshaq Jahangiri, had to remind Song Tao, Head of the International Liaison Department of the Communist Party of China Song Tao, that “we expect them to be more active in buying Iranian oil.” Meanwhile, the second article revolves around the American proposal to created joint patrols in the Straits of Hormuz. [16] The experts from Shahid Beheshti University interviewed were skeptical about any chance that China and Russia would support the American proposal. Interestingly, they also pointed out that fake or semi-fake news about China can easily become mainstream in Iran because of the growing influence of Chinese behavior on Iran.

[1] Despina Konti, Ayxithikan kata42,7% oi-ellhnikes exagoges pros tin kina Αυξήθηκαν κατά 42,7% οι ελληνικέςεξαγωγές προς την Κίνα [Greek exports to China increased by 42.7%], Kathimerini, 31 August 2019, https://www.kathimerini.gr/1040525/article/oikonomia/ellhnikh-oikonomia/ay3h8hkan-kata-427-oi-ellhnikes-e3agwges-pros-thn-kina.

[2] Ti simainei i parousia tis bank ofchina stin ellada Τι σημαίνει ηπαρουσία της Bank of China στην Ελλάδα [What does the presence of Bank of China inGreece mean?], Naftemporiki, 23 August 2019, https://www.naftemporiki.gr/finance/story/1508711/ti-simainei-i-parousia-tis-bank-of-china-stin-ellada.

[3] España multiplicó por 15 suscompras a China en 20 años [Spain’s imports from China grew fifteen times intwenty years], La Región,28 August 2019, https://www.laregion.es/articulo/economia/espana-multiplico-15-compras-china-20-anos/20190828091453890364.html.

[4] Çin’le Londra’yı bağlayacak [Newrailway links Turkish port with China and the United Kingdom], Yenisafak Gazetesi, 31 July 2019, https://www.yenisafak.com/ekonomi/cinle-londrayi-baglayacak-3500382.

[5] Nuha al-Tawi, Al-harb al-tijariyyabayna Washington wa-Bikin takhruju an al-saytara. Khubaraʾ yatawaqqa uninkimash hajm al-tijjarat al-alamiyya wa-l-dukhul fi fitrat al-kisad. Al-Miksikfī sidarat al-mustafidin, wa fursat dhahbiyya amam al-Qahira li-raf sadrathali-l-wilayat al-muttahida الحرب التجاريةبين واشنطن وبكين تخرج عن السيطرة..خبراء يتوقعون انكماش حجم التجارةالعالميةوالدخولفى فترة كساد.. المكسيك فى صدارة المستفيدين.. وفرصة ذهبية أمام القاهرة لرفع صادرتها للولايات المتحدة [The trade war betweenWashington and Beijing is getting out of control: Experts predict global tradeto shrink and enter recession; Mexico will be among the main beneficiaries andthere is a golden opportunity for Cairo to raise its exports to the UnitedStates], Youm7, 8 August 2019, https://www.youm7.com/story/2019/8/8/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AD%D8%B1%D8%A8-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D8%AC%D8%A7%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%A8%D9%8A%D9%86-%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%B4%D9%86%D8%B7%D9%86-%D9%88%D8%A8%D9%83%D9%8A%D9%86-%D8%AA%D8%AE%D8%B1%D8%AC-%D8%B9%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%B7%D8%B1%D8%A9-%D8%AE%D8%A8%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%A1-%D9%8A%D8%AA%D9%88%D9%82%D8%B9%D9%88%D9%86/4352777.

[6] Mahmud al-Omri, Iqtisadiyyaal-Wafd: al-tanafusiyat al-tijariyya bayna al-Sin wa-Amrika taftahu furasankabira li-l-iqtisad al-misriyya اقتصادية الوفد "التنافسية التجارية بين الصين وأمريكا تفتح فرصا كبيرة للإقتصاد المصرى, [Wafd: trade competitionbetween China and America opens great opportunities for the Egyptian economy], Youm7, 18 August 2019, https://www.youm7.com/story/2019/8/18/%D8%A7%D9%82%D8%AA%D8%B5%D8%A7%D8%AF%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%88%D9%81%D8%AF-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D9%86%D8%A7%D9%81%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D8%AC%D8%A7%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%A8%D9%8A%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B5%D9%8A%D9%86-%D9%88%D8%A3%D9%85%D8%B1%D9%8A%D9%83%D8%A7-%D8%AA%D9%81%D8%AA%D8%AD-%D9%81%D8%B1%D8%B5%D8%A7-%D9%83%D8%A8%D9%8A%D8%B1%D8%A9/4379346.

[7] Elena Aun and Thierry Kellner, Les relations sino-égyptiennes à l’ère ‘Xi-al-Sissi’ ou la cristallisation d’uneforte convergence géopolitique [The Sino-Egyptian relations in Xi-Al-Sisi era: thecrystallization of a strong geopolitical convergence], Confluences Méditerranée, Vol. 109, No. 2 (2019), pp. 105-18.

[8] Zhan Yongxin, Day im ha-panica –Le-Israrl ain ma le-phached mi-Sin די עם הפאניקה - לישראל אין מה לפחד מסין [Enough with the panic,Israel has nothing to fear from China], The marker, 12 August 2019, https://www.themarker.com/opinion/.premium-1.7677747.

[9] Ami Rohx Dumba, Asakim caragil:Yachasey Israel-Sic ba-cyber nimshachim  עסקים כרגיל: יחסי ישראל-סין בסייבר נמשכים [Business as usual:Sino-Israeli relations in cyber technology continues], Israel Defense,18 August 2019, https://israeldefense.co.il/he/node/39791.

[10] Khaled Ali, Mqat’ah siniyah tshaj’‘ala al-haj lan tsadiq ‘adad al-qadmin minha li ada al-faridah مقاطعة صينية تشجع على الحج... لن تصدق عدد القادمينمنها لأداء الفريضة [The Chinese province thatencourages Muslims to perform Hajj…You would not believe the numbers], Sabq, 6 August 2019, https://sabq.org/dGxV53.

[12] Abdullah Al-Ayobi, Al-sin hial-hadaf wa lis hong kong الصين هي الهدف وليس هونج كونج [China is the target, notHong Kong], Akhbar-Alkhaleej, 28 August 2019, http://www.akhbar-alkhaleej.com/news/article/1179438.

[1] Sor al-sin al-‘dhim 17 masʾol‘elami ‘arabi binahm 3 ‘omanin li modat 21 yoman سور الصين العظيم يحتضن 17 مسؤولا إعلاميا عربياً بينهم 3 عمانيين لمدة 21 يوما [The Great Wall embraces 17Arab media officials, including three Omani citizens for 21 days], Oman Daily ,24 August 2019, https://www.omandaily.om/?p=724011.

[13] Al-Jabari yaltaqi safiray Amrikāwa-l-Sin: ʿalaqatuna matina maʿa Washington wa Bikin, الجبري يلتقي سفيري أميركا والصين: علاقاتنا متينة مع واشنطن وبكين, [Al-Jabari meets Americanand Chinese ambassador: our relations with Us and China are strong], al-Seyassa,27 August 2019, http://al-seyassah.com/%d8%a7%d9%84%d8%ac%d8%a8%d8%b1%d9%8a-%d9%8a%d9%84%d8%aa%d9%82%d9%8a-%d8%b3%d9%81%d9%8a%d8%b1%d9%8a-%d8%a3%d9%85%d9%8a%d8%b1%d9%83%d8%a7-%d9%88%d8%a7%d9%84%d8%b5%d9%8a%d9%86-%d8%b9%d9%84%d8%a7%d9%82/.

[14] Bahth aojoh al-ta’aon al-moshtarakbin majlis al-ta’aon al-khaliji wa jomhoriyat al-sin al-sha’biyah   بحث أوجه التعاون المشترك بين مجلس التعاون وجمهورية الصين الشعبية [Discussions aboutcooperation between Gulf States Council and People’s Republic Of China], Secretariat General of the Gulf Cooperation Council, 20 August 2019, http://www.gcc-sg.org/ar-sa/MediaCenter/NewsCooperation/News/Pages/news2019-8-20-3.aspx.

[15] Naft-e Irān sallāh-i dar dast-e Cin نفت ایران سلاحی در دست چین [Iranian oil, a weapon inChina’s hands], Tabnak News Agency, 12 August 2019, https://www.tabnak.ir/fa/news/917523/%D9%86%D9%81%D8%AA-%D8%A7%DB%8C%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%B3%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%AD%DB%8C-%D8%AF%D8%B1-%D8%AF%D8%B3%D8%AA-%DA%86%DB%8C%D9%86.

[16] Cin va Rusiye dar eʾtelāf-e dariyāyi-e Āmrikādar Khalij-e Fārs molheq mishavand?! چین و روسیه به ائتلاف دریایی آمریکا در خلیج فارس ملحق می‌شوند؟! [AreChina and Russia joining America’s maritime alliance in the Persian Gulf?!], Tabnak News Agency, 9 August 2019, https://www.tabnak.ir/fa/news/916841/%DA%86%DB%8C%D9%86-%D9%88-%D8%B1%D9%88%D8%B3%DB%8C%D9%87-%D8%A8%D9%87-%D8%A7%D8%A6%D8%AA%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%81-%D8%AF%D8%B1%DB%8C%D8%A7%DB%8C%DB%8C-%D8%A2%D9%85%D8%B1%DB%8C%DA%A9%D8%A7-%D8%AF%D8%B1-%D8%AE%D9%84%DB%8C%D8%AC-%D9%81%D8%A7%D8%B1%D8%B3-%D9%85%D9%84%D8%AD%D9%82-%D9%85%DB%8C%E2%80%8C%D8%B4%D9%88%D9%86%D8%AF.

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