December 2017

The Mediterranean Region looks at China
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While diplomatic issues were at the center of articles published by the Chinese media, their Mediterranean counterparts focused heavily on economic issues. To be sure, only the Algerian Djazairess published a diplomacy-related article praising China's position on the status of Jerusalem.

Iran is pushing to expand energy cooperation within the financial domain. Bijan Namdar Zangeneh, Iran's Oil Minister, met with Yang Gao, the President of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce in Iran, to discuss future Chinese investments in the Iranian petrochemical industry. Reportedly, the trade between China and Iran grew by 37% in 2017. This meeting happened a few days after Valiollah Seif, the Governor of the Central Bank of Iran, told Chen Yuan, Vice Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and the former Chairman of China's National Development Bank, that the Iranian government wants to reduce its reliance on the US Dollar by trading with China. Zangeneh also told Chen that he hopes to soon see the resolution of problems with Iranian economic activities in China caused by sanctions.

Similarly, the Turkish media reported that Turkey and China are talking about expanding cooperation in the banking sector in order to facilitate the expansion of activities carried out by Chinese and Turkish companies within the two countries. In particular, Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Şimşek discussed this issue with the Chairman of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), Yi Huiman, and the Chairman of ICBC Turkey,Xu Ke. ICBC Turkey was known as Tekstilbank before ICBC bought a majority stake in it in 2015.Relations between China and Turkey are also moving forward at the ruling-party level, as the senior leaders of the AK Party met with a delegation of the Chinese Communist Party in late December. The Belt and Road Initiative and bilateral cooperation in the cultural, technological, and industrial fields were at the center of the meeting, reported journalists at Haberler.

Meanwhile, Iraq signed an initial contract with the Chinese state-owned Zhenghua Oil to develop part of the East Baghdad field, which is currently controlled by the Midland Oil Company. Iraqi officials have estimated that the field has around 8 billion barrels of crude oil reserves and the potential to produce 120000 barrels of oil per day. Oil Ministry Spokesman Assem Jihad declared a production target of 40000 barrels per day within the next five years. According to his statement, Zhenghua Oil has also committed to the contracting of a school, a nursery, a medical clinic, and residential compounds. Jihad pointed out that the contract obligates the contracting company to rely on local workers to make up at least 50% of the total workforce during the implementation of the project. The percentage will gradually increase to 80% over time.

Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad declared the Syrian government's full support for countries willing to engage in its reconstruction during an economic forum organized by the Chinese embassy in Damascus. Bassam Haidar, the Assistant Minister of Economy and Foreign Trade, invited the Chinese entrepreneurs present at the forum and those in China to invest in Syria. Reportedly, the arrival of the delegation of Chinese companies in early December has set many expectations in Damascus. Similar expectations were expressed by Abeer Odeh, the Minister of National Economy in the Palestinian Authority.

In North Africa, Le Monde reported on the comments of former and current high-ranking officials from Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia during the China-Africa Investment Forum (CAIF) held in Marrakech in late November. Even though the French scholar Thierry Pairault declared that Africa "is not so important for China,” North African politicians were concerned about identifying strategies for their own countries to engage with China in both an effective and mutually beneficial way. In particular, Moulay Hafid Elalamy, Morocco's Minister of Industry, Trade, & New Technologies, argued that Morocco should be the main receiver of Chinese capital in the region, yet the lack of a concrete strategy and Algeria's more aggressive plan to attract Chinese investors have been significant obstacles so far. Morocco now aims at changing this situation thanks to Casablanca Finance City and Mohamed VI Tangier Tech City. The ongoing cooperation between the BMCE Bank and the China Railway Construction International Corporation is one of the first results of this.

Yet, the TSA reported on speculations in Morocco about the intentions of the Chinese auto manufacturer BYD Auto Industry Co. It seems that poor coordination between ministries and local authorities are creating confusion about BYD's delivery of electric monorail trains designated either for the city of Casablanca or Mohammed VI Tangier Tech City.

• Amadegiye chin baraye sarmayegozari darn aft o pertochimiye iran ,  آمادگی چین برای سرمایه گذاری در نفت و پتروشیمی ایران, [China is ready to Invest in Iran’s Oil and Petrochemical Sectors], Persia Digest, 13 December 2017,

• Iran o chin dar peye hazfe dollar az mobadellate banki,   ایران و چین در پی حذف دلار از مبادلات بانکی, [Iran and China are seeking to eliminate the dollar from the banking exchanges], CBI, 3 December 2017,

• Aliraq va alsin youvaqian qadan aqdan litatvir haql sharqi Baghdad alnefti,   العراق والصين يوقعان غدا عقدا لتطوير حقل شرقي بغداد النفطي, [Iraq and China sign a deal to develop an oilfield eastern Baghdad], Raialyoum, 24 December 2017,

• Iftitah aamal almultaqa alsini alsuri li tatvir altaawon althunai bein albaladain,  افتتاح أعمال الملتقى الصيني السوري لتطوير التعاون الثنائي بين البلدين, [The opening of the Sino-Syrian Forum to develop bilateral cooperation], Arab Sino, 6 December 2017,

• Alfelstinioun yatatalaoun ila tanmiya iqtisadihim abra mubadara alhizam va altariq,  الفلسطينيون يتطلعون إلى تنمية اقتصادهم عبر مبادرة الحزام والطريق, [Palestinians are looking to develop their economy through the Belt and Road Initiative], Arab Sino, 11 December 2017,

• AK Parti ile Çin Komünist Partisi Arasında Diyalog Toplantısı, [Turkey's AK Party, Chinese Communist Party to hold dialogue meeting], Haberler, 27 December 2017,

• Çin en önemli ortaklarımızdan biri, China is one the most important partners , Rekabet, 15 December 2017,

• Alsin touakid ala alhiwar li hasm qadiyat alquds,  الصين تؤكد على الحوار لحسم قضية القدس, [China stresses on Dialogue to resolve the Al-Quds(Jerusalem) Issue], Djazairess, 8 December 2017,

• Issam El Yadari, « Projets d’un groupe chinois au Maroc : des promesses sans lendemain ? »[Project of a Chinese group in Morocco: empty promises?], TSA, 13 December 2017,

• Sébastien Le Belzic, « Le Maroc et les nouvelles routes de la soie : la troisième voie » [Morocco and the new silkroads: the thirdway], Le Monde Afrique,  4 December 2017,

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