January 2018

The Mediterranean Region looks at China
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While the economy has been at the center stage in previous issues of the ChinaMed Observer, much of the focus in the reporting made by the Mediterranean media in the first month of 2018 has been on politics.

To begin with, Israel is still reflecting on how the US President's decision to move the American embassy to Jerusalem will impact the country and its relations with other key powers, China being among them. After the meeting between a Palestinian and an Israeli delegation to Beijing in December, Mida commented on the evolution of the relationship between China and the Palestinians. Although the leader of the Israeli delegation, Yehiel Bar, reportedly welcomed China's role as mediator, the article presented a more pessimistic view on this issue. On the one hand, the author pointed out that China does have a stake in the region’s stability, and therefore it and Israel want the same thing. On the other, China has always sympathized with the Palestinian cause and the Palestinians are eager to bring China into the dispute now that it has become a heavyweight in international politics. Yet the possibility that Chinese intervention will eventually lead to peace between Israel and the Palestinians was quickly dismissed by the author as a dangerous bluff, "pretentious statement". While it is almost impossible that China will be able and willing to come up with and implement an innovative peace plan, its presence in the negotiations adds fuel to the fire by emboldening the Palestinian side.

China's expanding role in the dispute with the Palestinians is also the focus of another article published by the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz. The article calls on Israel to reconsider its relations with China and with Europe. In particular, Israel must not forget that that its volume of trade with Europe is not only double of that with China, but that Israel and European countries also share a much deeper interest in democratic values. According to the author, Europe is the only great power left still staunchlysupporting democracy. Although the coverage about Europe within the Israeli media has been rather negative, the author argues that Israel's security and prosperity depends on it being firmly anchored to the democratic world, no matter how strong its economic ties with China become.

The way the media looks at China and Europe is completely different in the Balkans, especially in Croatia. The Vecernji List, a Croatian newspaper, published an article celebrating the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC)’s victory in the contested bid for the construction of the Pelješac Bridge. The Croatian government will use funds from the European Union to pay the Chinese company. Croatia was finally "thinking independently", wrote the author, by resisting lobbying on behalf of European companies to exclude their Chinese competitor. The author predicted similar wins in the future for China, owing to the country’s ambition to participate in the construction of the Port of Rijeka, the Rijeka-Budapest high-speed railway, and other infrastructure projects aimed at connecting the Balkan countries all the way south to Greece. China is depicted as a welcomed actor that can bring new capitals to the country and a plan to integrate the region. At the same time, its business-only attitude and non-interference principle compares positively with Europe'sapproach to the region.

Compared to the aforementioned events, accusations that China spied on the African Union (AU) received very little attention. In Algeria, which is one of the main financial supporters of the AU, journalists at the Djazairess limited themselves to providing only a brief description of the facts of the incident without commenting on the implications for the relations between China and the AU. Only the French newspaper Le Monde reported on the ironic comment of an anonymous AU high official that in fact these actions by China mirror those taken by some Western countries, but, at least, it supported the independent movements and the economic development of many African countries.

Instead, Djazairess focused more of its reporting on the strengthening in cooperation between the Algerian Ministry of Energy and Mining and China, resulting from the visit made by the Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to Beijing in December. A joint commission will work to attract investment in both countries while also acting as a platform for the exchange of ideas and best practices. Similarly, the economic relations between China and other countries in the region are growing stronger.

The China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT), also known as China Chamber of International Commerce, opened a branch in Beirut with the support of the Fransabank Group. Reportedly, the new office in Lebanon is charged with supporting trade between China and the entire Middle East and North Africa. This is a much larger mandate than that of the CCPIT branch in Dubai, which is responsible for trade with the Gulf countries. At the same time, Mohammad Khazaee, Iran's Deputy Minister and President of the Organization for Investment, Economic and Technical Assistance, declared that the annual sales of oil to China have never been higher and that Iran has been selling roughly USD 11 billion worth of oil every yearduring the last decade. It is important, stated Khazaee, that Iran and China keep on working to prevent other countries from trying to damage their relationship.

The Turkish media Dunya Gazetesi reported statements by the General Manager of the Bank of China Turkey A.Ş., which was launched on 10 January 2017. Li stated that the Bank of China (BOC) provided USD 2,5 billion of financial support for a number of projects in Turkey between 2011 and 2016. The Bank of China Turkey A.Ş. will continue to work on attracting investments in the country. The BOC had been watching the Turkish market for some time before finally starting formal communications with Turkish financial regulators in December 2016.

• Çinli dev Türkiye'nin altyapısına talip [Chinese giant aims at Turkey’s infrastructure], Dunya Gazetesi, 20 January 2018, https://www.dunya.com/finans/haberler/cinli-dev-turkiyenin-altyapisina-talip-haberi-399434.

• Davor Ivanković, Je li Pelješki most početak jednog divnog prijateljstva Hrvatske i Kine? [Is the Pelješac Bridge a beginning of a great friendship between Croatia and China?], Vecernji List, 14 January 2018, https://www.vecernji.hr/premium/peljeski-most-prijateljstvo-hrvatska-kina-1219751.

• Hakada ahbata khobara jazaeriyoun amaliatajasos siniya ala maqar alitihad alifriqi biadis ababa,   هكذا أحبط خبراء جزائريون عملية تجسس صينية على مقر الإتحاد الإفريقي بأديسا أبابا [Algerian experts foiled a Chinese spy operation on the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa], Djazairess , 27 January, 2018, https://www.djazairess.com/elbilad/279122.  

• Joan Tilouine and Ghalia Kadiri, “A Addis-Abeba, le siège de l’Union africaine espionné par Pékin” [At Addis Ababa, the headquarter of the African Union was spied by Beijing], Le Monde, 26 January 2018, http://www.lemonde.fr/afrique/article/2018/01/26/a-addis-abeba-le-siege-de-l-union-africaine-espionne-par-les-chinois_5247521_3212.html?utm_campaign=Echobox&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Twitter#link_time=1516967839.

• Moavene vazire eghtesad khabar dad: roshde 2o barabariye sarmayegozariye mustaqime chiniha dar iran,   معاون وزیر اقتصاد خبر داد: رشد 20 برابری سرمایه‌گذاری مستقیم چینی‌ها در ایران [Iran’s deputy economy minister: Chinese FDI in Iran has increased 20 times], IRNA, 24 January, 2018, http://www.irna.ir/fa/News/82813616.

• Muhammad Zariq محمد زریق, Alsin va lubnan: shiraka istiratijiya va alaqa mutajadida abra alzaman, الصين ولبنان: شراكة استراتيجية وعلاقة متجددة عبر الزمن [Lebanon and China: Strategic Partnership and a renewed relationship over time], China from Arab’s eyes Journal, 25 January, 2018, http://www.chinainarabic.org/?p=34942.

• Nitzan Horowitz ניצןהורוביץ, Sin mezaneket kadima oval yin tachlif leyropa סיןמזנקתקדימהאבלאיןתחליףלאירופה [China is leaping forward, but there is no substitute for Europe], Haaretz, 21 January, 2018, https://www.haaretz.co.il/opinions/.premium-1.5747814.

• Roie Yellinek רועיילינק, Ma bemet kore beyachasey sin veharasut hapalestinit מהבאמתקורהביחסיסיןוהרשותהפלסטינית [What is really happening to the China-Palestinians relations?], Mida, 6 January, 2018, https://mida.org.il/2018/01/06/מה-באמת-קורה-ביחסי-סין-והרשפ/.

• Said Basharسعید بشار, Alhokuma toghaiyer vojhataha alistithmariya nahva alsin   الحكومة تغيّر وجهتها الاستثمارية نحو الصين [The Algerian government is changing its investment approach toward China], Djazairess , 31 January, 2018, https://www.djazairess.com/elkhabar/632870.

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