May 2018

China looks at the Mediterranean Region
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The US and Israel were the main focus of the Chinese media in May. While the commentary pertaining to US policy was negative as usual, even Israel received criticism (a rare event in the Chinese discourse). The other articles reviewed in this issue of the Bulletin provide a more general update about the evolution of China's relations with the Mediterranean region.

Both Chinese scholars, like Sun Degang from the Shanghai International Studies University, and journalists condemned the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem. They saw the event as destined to push the region "into the abyss" by destroying any potential progress in the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. Occasionally, even a nostalgic attitude towards the former Obama administration is expressed in the articles published. Trump's decision to move the embassy is explained as an attempt to reconfigure the US presence in the region in order to reinvigorate the relations with core allies, such as Israel, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, and definitively abandon the role of balancer in regional affairs. The Middle East is now in the "post-Islamic State" era, and the US is consistently shifting its strategy from fighting terrorism to readjusting its claims to regional supremacy against Russia, Iran, and Syria. Unfortunately, as Chinese commentators note, this evolution is not beneficial to regional stability. Meanwhile, while a Xinhua article praised Israel for its capacity to combine civil-military innovation to strengthen both its economy and armed forces, Ma Xiaolin from the Beijing Foreign University called for Israel to stop acting like America’s “puppet” and abandon the siege mentality behind the killing of many Palestinians. Otherwise, Israel will never be safe, and the region will never be at peace. As the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians worsens, Turkey’s vocal defense of the Palestinians has been met with skepticism from Beijing as one of the many inconsistencies of Turkish foreign policy.

Now we turn to China. When asked what the Chinese government plans to do if Chinese companies are caught in the crossfire between the US and Iran over the US’s withdrawal from the JCPA, a spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs limited his answer to a generic condemnation of the US’s decision. Meanwhile, China imported 8,9% more oil between January and April than during the same period of the year before. The situation in the Middle East only seems to be worsening, and as Li Yan from Oilchem stated, these imports are going to become more expensive. China is also strengthening its relations with key partners like Oman, the UAE, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. On the economic side, the construction of the China-UAE Industrial Capacity Cooperation Industrial Park in the Khalifa Port Free Trade Zone of Abu Dhabi begun. The total planned surface will cover roughly 10 square kilometers, and will be both constructed and managed by the Jiangsu Province Overseas Cooperation Investment Company (JOCIC). JOCIC, a state-owned enterprise chosen by the National Development and Reform Commission to carry out the project in the UAE, has already proven its capabilities in developing the Suzhou Industrial Zone, Jiangning Economic-Technological Development Zone, and Haimen Economic-Technological Development Zone in China. On the diplomatic side, while China and Oman announced the establishment of a strategic partnership, a delegation from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region headed by the Deputy Secretary of the China Overseas Friendship Association visited Iran, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia to meet with local government officialsand discuss religious freedom in China, the progress of economic development in the Xinjiang province, and anti-terrorism policies. While in Egypt and Iran, the delegation visited several universities and the ministries of foreign affairs of the two countries. They also met with officials from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Muslim Youth League. Also, Li Jie, an expert on military affairs, confirmed to the Global Times that the new pier built on the Chinese military base in Djibouti is both long and deep enough to host ships the size of the Liaoning aircraft carrier if necessary.

In the Balkan Peninsula, China is also strengthening its presence. In addition to the construction of logistic infrastructures within Croatia, Chen Xinguang from CASS writes that the cooperation between China and Serbia is also progressing. Trade between the two countries, especially Chinese exports to Serbia, totaled USD 140 million in January and February 2018. 5000 new jobs have been created since the Hebei Iron & Steel Group bought the Hesteel Group in 2016, and a new industrial park has been built in Smederevo to further attract Chinese investments. From this perspective, Serbia has already received one fifth of China's total investments (USD 10 billion) in the sixteen member countries of the 16+1 platform.

• Chen Wenxian and Du Zhen, Tegao: Chuangxin shengtai cu yiselie junmin shuangxiang ronghe 特稿:创新生态促以色列军民双向融合 [Special issue: An innovative environment promote the two-way civil-military integration in Israel], Xinhua, 23 May 2018, http://www.xinhuanet.com/2018-05/23/c_129878876.htm.

• Chen Xinguang, "Yi dai yi lu" puxie zhongsai youyi xin pianzhang “一带一路”谱写中塞友谊新篇章 [The Belt and Road Initiative writes a new chapter of the Sino-Serbian friendship], China Daily, 21 May 2018, https://kuaibao.qq.com/s/20180521C1Y3SF00?refer=spider.

• He Qing, Zhongdong diyuan boyi jixu faxiao 5 nian hou zhongguo yuanyou jingjinkou jiang da 5 yi dun 中东地缘博弈继续发酵 5年后中国原油净进口将达5亿吨 [The situation in the Middle East worsens and China's net crude imports will reach 500 million tons in five years], 21st Century Business Herald, 14 May 2018, http://epaper.21jingji.com/html/2018-05/16/content_86417.htm.

• Lan Shunzheng, Tuerqi weihe gaodiao wei baliesidan chutou? 土耳其为何高调为巴勒斯坦出头? [Why is Turkey standing for the Palestinians?], China.com, 18 May 2018, http://opinion.china.com.cn/opinion_41_186041.html.

• Liaoning jian tixi zuozhan nengli chucheng, yiweizhi shenme? 辽宁舰体系作战能力初成,意味着什么? [The Liaoning's combat capabilities begin to mature, what does it mean?], Global Times, 1 June 2018, http://mil.huanqiu.com/world/2018-06/12140326.html.

• Ma Xiaolin, Yiselie: "Meiguo chonger" yu "zhongdong guer" 以色列:"美国宠儿"与"中东孤儿" [Israel: "America's puppet" and "Middle East's orphan], Beijing Youth Daily, 20 May 2018, http://epaper.ynet.com/html/2018-05/20/content_288258.htm?div=-1.

• Sun Degang, Zhuanjia: Meiguo shifang cuowu xinhao jiang zhongdong tui xiang chongtu shenyuan 专家:美国释放错误信号将中东推向冲突深渊 [Expert: The US signals the wrong message and pushes the Middle East into the abyss], Global Times, 17 May 2018, http://oversea.huanqiu.com/article/2018-05/12047122.html.

• Waijiaobu fayanren lukang zhuchi liexing jizhehui 外交部发言人陆慷主持例行记者会 [Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang's regular press conference], PRC MFA, 25 May 2018, http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/web/fyrbt_673021/jzhsl_673025/t1562568.shtml.

• Zhang Yijing, Yelusaleng meiguo xin shiguan "kaizhang" bayi heping you tian bozhe 耶路撒冷美国新使馆今"开张"巴以和平又添波折 [The opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem causes new setbacks in the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians], Xinhua, 14 May 2018, http://www.xinhuanet.com/world/2018-05/14/c_129871252.htm.

• Zhongguo alianqiu "yi dai yi lu" channeng hezuoqu kaigong jianshe 中国阿联酋“一带一路”产能合作园区开工建设 [The works for the construction of the China-UAE Industrial Capacity Cooperation Industrial Park begin], China Daily, 17 May 2018, http://cnews.chinadaily.com.cn/2018-05/17/content_36220236.htm.

• Zhongguo xinjiang wenhua jiaoliu tuan fangwen yilang 中国新疆文化交流团访问伊朗 [A cultural exchange delegation from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region visited Iran], Xinhua, 14 May 2018, http://www.xinhuanet.com/world/2018-05/15/c_1122836876.htm.

• Zhonghua renmin gongheguo he aman sudanguo guanyu jianli zhanlve huoban de lianhe shengming 中华人民共和国和阿曼苏丹国关于建立战略伙伴关系的联合声明 [Public announcement of the establishment of a strategic partnership between the People's Republic of China and the Sultanate of Oman], Xinhua, 25 May 2018, http://www.xinhuanet.com/world/2018-05/25/c_1122890271.htm.

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