October 2017

China looks at the Mediterranean Region
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In October, Chinese media paid great attention to the apparent change of the geopolitical landscape of the region.

This fact was highlighted during the launch of the new Annual Report on Development in the Middle East (2016-2017), whose main theme was "The Middle East in the Post-American Era." The scholars of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) argued that a newregional order is rising from the ashes of American hegemony. However, aspointed out by Wang Yang, the director of CASS' Institute of West-Asian and African Studies (IWASS), this transformation is still happening and how and ifthe new regional multipolar order will consolidate is not a certain thing. What will not changed, according to the report, is the region reliance on oil revenues despite the efforts to diversify the economies.

Surely, Russian growing influence is already a well-established trend. One the onehand, a journalist from the People's Daily wrote, the problems between Turkey and the US are growing in number and seriousness, from the Kurd issue to the presence of Fethullah Gülen in theUS. This creates room to Moscow to strengthen its ties with Ankara. On the other hand, the China Petroleum Daily published an analysis of the increasingly common interests between Russia and Saudi Arabia. Coordination on energy affairs, argued the journalist, can easilybe expanded to other issues.

At the same time, Zhou Rong, a Senior Researcher at Remin University's Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, hoped to see another pivotal change happening in the  region: the tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran to decrease thanks to stronger cooperation with China within the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Saudi Arabia is facing many difficulties in its relations with the US, it is losing the war in Yemen, and its economy is suffering because of low oil revenues. As to Iran, the diplomatic gains in the aftermath of the nuclear deal need to be consolidated through the stabilization of the relationship with Saudi Arabia. Zhou saw a positive development in talks held recently between Saudi and Iranian delegations about allowing each other's citizens to travel for religious purposes to each other countries. While both countries would benefit from apeaceful regional environment and the economic development that the BRI can bring about, China too could implement the BRI more smoothly for its own interests.

While the tensions in the Persian Gulf are a cause of concern, the interconnectivity envisioned by the BRI is materializing between Ethiopia, Djibouti and the Chinese port of Yantai. The storage and processing facilities for natural gasin that important port of northern China cost RMB 10 billion to Poly Group andare now operational. Poly Group cooperated with CNOOC in this project. The natural gas extracted by Poly Group in Ethiopia will be shipped directly to Yantai beginning in 2019.

· Zhou Wenlei, Zhongdong diyuan zhengzhi geju kaishi zhuanxiang? 中东地缘政治格局开始转向? [Has the geopolitical landscape in the Middle East started to change?], China Petroleum Daily, 24 October 2017, http://news.cnpc.com.cn/system/2017/10/24/001665764.shtml.

· Liu Qing, Zhongguo sheke yuan:zhongdong xin de tongmeng tixi zhengzai shengcheng 中国社科院: 中东新的同盟体系正在生成 [Chinese Academy of Social Sciences: A new alliance system is taking shape in the Middle East], China Radio International, 27 October 2017, http://news.cri.cn/20171027/deb57b63-a1dc-1b1d-4d93-eee21c0318bb.html.

· Zhou Rong , Sha yi yanhe lihao 'yidai yi lu' 沙伊言和利好'一带一路' [Friendship between Saudi Arabia and Iran is beneficial for the 'One Belt One Road'], Globe, 13 October 2017, http://news.xinhuanet.com/globe/2017-10/13/c_136673954.htm.

· Liu Siyue, meitu xianghu"jue jian" zhuanjia: linag guo guanxi hai jiang jixu ehua 美土互相"拒签" 专家: 两国关系还将继续恶化 [Turkeyand the US "deny visas to each other - Expert: the relations between them will keep on worsening], People's Daily Overseas Network, 10 October 2017, http://opinion.haiwainet.cn/n/2017/1010/c353596-31144313.html.

· Luan Hongzhuang and Sun Zhipeng, Zhongguo beifangzhongyao xiangkou chengshi yantai jian guoji kuangchan nengyuan da tongdao 中国北方重要港口城市烟台建国际矿产能源大通道 [The important northern port of Yantai built an international energy channel], China News, 11 October 2017, http://www.chinanews.com/ny/2017/10-11/8350318.shtml.

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