October 2019

The Mediterranean Region looks at China
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Media from the wider Mediterranean region covers meetings between Chinese and local officials. Among them, the comments written by Nozad Hasan for the Iraqi newspaper al-Zaman is the most interesting one. [1] As noted in the previous issue of the ChinaMed Observer, many commentators expressed doubts about the usefulness of the visit of the Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi to Beijing in September. The reason is that corruption and misbehavior among government officials are so common that economic cooperation with other countries rarely brings any benefit to the Iraqi population. Yet, what Nozad Hasan highlights is even more interesting. According to him, there was no debate on China in the country before the Prime Minister’s visit. Such a comment is rather surprising given the significant role of Iraq in China’s energy imports and the strengthening of the commercial relations between the two countries that took place over the last few years. On the contrary, Greek media provided a much rosier picture of the background of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ visit to Shanghai in early November. [2]

Although the scale of the problem is significantly different, Italian media, too, question the strategy adopted by their country toward economic cooperation with China. In particular, Formiche’s Ferruccio Michelin points out that Italy still lacks a stable and efficient advisory body that could help the government. [3] According to him, this is especially important after the Memorandum of Understanding on the Belt and Road Initiative signed by the two countries early this year opened the door for cooperation between them on various issues, even sensitive ones like aerospace cooperation. At the moment, it is not clear if and how the so-called China Task Force that was established by the former Undersecretary of State Michele Geraci will continue to work. Its members gathered only twice in two years of existence. The arrival to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the leader of the Five Star Movement Luigi Di Maio as new minister and the former Ambassador to Beijing Ettore Sequi as head of the Cabinet of the Minister, too, has further created uncertainty in Italy’s China policy, which was mostly handled by the Ministry of Economic Development under the previous goverment. Meanwhile, American pressure on Italy continues to grow, although the US government expressed satisfaction for the decision of Italian policymakers to strengthen the screening of foreign investments in strategic sectors of the economy, a move that many see as aimed at China.

Meanwhile, Spanish media reports that a group of supporters of the Catalan independence movement held a manifestation in front of the Chinese consulate in Barcelona to show solidarity with the protestors in Hong Kong. [4] At the same time, a dozen of Chinese nationals showed up and displayed a large banner to support the position of the Chinese government and Hong Kong authorities. It is difficult to say if and what the connections that Catalan independentists are trying to create with Hong Kong will affect the relations between Madrid and Beijing. Given the desire to strengthen economic relations with China and the interest in keeping its own independence movements at bay, the Spanish government will probably do its best to minimize the event and push the organizers to the sidelines.

Against this background, most of the other reports that we found are about Chinese officials and/or officials from North African and Middle Eastern countries praising each other and highlighting the results that can be achieved through cooperation. For example, Khaled Hanafi, former Egyptian Minister of Supply and Internal Trade and Secretary General of the Federation of Arab Chambers of Commerce, praised the role played by the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in Sino-Arab cooperation in the field of renewable energy as well as scientific and space cooperation. [5] At the same time, the Chinese Ambassador to Jordan, Pan Weifang and President of Al-Balqa 'Applied University Professor Abdallah S. Al-Zoubi celebrated the opening of the Huawei Academy for Communication and Information Technology. The statements of the Chinese ambassadors to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, Chen Weiqing and Anwar Habibullah, too, were in the news as they expressed their support for the blooming cooperation between China and the Gulf countries. [6] While Chen mentioned Chinese tourism to Saudi Arabia as a new field of cooperation, Habibullah stressed the importance of Chinese companies in the construction of smart cities in Bahrain. Chen also pointed out that Chinese non-financial investments in Saudi Arabia have reached USD 1,1 billion between January and June. [7] During the same period, other Arab countries received USD 916 million of non-financial investments from China.

To conclude, a few articles on military and security cooperation between China and Qatar, Tunisia, and the UAE. [8] The most interesting one revolves around the request of Libya’s Government of National Accord to China to investigate the use of Chinese-made drones by the UAE armed forces against civilians in Libya. To our knowledge, this is the first case of diplomatic problems created by the sale and use of Chinese drones. It is also important to notice that the dialogue on law enforcement in Qatar was led by Liu Yuejin. Liu is the Deputy Director of the National Counter Terrorism Leading Small Group and the Director of its General Office. He is China’s top counterterrorism official. In comparison, the discussion between the Tunisian Minister of Defense and the Chinese Ambassador in Tunis mostly focused on healthcare, education, and training of the armed force.

[1] Nozad Hasan, Al-Siniyyun yaʿrifunana jayyidan الصينيون يعرفوننا جيداً [The Chinese know us well], al-Zaman, September 30, 2019, https://www.azzaman.com/%d8%a7%d9%84%d8%b5%d9%8a%d9%86%d9%8a%d9%88%d9%86-%d9%8a%d8%b9%d8%b1%d9%81%d9%88%d9%86%d9%86%d8%a7-%d8%ac%d9%8a%d8%af%d8%a7%d9%8b-%d9%86%d9%88%d8%b2%d8%a7%d8%af-%d8%ad%d8%b3%d9%86/.

[2] Nikos Panagiotopoulos, Taxidi stathmos mitsotaki sti sagkai gia tin elliniki oikonomia sti faretra toy I anavathmisi tis ellinikis oikonomias aytoi einai oi epiheirimaties poy tha taxidepsoyn stin kina Ταξίδι-σταθμός Μητσοτάκη στη Σαγκάη για την Ελληνική οικονομία - Στη φαρέτρα του η αναβάθμιση της Ελληνικής οικονομίας - Αυτοί είναι οι επιχειρηματίες που θα ταξιδέψουν στην Κίνα [Mitsotaki’s major Travel in Shanghai for Greek Economy - Upgrading Greek economy - These are the entrepreneurs who will travel to China], Newpost, October 26, 2019, http://newpost.gr/politiki/5db4106ecfed7a3a7b45ea85/taxidi-stathmos-mitsotaki-sti-sagkai-gia-tin-elliniki-oikonomia-sti-faretra-toy-i-anavathmisi-tis-ellinikis-oikonomias-aytoi-einai-oi-epiheirimaties-poy-tha-taxidepsoyn-stin-kina.

[3] Ferruccio Michelin, Che fine ha fatto la Task Force Cina del Mise? [Where is the China Task Force of MISE?], Formiche, October 19, 2019, https://formiche.net/2019/10/task-force-cina-italia/.

[4] Somolinos Daniel, Concentración independentista en favor de Hong Kong: "No conviene enfadar a China", [Independence manifestation in favor of Hong Kong: "It is not convenient to anger China"], El Mundo, October 24, 2019, https://www.elmundo.es/cataluna/2019/10/24/5db1a64ffc6c8330458b4623.html.

[5] Muhammad Saʿd Dayyab,  Bikin tastaʿiddu li-muntada al-taʿawun al-siniyy al-ʿarabiyy bi-tanmiyat turuq al-tijjara بكين تستعد لمنتدى التعاون الصيني العربي بتنمية طرق التجارة [Beijing is preparing for the Sino-Arab Cooperation Forum by developing trade routes], Al-Ahram Gate, October 29, 2019, http://gate.ahram.org.eg/News/2318865.aspx.

[6] Mohammed al-Shaibany, Al-safir al-sini al-mamlakah tamtalek a’wamil jadhb motaʿadedah le al-suyah al-siniyeen السفير الصيني: المملكة تمتلك عوامل جذب متعددة للسياح الصينيين [China ambassador: Saudi Arabia has many attractive factors for Chinese tourists], Al-Riyadh, October 9, 2019, http://www.alriyadh.com/1781185; Walid Sabry, al-safir al-sini anwar habibullah le al-watan: al-sharikat al-siniyah tosharek fi bina’ al-madinah althakyah fi al-bahrain السفير أنور حبيب الله لـ "الوطن": شركات صينية تشارك في بناء المدينة الذكية بالبحرين [Chinese ambassador to Bahrain Anwar Habibullah: Chinese Companies to participate in building a smart city in Bahrain], Al-Watan, October 25, 2019, https://alwatannews.net/article/851839/Bahrain/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B3%D9%81%D9%8A%D8%B1-%D8%A3%D9%86%D9%88%D8%B1-%D8%AD%D8%A8%D9%8A%D8%A8-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%84%D9%87-%D9%84-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%88%D8%B7%D9%86-%D8%B4%D8%B1%D9%83%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%B5%D9%8A%D9%86%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%AA%D8%B4%D8%A7%D8%B1%D9%83-%D9%81%D9%8A-%D8%A8%D9%86%D8%A7%D8%A1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%AF%D9%8A%D9%86%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B0%D9%83%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%A8%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A8%D8%AD%D8%B1%D9%8A%D9%86.

[7] Fahad Al-Talal, milyar dollar istithmarat al-sin al-mobashirah fi al-mamlakah khelal al-nesf al-a’wal 1.1 مليار دولار استثمارات الصين المباشرة في المملكة خلال النصف الأول [1.1 [USD 1.1 billion of Chinese investments during the first half of 2019], Fahad Al-Talal, October 7, 2019, http://www.aleqt.com/2019/10/06/article_1688706.html.

[8] Al-Zubaydi yabhathu ma’a safir al-Sin fi Tunisal-ta’awun bayna al-baladayn fi-l-lmajal al-‘askari الزبيدي يبحث مع سفير الصين فيتونس التعاون بين البلدين في المجال العسكري [Zubaidi discusses with Chineseambassador to Tunisia cooperation in military field], al-Chourouk, October 29, 2019, http://www.alchourouk.com/article/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B2%D8%A8%D9%8A%D8%AF%D9%8A-%D9%8A%D8%A8%D8%AD%D8%AB-%D9%85%D8%B9-%D8%B3%D9%81%D9%8A%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B5%D9%8A%D9%86-%D9%81%D9%8A-%D8%AA%D9%88%D9%86%D8%B3-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D8%B9%D8%A7%D9%88%D9%86-%D8%A8%D9%8A%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A8%D9%84%D8%AF%D9%8A%D9%86-%D9%81%D9%8A-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%AC%D8%A7%D9%84-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B9%D8%B3%D9%83%D8%B1%D9%8A; Qatar wa al-sin tabhathan ta’aziz al-taʿaon ala’amni bin al-baladin قطر والصين تبحثان تعزيز التعاون الأمني بين البلدين [Qatar and China discuss strengthening security Cooperation], Lusail, October 16, 2019, https://lusailnews.net/article/politics/qatar/16/10/2019/%D9%82%D8%B7%D8%B1-%D9%88%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B5%D9%8A%D9%86-%D8%AA%D8%A8%D8%AD%D8%AB%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%AA%D8%B9%D8%B2%D9%8A%D8%B2-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D8%B9%D8%A7%D9%88%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A3%D9%85%D9%86%D9%8A-%D8%A8%D9%8A%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A8%D9%84%D8%AF%D9%8A%D9%86; Walid Abdullah, “al-wifaq al-libyah” totaleb al-sin bi al-tahqiq fi baiʿ  ta’erateha al-musayarah li al-emirat "الوفاق" الليبية تطالب الصين بالتحقيق في بيع طائراتها المسيرة للإمارات [Libyan Government of National Accord asks China to investigate its drone sales to United Arab Emirates], Anadolu Agency, October 16, 2019, https://www.aa.com.tr/ar/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AF%D9%88%D9%84-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B9%D8%B1%D8%A8%D9%8A%D8%A9/%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%88%D9%81%D8%A7%D9%82-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%84%D9%8A%D8%A8%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%AA%D8%B7%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A8-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B5%D9%8A%D9%86-%D8%A8%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D8%AD%D9%82%D9%8A%D9%82-%D9%81%D9%8A-%D8%A8%D9%8A%D8%B9-%D8%B7%D8%A7%D8%A6%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%AA%D9%87%D8%A7-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%B1%D8%A9-%D9%84%D9%84%D8%A5%D9%85%D8%A7%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%AA/1616144.

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