Sat, Feb 06, 2016 - Page 8 News List

‘Xi Jinping of Arabia’ emerging

By Minghao Zhao 趙明浩

Iran, Turkey and seven Arab nations are among the founding members of the Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, a key institution for financing infrastructure projects related to the initiative.

However, China is not waiting for the completion of the “One Belt, One Road” to pursue increased trade with Middle Eastern nations.

In Saudi Arabia, Xi said that free-trade negotiations between the Gulf Cooperation Council and China would be concluded this year.

Moreover, Xi said that China would issue US$55 billion in loans to Middle Eastern nations, including a US$15 billion special loan for industrialization, US$10 billion in commercial loans to boost production capacity and US$10 billion in concessional loans. The remaining US$20 billion is to go toward a joint investment fund with the United Arab Emirates and Qatar to invest in traditional energy, infrastructure development and high-end manufacturing industries in the region.

All of this aligns with the “1+2+3” cooperation pattern that Xi proposed at the June 2014 Ministerial Conference of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum in Beijing.

According to this approach, energy cooperation should form the core of collaboration, while infrastructure and trade, and investment form the two wings. Nuclear power, satellites and new energy sources are three high-tech areas where cooperation can lead to important breakthroughs. The goal is to take advantage of the region’s energy resources while helping it industrialize and diversify its economy.

Of course, China’s success in the Middle East requires progress on mitigating the region’s tensions, cooling its hot spots and stabilizing weak nations — all of which would require smart diplomacy by numerous actors.

However, peace and development are inextricably linked. To turn the tide against extremism, Middle Eastern nations must be able to provide economic opportunities to their people, and these can only be secured through trade, investment and jobs. In this respect, China has a lot to offer the Middle East — and Xi has shown his determination to offer it.

Minghao Zhao is a research fellow at the Charhar Institute in Beijing, an adjunct fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China and a member of the China National Committee of the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific.

Copyright: Project Syndicate

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