Sunday, August 26, 2018

Could China be the Middle East’s stabiliser-in-chief?

Arnab Neil Sengupta says as the Arab states seek to widen their circle of friends, China can enlarge its role in the Middle East if it views the region as more than an oil supplier and market for Chinese goods

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sunday, 26 August, 2018

Imagine there was an opening in the Middle East for a “stabiliser-in-chief” whose qualifications ran the gamut from impartial negotiator and deep-pocketed investor to generous aid-giver and geostrategic partner, nationality no bar.Could China land the job, outbidding such rivals as the US, Canada, Russia, Turkey and France?  What could work in China’s favour is President Xi Jinping and his government’s approach to the Arab world, in all its complexity.  Does Beijing intend to treat the countries of the Middle East and North Africa as suppliers of oil and natural gas, buyers of Chinese goods and providers of lucrative business opportunities? Or will China engage with the Arab world just the way it is – a region with pockets of conflict alternating with oases of prosperity, but whose development potential lies largely untapped, waiting for a global power driven by something bigger than pure self-interest?