On Tuesday, as part of China’s strategic foreign policy objective which also fits well in it Belt and Road project, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged $20 billion in loans and nearly $106 million in financial aid to nations in the Middle East.
In recent years, Beijing has ramped up its efforts to spread its influence in the Middle East by creating strong trade ties through Xi’s strategic Belt and Road foreign policy initiative which links China’s trade routes with central and southeast Asia.
Xi termed the financial aid package as an “oil and gas plus” model to revive economic growth in the region. Xi told a gathering of twenty one Arab nations in Beijing that development was key to mitigating many of the security problems in the Middle East.
“We should treat each other frankly, not fear differences, not avoid problems, and have ample discussion on each aspect of foreign policy and development strategy,” said Xi.
As part of the financial aid package, Xi pledged aid worth $15 million (100 million yuan) to Palestine for its economic development, and $91 million (600 million yuan) to Lebanon, Jordan, Yemen and Syria. A consortium of banks from Arab nations and China with a dedicated fund of $3 billion, will also be set up.
Loans disbursed from this financial aid package will contribute towards “economic reconstruction” and “industrial revival” including collaboration in the oil, gas, nuclear and clean energy sectors, said Xi.
Although China has traditionally chosen to remain aloof in the dynamics of Middle Eastern concerns despite its heavy reliance on hydrocarbon from this region for its energy supplies, in recent years Beijing is increasingly flexing its economic might as it tries to spread its influence and cultures across regions and countries.
Incidentally, although China has applied this financial aid model coupled with a strict security regime on Xinjiang, a restive western region, according to human right group, the move has stoked more tensions rather than ease them between the Muslim Uighur minority and the ethnic Han majority.
($1=6.6033 Chinese yuan renminbi)