China’s Influence in the Middle East, North Africa, and Turkey (MENAT):
The PRC imports half of its oil from the Middle East and is the top oil customer of Saudi Arabia and Iran.
In 2014, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) proposed a “1+2+3” model of cooperation with the Middle East: “1” is energy, “2” is infrastructure and investment, and “3” is future technologies (nuclear energy, space and satellites, and renewables).
The CCP has comprehensive strategic partnerships with five MENAT states (Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and UAE) and strategic partnerships with seven (Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, and Turkey).
Huawei has 12 5G contracts in the Middle East.
China’s Foreign Investment in the Middle East, North Africa, and Turkey:
From 2005 to 2020 PRC investments and contracts in the Middle East, North Africa, and, Turkey totaled $244.27 billion.
In 2018, the CCP announced $20 billion in loans for MENAT states with reconstruction needs, $3 billion in loans for the financial sector, nearly $150 million to support social stability, and $90 million in aid for Yemen, Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon.
In 2018, the CCP announced plans to link industrial parks developed by PRC consortia with ports with a strong PRC presence, which it has sought to do in four MENAT countries: Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman, and Egypt.
The MENAT countries most exposed to PRC (in debt and equity) are Jordan, Oman, and Iraq (Congressional Research Service).
China and the Energy Sector in the Middle East, North Africa, and Turkey:
From 2005 to 2019, the PRC invested over $106 billion in the MENAT energy sector.
In 2018, projects involving a PRC contractor accounted for almost one third of all energy and infrastructure projects in the Middle East.
Qatar supplied 22 percent of the PRC’s LNG imports from 2009 to 2019.
Saudi Aramco and Sinopec have a refinery in Yanbu.
Security and Research Partnerships between China and the Middle East, North Africa, and Turkey:
The PLA Navy has conducted port calls in every GCC country, Israel, Egypt, and Iran.
In 2019, Egypt hosted the PLA Navy and Russian Navy in a counter piracy training exercise.
In 2019, China North Industries Group Corporation announced a partnership with a UAE defense company to open a defense research center in Abu Dhabi, where PRC and Emirati engineers and universities will develop defense technology in cooperation with the UAE armed forces.
China’s Weapons Sales in the Middle East, North Africa, and Turkey:
From 2009-2019, the PRC exported $2.28 billion worth of arms to 12 countries in MENAT. The top five recipients are:
- Algeria ($882 million)
- Morocco ($289 million)
- Egypt ($221 million)
- Saudi Arabia ($198 million)
- UAE ($155 million)
Through 2018, the top three purchasers of PRC drones were all in the Middle East: UAE (22.1 percent), Saudi Arabia (19.3 percent), and Egypt (15.5 percent).
China’s Diplomacy in the Middle East, North Africa, and Turkey:
Established in 2004, the China–Arab States Cooperation Forum hosts biennial meetings between China and 22 Arab League members. The 2020 CASCF Ministerial was held virtually in July 2020 and co-chaired by the CCP and Jordan.
The CCP has used its ties in the Middle East to advance its interests on issues unrelated to Middle East policy, such as its stance on the South China Sea, isolating Taiwan, and limiting international response to its abuses of the Muslim Uighur minority (Singh 2020).
Since 2011, eight of the nine UN Security Council vetoes the CCP has exercised have been on Syria. Before 2011, the CCP had never vetoed a resolution on the Middle East.
China’s Soft Power in the Middle East, North Africa, and Turkey:
Increased tourism from the PRC in the Middle East has given the CCP a new tool for influence and new importance to Middle East economies (Singh 2020).
The CCP has established 22 Confucius Institutes in 12 MENAT countries.
In 2019, the CCP hosted the fourth China-Arab States Expo to bolster economic and trade ties.
Huawei organized GITEX Technology Week, the only in-person global technology show held at the Dubai World Trade Center in 2020.
China’s Broadcasts and Media Cooperation in Middle East, North Africa, and Turkey:
China Intercontinental Communication Center collaborated with Image Nation in UAE to make PRC-centered documentaries on Image Nation’s Quest Arabia station, which broadcasts to 45 million households in 22 MENA countries.
China Today publishes an Arabic version in the Middle East.
CGTN’s Arabic language Facebook account has 14.4 million followers.
Xinhua has signed an exchange agreement with Daily News Egypt, an Egyptian newspaper.
Additional sources not linked:
Green, Will and Brittney Washington. “Background and Questions for Upcoming Hearing on China’s Engagement in the Middle East and North Africa”. The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. May 3, 2019.
“China’s Lending, Investment, and Construction in the Middle East.” Congressional Research Service. November 22, 2019.
*Last updated: 3/16/2021