The Middle East Seminar: The Economic Cooperation between China and Arab Countries

On October 23, 2019, the Institute of International and Area Studies (IIAS) of Tsinghua University successfully held a seminar on “Economic Cooperation between China and Arab Countries”, lectured by Tim Niblock, Honorary Professor of the University of Exeter, Adel Hamaizia, Research Fellow at the University of Oxford, and Wang Tingyi, Assistant Researcher at IIAS, and chaired by Duan Jiuzhou, Assistant Researcher at IIAS.

At the beginning of the seminar, Prof. Tim Niblock explained several characteristics of the economic cooperation between China and Arab countries. First of all, China and Arab countries have an interdependent relationship, and China is the largest trading partner of most Arab countries. Second, oil and natural gas are China’s largest imports in the Arab region as well as China’s most important strategic security. Meanwhile, China’s presence in Arab countries does not involve any military implication. Finally, Prof. Niblock pointed out that the biggest advantage of developing relations between China and Arab countries is the absence of historical burden and non-interference policy, but the sustainability of the policy is currently worth considering.

Later, Adel Hamaizia discussed the cooperation between China and North African countries. First of all, through data analysis, he noted that most North African countries have a trade deficit with China, with Libya being the only exception. Second, he believed that Morocco is now the country with the most economic potential and the best conditions of technology transfer in North Africa. Finally, he also mentioned the challenges encountered in the development of cooperative relations between China and North African countries.

At last, Wang Tingyi elaborated on the different levels of importance China attaches to Arab countries. Among them, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt are comprehensive strategic partners, and the UAE is considered as a “special relationship.” He also shared that military relations are currently the “ballast stone” of Sino-US relations, and Sino-US cooperation in the Arab region also helps to drive bilateral relations. At the end, he explained that the cooperation between China and Arab countries should not be limited to bilateral cooperation, but can involve other parties, including the Gulf countries as a transit point for China’s exports to Europe and the United States, and the joint investment of China and the Gulf countries in other destinations.

During the Q&A session, three speakers responded to audience questions, which sparked heated discussions.

By Duan Jiuzhou