A bright, clear dawn for China's Middle East policy

2016-01-26 02:06:10 GMT2016-01-26 10:06:10(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English
CAIRO, Jan. 21, 2016 (Xinhua) -- Chinese PresidentXi Jinpingdelivers a speech at theArab Leagueheadquarters in Cairo,Egypt, Jan. 21, 2016. (Xinhua/Pang Xinglei)CAIRO, Jan. 21, 2016 (Xinhua) -- Chinese PresidentXi Jinpingdelivers a speech at theArab Leagueheadquarters in Cairo,Egypt, Jan. 21, 2016. (Xinhua/Pang Xinglei)

BEIJING, Jan. 25 (Xinhua) -- President Xi Jinping's recent visit to the Middle East could signal the beginning of a new era in relations between China and countries in the region.

It was the president's first overseas tour of 2016 and his first visit to the region since assuming office. While Xi's trip will breathe new life into relations with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran, the ripples will be felt far beyond these three.

Far-reaching effects will be seen by various players across the region, as China -- unwaveringly committed to peace, stability and development -- takes center stage in the Middle Eastern theater.


When President Xi addressed the Arab League (AL) at its Cairo headquarters, his message was clear: What China wants for a region dogged by decades of troubles is peace, development and stability.

China is neither looking for proxies nor trying to fill any power vacuum. China seeks hegemony over no one. The influence China seeks is that of dialogue partner. Tough problems obstruct development in the region, Xi told league members. Only through dialogue and development can differences be properly addressed and problems solved.

With the rise of China's international status, Middle Eastern countries look forward to China's playing a more prominent role in the affairs of the region, said An Huihou, former Chinese ambassador to Egypt and Lebanon.

Immediately prior to this trip, China released its first policy document specifically addressing relations with the Arab world, leaving no one in any doubt that cooperation and development come hand-in-hand with peace and stability. During his visit, Xi clearly laid out this policy, pledging assistance with a huge loan on one hand, and carefully targeting investment programs on the other.

Li Weijian of the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, compared China's current policy to that of the past. As China becomes a more active partner of AL members, the ground-rules for pragmatic cooperation have been clarified.

"China's explanation of the role it seeks promises equilibration in the Middle East, and should help dispel doubts and suspicions harbored by some countries both within the region and beyond," said Li, vice president of the Chinese Association of Middle East Studies.

By playing a consistent and constructive role in the affairs of the region, China hopes to avoid ensnaring itself in the tangled web of regional conflict. Former ambassador An emphasized that non-interference with the domestic affairs of other countries and peaceful resolution of disputes have been cornerstones of China's foreign policy for decades. China never pursues its own selfish benefit, he said.

"China will only inject positive energy into the Middle East," An said.


President Xi's visit brings fresh, concrete impetus to the Belt and Road Initiative he put forward in 2013, potentially a powerful driver of growth and development along the routes.

Many countries in the Middle East find themselves at a similar juncture on their paths to development as China reached decades ago. According to Fan Hongda, an expert on the Middle East at Xiamen University, these countries regard China's rise as a success story they would dearly love to emulate. President Xi's visit will help embed the Belt and Road in the political landscape of the region, he said, and China's new role will be more clearly recognized as benign.

Middle Eastern countries, all natural partners in the Belt and Road Initiative, will see the fruits of the plan in the next five years. It is then that their new perception of China's role will be assured, said Fan.

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