By Lukmon Oloyede.
China has published its first-ever ‘Arab Policy Paper’ underscoring that the Middle East is a region of high geopolitical importance for China and that Beijing is willing to step up its strategic partnership with the countries of the region as well as play a constructive role in the affairs of the region.
The paper highlighted Chinese-Arab history in broad strokes.
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The paper states, as it marks the China Arab states cooperation forum, that “China and Arab countries have followed the world trend of peace, development and cooperation, respected each other, treated each other as equals, and committed themselves to deepening traditional friendship and bilateral relations. Cooperation in the political, economic, scientific, technological, cultural, educational, military, health, sports, news and other fields has achieved fruitful results and enabled the establishment of a friendly and cooperative relationship oriented toward the 21st century.”
According to recent publication by spearheadresearch.org, the new thinking, outlined in the paper is in marked departure from the traditional stand-offish approach of avoiding entanglement in the Middle East diplomacy and concentrating instead on the region’s oil and business opportunities.
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Against the background of extremely intensive international contacts since the assumption of the Chinese presidency in March 2013, Xi Jinping’s first Middle East tour which kicked off from Tuesday, January 19th to Saturday, January 23rd will include Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran.
In a report by Beijing-based independent media organization 4thmedia.org, “the Chinese leader has chosen the Middle East to be his first foreign destination of the year 2016 – a status generally used to indicate China’s focus on a particular region or country. The preparations for the visit started about a year before the Saudi-Arabia-Iran spat and many things have happened since then. The Iran nuclear talks ended up in agreement, Russia launched its military operations in Syria and the Sunni-Shia stand-off exacerbated.
“Until recently, China’s Middle East policy used to boil down predominantly to buying oil in exchange for investments. With no military presence and direct military involvement, Beijing became the largest hydrocarbons consumer. But the program of the first visit of the Chinese top leader since the start of the region’s turmoil goes far beyond energy security. Now Beijing gets involved in the region on a much broader basis” the report said.