China and the Arab League publish joint statement that showcases Beijing’s growing geopolitical ambitions

Politics & Current Affairs

China’s reach and influence in the Middle East and North Africa continue to grow.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi meets with Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul-Gheit
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi meets with Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul-Gheit in Alamein, Egypt, on July 18, 2021. Xinhua.

China and the Arab League published a sweeping joint statement (in Chinese) on Monday that highlights Beijing’s increasingly ambitious geopolitical agenda in the Middle East and Persian Gulf regions.

Context: There’s a widespread perception in many corners of the Chinese foreign policy community that growing fatigue in both the U.S. and Arab countries over Washington’s presence in the region is providing a new opening for Beijing to become a more visible player.

Key highlights from the China-Arab League Joint Statement

  • COVID-19 cooperation, including the local manufacturing of vaccines in Egypt, the UAE, and Morocco.
  • Belt and Road expansion.
  • Xinjiang: The statement does not mention the western Chinese region or the Uyghurs by name, but the reference to “uphold non-interference in internal affairs, continue to support each other on issues involving each other’s core interests and major concerns” is clear in this context. (The Arab League has been a vocal supporter of China’s Xinjiang policies in Xinjiang.)
  • Middle East peace: China has been angling to become more involved in the Arab-Israeli peace process and used this joint statement as another opportunity to bolster its lagging credibility as a mediator.

For further links and details, please click through to SupChina’s partner site, the China-Africa Project.