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Zhao Minghao: Development solution to Mideast tangles


By Zhao Minghao    Source: Global Times    Published: 2016-1-25


Chinese President Xi Jinping`s Middle East visit has achieved fruitful results, producing more than 50 cooperative documents with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran in five days. The China-Middle East cooperation has revealed a different side of the turmoil region to the world. The tougher a situation the Middle East is facing, the more valuable hope will be. Peace and development are interdependent. Targeted killings, drones and bombers cannot address the threat of terrorizing the Middle East.

"Arab Spring," Libya`s regime change and the Syrian crisis are jeopardizing the already-fragile stability of the Middle East. Currently, the region is facing three major challenges.

First of all, religious and ethnic conflicts are intensifying. Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds all claim to have been treated unfairly. In addition, major regional powers, such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey, are competing for dominance in the Middle East.

To some extent, they are all hoping to fill the power vacuum after the US withdrawal from the region. This is a typical security dilemma where strengthening defense is regarded as preparations for invasion. Worse still, external powers such as the US and Russia have been deeply embroiled in the Middle East turmoil.

Therefore, Xi emphasized problems in the Middle East in his speech at Arab League headquarters on Thursday. "The Middle East is a land of abundance. Yet we are pained to see it still plagued by war and conflict," Xi said.

To be frank, China itself has no capability to solve the Middle East problem. Yet Beijing is trying to put forward a creative and different solution. Xi pointed out that "the key to addressing differences is to enhance dialogue," "the key to overcoming difficulties is to accelerate development," and "the key to choosing a right path is to make sure that it suits the national conditions."

Indeed, it is hard to find an honest broker on the Middle East problem. A new round of international meeting on the Syrian crisis will be held soon, but there is still a long way for reconciliation.

China is "in favor of putting in place a new mechanism to promote peace as to the Middle East question" and will grant 50 million yuan ($7.53 million) to the Palestinian side. The Palestinian question is concerned with justice, which is key to reconciliation. China will provide 230 million yuan of humanitarian assistance to the people of Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya and Yemen as well.

China believes that development is key to addressing the Middle East problem, and it entirely depends on whether countries in the region are willing to explore a way of development on their own.

In the past decade, interventions by the "trans-Atlantic alliance" into Afghanistan and Iraq have been futile, and many US and European elites have realized that forcing a regime change in the region is a filthy business, and that so-called nation-building is futile.

The Middle East needs investment as it wants to produce cement, fridges and automobiles, and hundreds of millions of young people in the region need jobs. It is hard for jobless youngsters to reject an offer that can provide a stable income of hundreds of US dollars every month, even if the offer is given by terrorist groups.

China hopes it can do everything possible to advance the industrialization of the Middle East. Besides joint industrial parks, China will set up a $15 billion special loan for industrialization in the Middle East. It will provide countries in the region with $10 billion of commercial loans and $10 billion of concessional loans. Meanwhile, China will also launch a $20 billion joint investment fund with the UAE and Qatar.

The "One Belt, One Road" initiative calls for wide consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, so China has no plan to dominate others. At a crossroads of the Silk Road economic belt and the 21st century maritime Silk Road, the Middle East holds an important position during the implementation of the initiative.

The "One Belt, One Road" aims to benefit countries and regions that have been marginalized in the world economy due to geographic and political reasons for a long time.

Facing rising doubts about China`s motives, Xi clarified that China won`t find proxies, establish spheres of influence, or fill in the geopolitical vacuum in the Middle East.

The author is a visiting fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.

Key Words: China   Mideast   Belt and Road  

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