Zhou Rong: China's diplomacy in Middle East, Indian Ocean, East Africa achieves fruitful results

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Zhou Rong: China's diplomacy in Middle East, Indian Ocean, East Africa achieves fruitful results

2022-01-13

Source: China Daily    Published: 2021-01-12


From January 10 to 14, at the invitation of State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain and the secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council began a five-day visit to China. At the same time, at the Foreign Ministry's regular press conference on January 11, spokesman Wang Wenbin announced that at the invitation of Wang Yi, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian will visit China on January 12 and 14, respectively.


The visits are another major diplomatic event for China since Foreign Minister Wang Yi's visit to five countries in East Africa and the Indian Ocean (Eritrea, Kenya, Comoros, Maldives and Sri Lanka) in early January. Within just 15 days, China's foreign minister has met with the foreign ministers of 10 countries bordering the Middle East, the Horn of Africa and the Indian Ocean, and China's diplomacy this year is so active in the Middle East, East Africa and the Indian Ocean, which is rare in recent years. In Africa, the core of China's "Concept for Peaceful Development in the Horn of Africa" is to support regional countries to get rid of the interference of hegemonies' geopolitical competition and take their destiny into their own hands. The new Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs appointed by the Chinese side will strive to promote this development concept and strengthen regional revitalization.


At present, China has not only strengthened the Mombasa-Nairobi Railway and the Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway, but also helped accelerate the development of the Red Sea coast and the East African coast, forming a "two-axis + two-strait" development framework. China supports East African countries in exploring effective paths, exploring development paths in line with their own national conditions, properly handling ethnic, religious and regional disputes in an African way, and building a united, stable and harmonious development environment in the Horn of Africa. At the same time, China also suggested that the Indian Ocean island countries should hold a development forum as soon as possible to discuss the development plans of the Indian Ocean island countries and to overcome disasters, and China's initiative has been supported and affirmed by the Indian Ocean island countries.


Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian is a senior Iranian official visiting China for the first time since the new Iranian President Raisi came to power. His visit comes at a critical time as the Iranian nuclear negotiations are going on in Vienna. China is not only an important participant in the Iranian nuclear negotiations, but also an important country that fully and firmly supports Iran's demand for the lifting all of US sanctions. China and Iran signed a 25-year cooperation agreement. China and Iran not only support each other politically, but China has long been Iran's largest investor, most important trading partner and largest Iranian oil export target, and China has established a comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership with Iran, and Iran is one of China's friendliest countries.


Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is also an old friend of the China. Across the Eurasian continent, Turkey is a member of the G20 and the world's middle power, with great influence in the Balkans, Transcaucasia, the Arabian Peninsula, North Africa and East Africa. China and Turkey have been carrying out fruitful economic cooperation under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, China is Turkey's second-largest trading partner and largest source of imports, while China is Turkey's fourth-largest investor, and China is also an important country for scientific and technological innovation cooperation with Turkey. Now that Turkey's domestic economy is experiencing serious difficulties, it is urgent to discuss with China how to tide over the difficulties, and when Turkey is in difficulty, Turkey can count on and seek China's help, which shows the preciousness of the strategic cooperative partnership between the two countries.


Similarly, the four Gulf states mean more to China. Saudi Arabia is another comprehensive strategic partner of China in the Middle East. China is Saudi Arabia's largest trading partner and the largest oil export market, and China is also the largest overseas investment market for Saudi Arabia. China not only has extensive cooperation with Saudi Arabia in the field of infrastructure and high technology, but also jointly invests in third-party markets and jointly builds the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Saudi Arabia and China are both G20 members, and Saudi Arabia is also the only G20 member in the Arab world, which plays a pivotal role in the entire Islamic world. Saudi Arabia is also a leader in the Gulf Cooperation Council. It is a major promoter of the China-GCC Free Trade Zone. It is believed that the visit of the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and other three countries (Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar) and the secretary-general of the GCC will promote the acceleration of the China-GCC free trade area process and further strengthen China's cooperation with the entire Gulf States Group, and China has been carrying out fruitful cooperation with the other two important Gulf countries, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.


At the same time, China is also willing to exchange and carry out pragmatic cooperation with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries on major international and regional security issues and the Afghan issue.


China's diplomacy with countries in East Africa, the Middle East, and the Indian Ocean is taking place at a time when the United States is gradually spiraling out of control in East Africa, when the United States is shrinking in the Middle East in an all-round way, and when the Middle East countries are suffering from US bullying. Among them, the three major foreign ministers (Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey) of the Middle East visiting China at the same time is of great significance. Those countries are major three powers and all of them are friends of China but there some rifts between them. China has never chosen sides in the internal disputes between Middle Eastern countries, and has always tried to persuade and mediate contradictions, rifts and entanglements between various China-friendly countries in the Middle East. China will also play a positive role in public health security, fighting the epidemic and promoting regional security cooperation.


In short, at the beginning of the new year, China's diplomacy in East Africa, the Middle East and the Indian Ocean has been successful.


Zhou Rong, Senior Fellow of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China and a researcher on regional countries issues.


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