Report from the Dialogue Workshop “The Role of China in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Beyond Economic Interests”
The Dialogue Workshop “The Role of China in in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Beyond Economic Interests” was held on December 03, 2019 at the CASE office in Warsaw as part of the EuroMeSCo ENI Project. The event was organised by CASE and the IEMed, and co-funded by the European Union and the European Institute of the Mediterranean (IEMed).
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has traditionally been rather peripheral to China’s interests. However, under President Xi Jinping this has notably changed. This has mostly been due to the MENA countries’ strategic position on the rekindled Silk Road trade route, connecting China with Europe via Asia and Africa. The already strong trade relations between China and the MENA states have been providing a stable foundation for growing cooperation in other fields as well. Indeed, China’s 2016 official Arab Policy Paper focuses not only on investment and trade but also underlines the need for political, cultural and social, as well as peace and security related cooperation.
Against this background, the main aim of the workshop will be to discuss the present and potential future role of China in the MENA region. Some of the most important questions that will be addressed are: To what extent will China stick to a predominantly economically-driven engagement in the region? What security implications can its increasing presence in the MENA entail? What (if any) are the MENA countries’ strategies towards China? What can China’s further involvement mean for the balance of powers in the region? What (if any) are the consequences of China’s growing presence in the MENA for the EU.
A total of 14 participants, including EuroMeSCo researchers directly involved in the project, as well as other experts and scholars, attended the dialogue workshop and debated the above-mentioned issues. This event aimed at discussing the initial research results ahead of the publication of a Joint Policy Study (envisaged for March 2020) and engaging the participants in analysing and sharing their perspectives on the present and potential future role of China in the MENA region. Specifically, this workshop discussed and analysed economic, political, cultural, and security aspects of the China’s presence in the region.
The workshop unfolded with the presentation of the main findings from the authors that have drafted the chapters of the Joint Policy Study. Dr. Katarzyna Sidlo (CASE – Center for Social and Economic Research) – the coordinator of the research group – kicked off the event by providing the background and context to the study, and discussing economic aspects of the China’s engagement in the MENA countries. Specifically, she focused on the analyses of the development and future prospects of trade and investment patterns in the region. During the second presentation, Dr. Erzsébet Rozsa (Institute of World Economics of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences) presented the chapter on the cultural, political, and security context of the China’s presence in the MENA region, which was written in partnership with Tamás Peragovics. This chapter highlights the importance of the soft power approach and discusses the development of the China’s approach to peace and security in the region. In the last session, Lars Andersen (DIIS – Danish Institute for International Studies) and Camille Lons (IISS - The International Institute for Strategic Studies), focused on the geopolitics implications of China’s further involvement in the MENA region and its effects on the global order and the balance of powers in the region.
Results of the workshop will be incorporated into the final Join Policy Study that will be published in Spring 2020.