“Belt and Road” initiative boosts development
China is making the most of the Middle East's soft corner for Beijing with substantive investment in capital, personnel and technology to sustain and upgrade the regional economy and facilitate social stability in the volatile region.
Chinese enterprises in the Middle East are playing an important role in boosting regional development. The latest example is a new business hub known as Madinat al-Hareer, or Silk City, which is expected to be completed by 2035 in northern Kuwait to serve as a new major stop on the ancient Silk Road trade route, China's official news agency Xinhua has reported.
Featuring a 1,001-meter tall skyscraper in its masterplan, the Silk City would be co-developed by Kuwaiti and Chinese enterprises under China's “Belt and Road” initiative. The 36-km Sheikh Jaber Causeway project linking the Silk City with Kuwait City is already under construction.
Experts say that China's proposal of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road — the “Belt and Road” initiative — has provided a good opportunity to expand economic and trade cooperation.
“There is a large deficit in infrastructure in many Middle East countries, as a result of sanctions, economic difficulties or security problems,” said Wu Bingbing, head of the Institute of Arabic-Islamic Culture Studies at Peking University.
“And some countries need to accelerate industrial development in order to accommodate increasing population and labor surplus,” he added. “These can be two areas where China's 'Belt and Road' initiative can meet the needs of Middle East countries.”
According to Li Guofu, director of Middle East studies at the China Institute of International Studies, the best part of the “Belt and Road” initiative is that it ties China's development with that of other countries.
Former Egyptian ambassador to China Mahmoud Allam said the “Belt and Road” initiative has seen much acceptance and applause as it passes through Middle East countries.
“Infrastructure is greatly needed for economic and social development in the Middle East,” said Wu Sike, China's former special envoy to the Middle East.
There is huge potential for Chinese companies in the region, with densely populated countries like Iran and Egypt in urgent need of more investment in infrastructure, Wu Bingbing said.
He noted that countries such as Egypt, Sudan, Iraq and Iran have abundant labor force, low labor cost and good education, providing good environment for developing the manufacturing sector.
“For example, textiles, steel, cement, construction materials can be potential areas of cooperation with Egypt, and in Iran, the automobile and electricity sectors have great potential,” he said.
Experts say China's policy on the region is simply different from the West.