When it comes to trade, China has a strong foothold in the Middle East and North Africa region. According to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Beijing’s trade increased from $180 billion in 2019 to $259 billion in 2021, and its presence is only expected to keep growing with the implementation of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which includes among other projects, a new construction deal in Iraq for some $10.5 billion.
The widespread nature of China’s economic partnerships in the MENA region can be seen in the following map, where four of the marked out countries indicate that China is both the leading import and leading export partner, while in a further four countries it is the number one import partner and in a further two, a leading export partner.
According to Amr Hamzawy, a senior fellow and the director of the Carnegie Middle East Program, Beijing’s role in the region is expanding into other spheres too. Having previously kept out of taking a clear side on the region's political disputes, the superpower is now venturing into negotiated conflict resolution, having mediated the Saudi-Iranian normalization agreement. Hamzawy explains that this move is generally welcomed by actors in the region.
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