China in the Middle East: Expanding Political Clout and Maritime Space

Author: Jabin T. Jacob

Date: 10 May 2019

Despite being a relatively new entrant in the Middle East, China, with its ambitious leadership and ever-expanding range of interests, (not least amongst which remains the security of its energy supplies from the region), has now begun to pay consistent attention to this transcontinental area.

This attention is currently being represented through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and is being sold heavily as a mutually beneficial arrangement under which China supports infrastructure development in the Middle East and contributes to anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, while sourcing a large volume of its energy supplies from the region in return. However, China’s involvement in this part of the world is considerably more complex than the numbers from such economic engagements let on.

This essay focuses on two key aspects of Chinese activity in the Middle East — the political, and the maritime, and also occasionally touches upon the intersection between these two domains. From a political point of view, China’s objective is to undermine or dilute the US influence by offering itself as an alternative fulcrum around which the regimes of the region can gather. At the same time, China has enough resources and diplomatic skill to ensure that the countries of the region toe the line on a number of issues that Beijing deems sensitive. Meanwhile, it also appears that many of China’s political and economic investments in the Middle East are strongly correlated to its maritime objectives of extended access and control.

Driving New Politics

 Alongside its effort at canvassing support from the Middle East via economic pathways, China  has  also  employed  its  traditional  methods  of  propaganda  and  rhetoric  to  paint itself as a benign and friendly power in the region.  For instance, in January 2016, Beijing issued an ‘Arab Policy Paper’, where it tried to portray itself as a friend of Arab interests via  several  tropes  –  of  relations  dating  to  ‘ancient  times’,  ‘mutual  benefit  and  win-win results’  and  China’s  ‘[firm  support]  for  ‘Arab  countries’  struggle  to  uphold  sovereignty and  territorial  integrity…  and  combat  external  interference  and  aggression’.i    Naturally, China is not the only power that has supported these political goals and interests – India has  done  so  as  well  –  but  China  is  the  only  nation  that  currently  possesses  both,  the political and economic wherewithal to actually follow through on some of these claims.

Thus, in sharp contrast to the American position, which leans towards Israel, (and has leaned further still on the question of Jerusalem under Donald Trump), Beijing, through this policy, declared its support for an independent Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and has been consistent in labelling the Golan Heights as Syrian territory under Israeli occupation.ii These declarations have come despite an equally thriving China-Israel relationship that is based on, economic, and technology-based exchanges.iii

China has also retained a sharp focus and emphasis on its own political interests. The policy paper, for instance, notes both Arab support for China ‘on the Taiwan question’, as well as promotes the BRI. iv Meanwhile, there has been a significant shift towards nationalism (as opposed to religion), as the new tenet of Saudi foreign policy under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman,v and China has tried to offer its support for this narrative in which Saudi actions are seen as an extension of its national interests, rather than those arising out of a given religious identity.

Referring to Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammad bin Salman’s Asia trip in February 2019, a Global Times op-ed argued that Saudi Arabia was ‘trying to achieve the multiple goals of diversifying its allies, economy and markets by “looking and turning to the east” and  even  “traveling  to  the  east”.’vi     At  the  same  time,  the  article  also  underlines  the primacy  of  China’s  own  interests  in  two  ways.   First,  it  suggested  that  the  Saudis  were moving  away  from  their  reliance  on  the  Americans  and  that  it  was  the  ‘east’  that  now represented opportunity for the Saudis.  Next, however, the author appeared to hint that in the ‘east’ Pakistan and India did not really count – the two countries, at the time of the Prince’s visit, had been locked in their post-Pulwama tensions – and all news of the Saudis attempting to de-escalate tensions between the two was dismissed saying, ‘the feud between India and Pakistan is too deep to be easily settled by Saudi Arabia’s mediation’.vii

In other words, the ‘east’ was represented by China, the only other pole besides the US,  which  could  possibly  take  on  the  role  of  mediation  between  India  and  Pakistan, owing  to  its  higher  stature  compared  to  that  of  either  country,  or  that  of  the  Saudi kingdom.  These points were justified with a reference to the economic reality that China accounted for 15% of Saudi’s crude oil exports while India accounted for only about half this. viii      In  fact,  recent  shifts  in  energy  trade  patterns  in  the  region  show  that  the dependence of the Gulf States on oil and gas exports to China has increased, while China itself has diversified its imports reducing its dependence on the region.ix

Similarly with Turkey, while China has not held back in its criticism whenever the Turks have raised the Uyghur issue, it has also tried to offer scope for the Turks to come around. Thus, an editorial in the Global Times on the one hand accused Turkey of “playing tricks with China” and said that “What’s most unacceptable is that Turkey was adding fuel to the Xinjiang question”, but on the other hand, also suggested that “There is no contradiction between the two countries that can’t be resolved” and that “China needs the pragmatic vision that accords with China’s strength and mission”.x

In fact, China has confidently articulated its position on its ongoing internment of possibly  up  to  a  million  of  its  Muslim  Uyghur  minority  in  Xinjiang.xi    In  a  2018  white paper titled, “Cultural Protection and Development in Xinjiang”, published by the State Council Information Office, China defended itself on the Uyghur issue declaring that its “government  is  committed  to  protecting  its  citizens”  freedom  of  religious  belief  while respecting and protecting religious cultures” and offered examples of how the State had funded   translations,   publication   and   distribution   of   religious   texts,   and   protected religious heritage.xii  These claims are in sharp contrast to its actual practice.xiii

Like  economic  engagement,  China’s  propaganda  too,  has  no  doubt,  helped  it ensure  governments  in  the  Middle  East  kept  their  silence  on  the  Uyghur  issue.xiv The United  Arab  Emirates  even  awarded  the  Zayed  Medal  to  Xi  Jinping  during  the  latter’s visit  to  the  country  in  July  2018.xv  And  despite  Saudi  Arabia’s  identity  as  a  staunch defender of Islam, its Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman did not raise the subject (at least not publicly) during his visit to China at the end of February 2019.xvi  China is simply too important an economic player and/or supplier of military equipment for countries in the region to go out of their way to worry about the Uyghurs.

However, China’s apparent political neutrality in the Middle East also means that it, much like India, has the hard job of balancing Saudi Arabia and Iran; the bigger China grows  in  the  region  as  a  player,  the  harder  this  act  will  be.   Further,  Beijing  will  need both,  Saudi  help,  as  well  as  Iranian  cooperation  if  it  is  to  also  protect  its  interests  in Pakistan,  especially  the  Gwadar  port  in  Balochistan  that  borders  and  sits  astride  the Arabian  Sea.    While  Chinese  media  has  reported  approvingly  of  Saudi  investments  in Gwadar,  (including  a  US$10  billion  refineryxvii),  and  in  Pakistanin  general, xviii  Iran’s sensitivities cannot be far from its mind. It has been suggested that Iranian silence over a March 2019 US-Oman agreement, which allows American military access to Omani ports and airports, including Duqm, is a sign of where Teheran stands on the US Indo-Pacific strategy against the Chinese.xix

Images of China in the Middle East have, in fact, tended towards neutral or indifferent rather than favourable and it was not until the launch of the BRI that views about China and Xi Jinping began to look up.xx China also faces the dilemma over time of becoming a bigger source of attention and negative views despite its efforts – on the Uyghur issue, for example – as it becomes more and more involved in the region. In this respect, China’s experience might soon begin to mirror the American one of being both courted by the ruling regimes and despised or suspected on the street or sometimes by both a government and its public as in Iran.xxi

The Maritime Sphere

 For the moment, China’s economic resources and its work in the political sphere  in the Middle   East   allows   it   to   be   increasingly   unapologetic   about   its   need   to   show military/maritime  presence  in  the  region.    China  had  a  modest  beginning  to  its  anti- piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden in December 2008; at the end of a decade, the PLA Navy (PLAN) had used a 100 ships and over 26,000 personnel in 31 taskforces to escort more than 6,600 Chinese and foreign ships.   Alongside the evacuation of both, Chinese and  foreign  civilians  from  conflicts  in  Libya  and  Yemen,  China  has  also  curiously  had submarines  accompany  some  of  these  taskforces,  driving  home,  in  no  uncertain  terms,

how the PLAN has used, and continues to use its deployments in the Gulf of Aden as a service-wide learning exercise.xxii The fact that none of the countries in the Middle East have been bothered by China’s somewhat larger, (or more advanced than necessary), naval assets being deployed on anti-piracy missions, speaks volumes of the success of China’s political and diplomatic work.

It should also not come as any surprise that China has chosen the location of many of  its  investments  in  the  Middle  East  region  with  an  eye  to  maritime  access  and observation  points.    For  example,  in  Egypt,  China’s  Dongfang  Electric  and  Shanghai Electric  are  building  a  6,000MW  clean  coal-fired  power  plant  in  Hamrawein  while Sinohydro  has  completed  a  feasibility  study  for  a  2,400MW  hydropower  project  in  Mt Ataka in Suez province.xxiii   Hamrawein is a port city on the Red Sea, and Mt. Ataka itself is in the southern Sinai Peninsula, not far from the Egyptian tourist destination and naval base  of  Sharm  El  Sheikh.   Chinese  developers  are  also  involved  in  Egypt’s  Suez  Canal Economic Zone in Ain Sokhna district that lies on the Gulf of Suez.xxiv

On  the  opposite  coast  of  the  Red  Sea  in  Saudi  Arabia,  the  Chinese  are  even engaged in an archaeological dig in the old Al Serrian port. The five-year project involving China’s  National  Center  of  Underwater  Cultural  Heritage,xxv has  apparently  discovered Chinese porcelain dating back to the Song Dynasty (960-1279) as well as to subsequent Chinese dynasties.xxvi  Activities such as these provide greater ballast to China’s attempts to  portray  its  Maritime  Silk  Road  under  the  BRI  as  the  natural  inheritor  and  a  benign continuation of older trade routes. It might be pointed out here that India’s own Project Mausam launched in 2014 by the Ministry of Culture with the Archaeological Society of India  as  its  nodal  agency  also  includes  among  its  goals  “[r]eviving  lost  linkages  with nations”xxvii  and  counts  Saudi  Arabia  (among  others  in  the  Middle  East)  as  one  of  the target  countries.  However,  there  is  little  information  to  be  found  about  any  concrete action and nor do the budget figures suggest any possibilities of large-scale activities.xxviii

China,   meanwhile,   also   exercises   a   combination   of   economic   and   political influence  all  along  the  Red  Sea  coast  in  Sudanxxix  and  Eritreaxxx,  all  the  way  down  to Djibouti,  where  it  opened  its  first  overseas  military  base  –  ostensibly  just  a  “logistics center”xxxi  –  in  mid-2017.    In  the  run-up  to  the  construction  of  the  base,  China  had softened up Djibouti with substantial economic infrastructure development projects,xxxii and  the  latter  has  consistently  dismissed  US  concerns  about  Chinese  activity  in  the country.xxxiii     Beijing  even  offered  to  mediate  a  border  dispute  between  Djibouti  and

Eritrea  in  2017.   While  a  former  Chinese  diplomat  denied  any  connection  between  the offer  for  mediation  and  the  military  base  in  Djibouti,  an  African  studies  scholar  at  the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences argued, “Wherever Chinese interests go, means and tools to protect them should follow”.xxxiv

The growing ability of Chinese companies to win bids for managing terminals in foreign ports has even created tensions in the US-Israeli relationship.   China’s Shanghai International  Ports  Group  signed  a  deal  with  Israel’s  Ports  Authority  to  operate  a  new terminal in Haifa in 2015, with the 25-year agreement coming into force in 2021.  The US fears  that  this  has  security  implications  for  its  Sixth  Fleet  that  uses  Haifa  as  one  of  its bases, while sections within the Israeli strategic community fear negative consequences for  their  own  naval  base  that  is  located  across  from  the  new  terminal  as  well.xxxv    The Haifa  port  terminal  is  just  one  of  a  larger  basket  of  Chinese  infrastructure  projects  in Israel that have riled relations between Tel Aviv and Washington DC.xxxvi

China has also managed to establish a degree of presence in two ports in the Middle East where India has, in recent years, tried to build up stakes – Chabahar in Iran, and Duqm in the Sultanate of Oman.

Following  Indian  Prime  Minister,  Narendra  Modi’s  2016  visit  to  Iran  during which the Chabahar contract was finalized, China’s Global Times commentary suggested that there was “no reason for jealousy in China”xxxvii  and that “Iran may not always align itself  with  India’s  geostrategic  goals”  given  that  “China  is  also  crucial  to  Tehran’s  core interests…  [and]  Iran  never  publicly  articulated  its  opposition  to  the  Sino-Pakistani project  in  Gwadar”.xxxviii     Indeed,  Iranian  Foreign  Minister,  Javad  Zarif  invited  both Pakistan and China  to participate  in further developing  Chabahar  in March  2018.   The Iranian minister even called the Chinese-funded Gwadar port (in Pakistan’s Balochistan province) and Chabahar, (about 170kms away), “sister ports” that could both benefit from greater connectivity.xxxix   This, of course, would have been music to Beijing’s ears.  There is also the curious case of Indian Ports Global, (a joint venture of two Indian public sector enterprises – Jawaharlal Nehru Port, Mumbai and Kandla Port), which is responsible for developing  the  Chabahar  port,  awarding  a  contract  for  supplying  cranes  to  a  Chinese entity ZPMC, the world’s top supplier, which had been banned from supplying to Indian ports by New Delhi.xl

Meanwhile, in Oman, India had gained access under the terms of a February 2018 MoU on military cooperation to “certain facilities at the Special Economic Zone at Duqm (Sea Port, Dry Dock and Air Port) by Indian armed forces”.xli    However, China is not an insignificant  presence  in  Duqm  either  having  been  engaged  since  2016  in  setting  up  a nearly  US$10  billion  industrial  park  in  the  SEZ  under  the  BRI  framework.    Besides petrochemicals and e-commerce, Chinese enterprises in Duqm will also invest in tourism and desalination plants.xlii  Meanwhile, India had only begun considering participation in the Duqm SEZ as of early 2018.xliii

Image-building

 China’s   military   diplomacy   in   the   Middle   East   in   the   form   of   high-level   military delegation  visits  and  port  calls  by  its  naval  vessels  has  kept  up  a  steady  pace  since  it began  to  participate  in  anti-piracy  operations  in  the  Gulf  of  Aden.xliv    Chinese  military delegations to the Middle East push not just China’s political line, but also the sales of its military equipment.  For instance, Chinese Defence Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe was in the United  Arab  Emirates  and  Saudi  Arabia  at  the  end  of  March  2019  plugging  the  BRI,xlv while  Chinese  media  also  offered  commentary  about  how  Chinese  weapons  were  being increasingly used by the Saudis.xlvi

In addition to the frequent port calls during or after completion of the anti-piracy escort duties, the PLA Navy (PLAN) has also had its top officials visit or host important countries in the region.  During his long tenure as PLAN Commander, Adm. Wu Shengli visited Israel in December 2010 and again six months later in June 2011, Saudi Arabia in October  2015,  and  Egypt  in  May  2016.   Adm.  Wu  also  hosted  the  Omani  navy  chief  in Beijing in January 2013, the Turkish navy commander in July 2014, and his Iranian and Saudi counterparts in October 2014 and October 2015 respectively.xlvii

The seriousness with which the Chinese view maritime access as well as operations in the Middle East is also evident from the reportage of its state-run media. For instance, Djibouti is described as “an important choke-point that links the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden”, offering some insight into why the Chinese found it necessary to set up a military facility there. While anti-piracy operations are rhetorically at least posited as an initiative for the global good and should not normally involve the use of high-end warship capability, for the Chinese, their deployments to the Gulf of Aden are about showcasing and testing both, advanced war fighting assets, as well as indigenous capability. Consider

China’s  latest  deployment  to  the  Gulf  of  Aden,  (their  32nd),  and  the  way  that  it  was described  in  the  Chinese  press.  The  guided  missile  destroyer  Xi’an,  the  missile  frigate Anyang  were  participating  for  the  first  time  –  the  Xi’an  is  an  indigenously  developed destroyer of the Type-052C class while the Anyang too is domestically developed.  In both instances, the report made it a point to highlight the destroyer’s “over-the-horizon strike capability at sea” and the frigate’s capability “of attacking surface ships and submarines” and “strong long-range alert and air defense capabilities”.xlviii

This latter description of combat capability can also be viewed as a not-so-subtle effort in building up the image of China’s military in the region. Even as China claims its Djibouti base “has not been established for China’s strategic deployment of military forces, but for implementing the country’s escorting, peace-keeping and humanitarian  aid missions in Africa and West Asia”, the same Xinhua commentary also states that the base “should not be underestimated, nor should it be exaggerated”.xlix The stress on other countries not underestimating China is worth highlighting here, even as it faces allegations of hidden intentions behind its investments and military activities in the region.

Meanwhile,  the  problems  of  instability  in  the  Middle  East,  including  those  of piracy,  are  useful  to  promote  a  case  for  China’s  continued  maritime  presence  in  the region, as well as a sense of its importance both abroad, and at home.   It is interesting that two recent, extremely successful Chinese movies, Wolf Warrior 2 and Operation Red Sea – released in 2017 and 2018 respectively – both had plotlines about instability in the Middle East and of Chinese rescue operations supported by the PLAN.

Conclusion

 China’s growing influence in the Middle East owes entirely to its economic heft backed by diplomacy and clear political messaging.   Beijing is increasingly attractive and useful to several regimes in the region – from Iran to Saudi Arabia to Sudan – as a bulwark against US pressure.   To conclude by way of a few thoughts for India, it should be clear against this background that New Delhi has its work cut out for it.  While it country has certainly upped  its  game  in  the  Middle  East  since  the  second  National  Democratic  Alliance government took office in New Delhi in 2014, there remains much to be done if India is to regain the historical centrality in the politics, security, cultural and economic flows of the region that it enjoyed under the British Raj.   However, India’s many inconsistencies and slow pace in the region – “institutional incompetence”, “internal incoherence”, and “rather porous track record in delivering promises” as one Chinese op-ed put itl – signify not just more money in the bank for China, but also create a case for the countries of the region to agree to an even greater role for Beijing.

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*Jabin T. Jacob is Adjunct Research Fellow at the NMF and Associate Professor in the Department of International Relations and Governance Studies, Shiv Nadar University. The views expressed here are his own and do not necessarily reflect the position of the NMF. He may be reached at adjunctrfellow.nmf@gmail.com.

Notes and References

i  The State Council, The People’s Republic of China. 2016. “Full text of China’s Arab Policy Paper.” Xinhua. 13 January. http://english.gov.cn/archive/publications/2016/01/13/content_281475271412746.htm.

ii  Xinhua. 2019. “Golan Heights is occupied territory: Chinese envoy.” 28 March.

http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-03/28/c_137929577.htm.

iii  Chen Wenxian. 2018. “Spotlight: China-Israel cooperation in cutting-edge techs promising.” Xinhua, 21 November. http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2018-11/21/c_137620592.htm.

iv  The State Council, The People’s Republic of China. 2016. “Full text of China’s Arab Policy…

v  Stratfor. 2019. “Why Saudi Arabia Is Embracing a New Nationalism.” 7 January. https://www.realclearworld.com/articles/2019/01/07/why_saudi_arabia_is_embracing_a_new_natio nalism_112943.html.

vi  Global Times. 2019. “Saudi Arabia’s crown prince visits Asia seeking economic cooperation, not political mediation.” 21 February. http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1139616.shtml.

vii  Global Times. 2019. “Saudi Arabia’s crown prince visits Asia…

viii  Global Times. 2019. “Saudi Arabia’s crown prince visits Asia…

ix  James M. Dorsey. 2018. “Shifting Energy Import Patterns Enhance China’s Clout In Middle East – Analysis.” Eurasia Review, 2 May. https://www.eurasiareview.com/02052018-shifting-energy-import- patterns-enhance-chinas-clout-in-middle-east-analysis/.

x  Global Times. 2018. “Look at China-Turkey ties objectively.” 20 August.

http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1116209.shtml#.W3r4SUJYl0Q.

xi  Stephanie Nebehay. 2018. “U.N. says it has credible reports that China holds million Uighurs in secret camps.” Reuters, 10 August. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-rights-un/u-n-says-it-has- credible-reports-that-china-holds-million-uighurs-in-secret-camps-idUSKBN1KV1SU.

xii  Xinhua. 2018. “Full Text: Cultural Protection and Development in Xinjiang.” 15 November.

http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2018-11/15/c_137607548.htm.

xiii  See, for example, Rachel Harris. 2019. “Bulldozing mosques: the latest tactic in China’s war against Uighur culture.” The Guardian, 7 April. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/apr/07/bulldozing-mosques-china-war-uighur- culture-xinjiang.

xiv  Nithin Coca. 2018. “Islamic Leaders Have Nothing to Say About China’s Internment Camps for Muslims.” Foreign Affairs, 24 July. https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/07/24/islamic-leaders-have- nothing-to-say-about-chinas-internment-camps-for-muslims/

xv  Anjana Sankar. 2018. “UAE, China lay solid foundation for future during meeting.” Khaleej Times. 20 July. https://www.khaleejtimes.com/nation/UAE,-China/-lay-solid-foundation-for-future-during- palace-meet—123.

xvi  Fred Hiatt. 2019. “China has put 1 million in concentration camps. MBS had nothing to say.” The Washington Post, 24 February. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/china- has-put-1-million-muslims-in-concentration-camps-mbs-had-nothing-to-say/2019/02/24/370be676- 36e4-11e9-854a-7a14d7fec96a_story.html.

xvii  Xinhua. 2019. “Saudi Arabia signs 20-bln-USD deals with Pakistan.” 18 February.

http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-02/18/c_137829449.htm.

xviii  Global Times. 2019. “Strategic dialogue further deepens China-Pakistan relations.” 22 March.

http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1143110.shtml.

xix  Mohsen Shariatinia. 2019. “Why Iran is silent about US military deal with neighboring Oman.” Al- Monitor, 10 April. https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2019/04/iran-oman-duqm-salalah- us-military-bases-china-rivalry.html.

xx  Guy Burton. 2018. “Public Opinion in the Middle East toward China.” Middle East Institute, 11

December. https://www.mei.edu/publications/public-opinion-middle-east-toward-china.

xxi  Mahmoud Pargoo. 2018. “Why Chinese public diplomacy is failing in Iran.” Al-Monitor, 26 October. https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2018/10/iran-china-ties-public-diplomacy-image- perceptions-public.html. China has in the past offered surveillance technologies to the Iranian regime. See Steve Stecklow. 2012. “Special Report: Chinese firm helps Iran spy on citizens.” Reuters. 22 March. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-telecoms/special-report-chinese-firm-helps-iran-spy-on- citizens-idUSBRE82L0B820120322.

xxii  Andrew S. Erickson. 2019. “The China Anti-Piracy Bookshelf: Statistics & Implications from Ten Years’ Deployment… & Counting.” 2 January. http://www.andrewerickson.com/2019/01/the-china- anti-piracy-bookshelf-statistics-implications-from-ten-years-deployment-counting/.

xxiii  Global Times. 2019. “China’s BRI boosts Egypt’s development via massive infrastructure projects.” 5

April. http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1144745.shtml.

xxiv  Global Times. 2019. “China’s BRI boosts Egypt’s development…

xxv  Wang Kaihao. 2018. “Ancient silk road port found in Saudi Arabia.” China Daily, 24 March. http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/201803/24/WS5ab58b7ba3105cdcf6513fcc.html.

xxvi  CGTN. 2019. “Unearthing the ancient traces of China-Saudi Arabia exchanges.” 18 January.

https://news.cgtn.com/news/3d3d514d3141544d32457a6333566d54/share_p.html.

xxvii  Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, Ministry of Culture. 2019. “Project Mausam: Objectives and Goals.” http://ignca.gov.in/project-mausam-3/project-mausam/objectives-and-goals/.

xxviii  Press Information Bureau, Government of India. 2018. “Project ‘Mausam’ extended up to 2020 with the pre-approved fund of Rs 60,039,297: Dr. Mahesh Sharma.” Ministry of Culture, 17 December. http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=186490.

xxix  Middle East Monitor. 2018. “Sudan to get largest share of $60bn Africa aid from China.” 24 September. https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180924-sudan-to-get-largest-share-of-60bn- africa-aid-from-china/.

xxx  Cecilia Jamasmie. 2018. “China’s Sichuan Road to mine copper in Eritrea starting in 2019.” Mining.com, 24 August. http://www.mining.com/chinas-sichuan-road-mine-copper-eritrea-starting- 2019/. See also The Economist. 2013. “Chinese and Turkish companies show interest in Eritrea.” 9 July. http://country.eiu.com/article.aspx?articleid=1680700152.

xxxi  Xinhua. 2017. “Commentary: China’s Djibouti base not for military expansion.” 13 July.

http://www.xinhuanet.com//english/2017-07/13/c_136441371.htm.

xxxii  Laura Zhou. 2017. “How a Chinese investment boom is changing the face of Djibouti.” South China Morning Post, 17 April. https://web.archive.org/web/20170518025638/http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy- defence/article/2087374/how-chinese-investment-boom-changing-face-djibouti

xxxiii  Xinhua. 2018. “Djibouti welcomes China’s involvement in port development.” 16 March.

http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2018-03/16/c_137043630.htm.

xxxiv  Liu Zhen. 2017. “China offers to mediate Djibouti-Eritrea border row as it expands military presence in Africa.” South China Morning Post, 25 July. https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2103947/china-offers-mediate- djibouti-eritrea-border-row-it

xxxv  Dale Aluf. 2019. “The Haifa port-China conundrum in context.” The Times of Israel, 28 January. https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/the-haifa-port-china-conundrum-in-context/; Amos Harel. 2018. “Analysis Israel Is Giving China the Keys to Its Largest Port – and the U.S. Navy May Abandon Israel.”

Haaretz, 17 September. https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/.premium-israel-is-giving-china-the-keys- to-its-largest-port-and-the-u-s-navy-may-abandon-israel-1.6470527.

xxxvi  Amir Tibon and Amos Harel. 2018. “‘Trump Will Be Furious’: Tension Between U.S. and Israel Over China Infrastructure Projects.” Haaretz, 11 November. https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/.premium- trump-officials-furious-at-israel-over-chinese-infrastructure-projects-1.6636151.

xxxvii  Hu Weijia. 2016. “Indian deal with Iran shows commitment to infrastructure that will benefit China too.” Global Times, 27 May. http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/985391.shtml.

xxxviii  Shi Lancha. 2016. “In Iran’s Chabahar, India seeks leverage point over Pakistan, China.” Global Times, 5 June. http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/986945.shtml.

xxxix  Baqir Sajjad Syed. 2018. “China to build four submarines in Karachi.” Dawn. 7 October. http://www.dawn.com/news/1211363. See also Yin Lu. 2019. “Fajr festival celebrates Iranian art and international designers.” Global Times, 21 February. http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1139638.shtml.

xl P. Manoj. 2017. “Guess who won an Indian contract in Iran: the Chinese.” The Hindu Business Line. 11 August. https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/economy/logistics/guess-who-won-an-indian- contract-in-iran-the-chinese/article9814409.ece.

xli  Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India. 2018. “Question No.1885 Agreements with Middle East Countries.” Parliament Q&A: Lok Sabha, 7 March. https://mea.gov.in/lok- sabha.htm?dtl/29550/question+no1885+agreements+with+middle+east+countries.

xlii  Global Times. 2018. “China, Oman establish industrial park to boost bilateral cooperation.” 19

December. http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1132594.shtml.

xliii  Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India. 2018. “India Oman Joint Statement during visit of Prime Minister to Oman.” Bilateral/Multilateral Documents, 12 February.

https://mea.gov.in/bilateral- documents.htm?dtl/29479/india+oman+joint+statement+during+visit+of+prime+minister+to+oman.

xliv  For more on China’s military diplomacy in general, see, Kenneth Allen, Phillip C. Saunders, and John Chen. 2017. “Chinese Military Diplomacy, 2003–2016: Trends and Implications.” Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs, Institute for National Strategic Studies, National Defense University, China Strategic Perspectives, No. 11, 17 July. https://ndupress.ndu.edu/Portals/68/Documents/stratperspective/china/ChinaPerspectives- 11.pdf?ver=2017-07-17-153301-093.

xlv  Zhongguo Jun Wang (中国军网, China Military Network). 2019. “Alianqiu Abu Zhabi wangchu Muhanmode huijian Wei Fenghe” (阿联酋阿布扎比王储穆罕默德会见魏凤和, UAE Abu Dhabi Crown

Prince Mohammed meets with Wei Fenghe). 22 March. http://www.81.cn/jfjbmap/content/2019- 03/22/content_229856.htm; Renmin Ribao (人民日报, People’s Daily). 2019. “Shate guowang

Saleiman, wangchu Muhanmode huijian Wei Fenghe” (沙特国王萨勒曼、王储穆罕默德会见魏凤和,

Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad met with Wei Fenghe). 28 March. http://paper.people.com.cn/rmrb/html/2019-03/28/nw.D110000renmrb_20190328_4-03.htm.

xlvi  Xinbo Junshi (新浪军事, Sina Military). 2019. “Shate yi yong Zhongguo zao wurenji cuihui Husai T- 72 tanke bi F-15 geng hao yong” (沙特疑用中国造无人机摧毁胡赛 T72 坦克比 F15 更好用, Saudis

suspect using Chinese-made drones to destroy Houthi T-72 tanks may be better than using F-15s). 8 March. https://mil.news.sina.com.cn/jssd/2019-03-08/doc-ihrfqzkc2134204.shtml.

xlvii  All data on high-level military exchanges is collated from Kenneth Allen, Phillip C. Saunders, and John Chen. 2017. “Chinese Military Diplomacy, 2003–2016: Trends and Implications.” Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs, Institute for National Strategic Studies, National Defense University, China Strategic Perspectives, No. 11, 17 July. https://ndupress.ndu.edu/Portals/68/Documents/stratperspective/china/ChinaPerspectives- 11.pdf?ver=2017-07-17-153301-093 via China Power Project. n.d. ‘How is China bolstering its military diplomatic relations?” Center for Strategic and International Studies. https://chinapower.csis.org/china-military-diplomacy/.

xlviii  Global Times. 2019. “China sends new naval destroyer fleet to Somali waters for escort mission.” 4

April. http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1144634.shtml.

xlix  Xinhua. 2017. “Commentary: China’s Djibouti base…

l Shi Lancha. 2016. “In Iran’s Chabahar, India seeks leverage point…

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