The UCLA Center for Middle East Development hosted the event, "China-MENA Relations: Looking Back and Envisioning the Future," on January 28, 2021.
China’s engagement with the Middle East and North Africa is growing significantly, particularly with Algeria, Egypt, Iran, and countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Beyond forging bilateral relations, Beijing has also used plurilateralism— such as the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) and the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum (CASCF)— and ‘partnership diplomacy’ to cultivate its relationships. Most MENA countries have agreed to participate in China’s transcontinental Belt and Road initiative (BRI), prompting concerns among some western powers. As the MENA region contends with fiscal challenges of the COVID-19 fallout (twin crises for hydrocarbon exporters), it is unclear whether Chinese ambitions and engagements will expand at the same pace in the coming years.
Panelists explore the strengthening economic ties between China and MENA countries, and their geopolitical and cultural implications.
How do historical factors drive China-MENA relations today? How balanced or asymmetric are relations between China and MENA countries? Beyond hydrocarbons, which sectors are the most important to commercial ties? Is Chinese activity in the MENA digital space problematic for allies in Europe and the U.S? Will Beijing’s growing economic interests prompt a more significant political (and security) engagement in the region? How is ‘soft power’ used between the two sides and has it been effective? How will the fallout of COVID-19 impact BRI projects and China-MENA relations?”
MODERATOR— Mr. Adel Hamaizia is Committee Vice-Chairman of the Oxford Gulf and Arabian Peninsula Studies Forum (OxGAPS), where he is the co-editor of the thematic-quarterly, “Gulf Affairs.” He is an independent consultant advising governments and private sector organizations throughout the GCC and North Africa, with a focus on political risk, economic development, and public diplomacy issues. Mr. Hamaizia also serves as a researcher at the University of Oxford, where he previously taught Middle East politics. He was formerly a Senior Teaching Fellow at SOAS's Department of Financial and Management Studies. Mr. Hamaizia is also an associate at Global Partners Governance and an associate fellow at Chatham House.
PANELIST— Dr. Abdel Aziz Abu Hamad Aluwaisheg is the GCC Assistant Secretary General for Political and Negotiation Affairs. Before assuming this post in 2011, he served as GCC Director-General for International Economic Relations (2009-2011) and Director of Economic Integration (1999- 2008). Between 2002 and 2011, he was also responsible for setting up the GCC Common Market. Before joining the GCC in 1999, he served as an economist and legal expert at the United Nations. He has taught at a number of US and GCC universities, most recently at Georgetown University. He writes a weekly column on current economic and international affairs in Arab News (Saudi Arabia) and a column in Arabic in the London-based "Asharq Al-Awsat."
PANELIST— Ms. Martina Fuchs is a Europe Business Correspondent for Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua and China Global Television Network (CGTN), Commentator for China Radio International (CRI), International Consultant for the Lang Lang International Music Foundation, and International Advisor for the St. Gallen Symposium. Previously, Ms. Fuchs was CNNMoney Switzerland TV Anchor in Zurich and CGTN Senior Business Reporter in Beijing. Before that, she worked as Reuters Economy Correspondent for the Gulf Arab region in Dubai and Reuters Financial TV Producer in London. Ms. Fuchs speaks nine languages, including German, French, English, Chinese, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and Swahili.
PANELIST— Dr. Yahia H. Zoubir is a professor of international relations and international management, and director of research in geopolitics at KEDGE Business School. He has been international visiting faculty in numerous universities and business schools for the last 30 years in China, the United States, and various European and Asian countries. Professor Zoubir has published dozens of scholarly works, including books, articles, entries in encyclopedias, and book chapters in international politics, foreign policy, governance, and security issues. He has also served as consultant for governments and companies worldwide. In 2020, he was Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar.
PANELIST— Dr. Jiuzhou Duan is an assistant professor of political science in the Institute for International and Area Studies at Tsinghua University, China. He has previously taught international affairs at Schwarzman College in Tsinghua University. He was a former Rajawali Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School and visiting scholar at American University in Cairo. His research is focused on the field of Middle East politics and society in general, with a special concentration on state-society relations, China-Middle East relations, and the political economy of development.