China In The Middle East: An Innovative Approach In Times Of Global Change. Syria. Lebanon (II)

Part I


The civil war and the continuous pressure from the United States, the constant ongoing clashes with ISIS, the lack of serious international support forced Bashar al-Assad to look for allies among the largest players in world politics. Initially,  First, it was Russia to act as such a guarantor, but the lack of financial instruments and soft power forced Damascus to seek support from another country. China has become this country.

Since 2023, Beijing and Damascus have established strategic relations between their countries.  China supported the re-inclusion of Syria in the Arab League, reasoning that there should be unity between the Arab countries. But China provides such support not without selfish goals: Beijing provides itself with a stable supply of energy resources, and in return helps Syria rebuild its infrastructure facilities that were destroyed during the civil war. However, at the same time, a number of its assistance is provided without recompense: China helped both in the aftermath of the earthquake of 2023 and during the COVID-19 pandemic, supplying medicines in almost unlimited quantities.

China has played a special role in the reconciliation of Saudi Arabia and Iran. It also had a good effect on relations between the two countries and Syria, as it allowed Syria to strengthen diplomatic ties with the mediation of China. The Chinese Foreign Ministry noted that Syria was grateful for China’s contribution to maintaining peace and stability in the region.

In September 2023, Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad signed a number of documents with China, the purpose of which is the joint development of the “One Belt, One Road” Initiative. This highlights how significant a role China plays in the future of the Syrian people.

Back in 2022, the head of the Syrian Planning and International Cooperation Commission and the Chinese Ambassador signed a memorandum on Syria’s accession to a number of major projects under Chinese supervision: The Silk Road Economic Belt and The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road . Syria is doing this not out of a good life, but because the circle of its potential allies is very limited. China is a chance for the country to gain at least relative stability. Most likely, Syria’s inclusion into the number of countries participating in these initiatives will help to create the necessary infrastructure for the project without recompense. China will also take upon the maintenance of this infrastructure, and Syria will receive small islands of stability. Damascus cannot afford to build such an infrastructure on its own.

Lebanon is gaining special importance in the region for China. For Lebanon, China, as well as for many small countries of our world, remains the largest investment and trading partner.

In March 2023, during a trip to Lebanon, the Chinese Government’s Special Envoy for the Middle East, Zhai Jun, stated that the resumption of relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran creates a window of opportunities for Lebanon, which is likely to have a favorable impact on the prospects for the development of relations between Lebanon and these two countries. In addition, China gained the trust of Lebanon through the supply of humanitarian aid during the COVID-19 pandemic and after the explosion at the port of Beirut, as well as through assistance to countries along the “One Belt, One Road” route.

China continues to be Lebanon’s largest trading partner. The volume of trade in 2022 amounted to $2.58 billion. Firms from Lebanon share their experience with Chinese corporations and take part in the China International Import Expo (CIIE), China Import and Export Fair, and China-Arab States Expo. China promised to supply solar panels to the telecommunications center s of the Arab country without recompense, which will significantly strengthen the stability of broadcasting throughout the Arab country. These measures indicate that cooperation between the countries continues to strengthen. The confidence of investors from China in a country that has been in turmoil and civil war for decades suggests that China’s intervention guarantees further stability in the region and, if anything, will be ready to intervene and act as a guarantor of security and peace.

China continues to invest in the expansion of port infrastructure in Lebanon. The reason is simple: The PRC is striving to secure and expand the boundaries of the “One Belt, One Road” initiative. But China’s work with Lebanon is not limited to economic cooperation. In 2020, at the initiative of the People’s Republic of China, a contract was signed between the governments of the two countries on the establishment of cultural centers in the capitals. Cultural events are regularly held in the countries, to which delegations from the relevant country are invited.

We cannot say that Lebanon attracts the exclusive attention of Beijing, but even though there are countries in the region that are much more attractive for investment, Beirut attracts the interest of the Chinese due to its geographical location. Lebanon’s ports are a potential foothold for Chinese trade in the Mediterranean region. This means that in the future Lebanon will be increasingly involved in the implementation of projects within the framework of the “One Belt, One Road” Initiative.

to be continued

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