China and the Future of Development in the Middle East
By admin May 4, 2016

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China Middle East


China’s meteoric economic rise this century has naturally attracted the attention of Middle Eastern countries which face many of the challenges that China claims to have overcome, including pressure form a young and growing population, non-democratic models of governance and the issue of legitimacy, and perhaps more importantly – development. Xue Qingguo, head of the Arab School of the Beijing Foreign Studies University, sums up Chinese perspective on developmental issues by suggesting three lessons that Middle Eastern governments can learn from China: 1) development path is not a ‘one size fits all’ model and each country can have their unique model of development; 2) stability, reform and development should be the focus of political actors; and 3) divergences should be overcome in pursuit of greater public good.


Despite these ideas, China views the Middle East as one of the major sources for the future of its economic and political goals. In the kosher food industry (‘halal’ food), China has policies in place which facilitates halal-food manufacturing business activities and sets to brand itself as a trusted entity in global kosher food industry which is valued at more than USD $650 billion and is projected to reach up to USD $1.6 trillion in the coming decade. What makes the Middle East a natural target for Chinese halal food industry is the rapid rate of urbanization in the region, which leaves many of these countries as main importers of Chinese pruducts.


Currently, China wins only 0.1 percent of the global halal food market. This means that we would expect a rise in kosher food business in China if Chinese government can protect Chinese kosher food industry reputation and save it from recurring scandals.


Nevertheless, kosher food is not the only growing industry boosting Chinese and Middle East relations.. Renewable and green energy is considered to be a second avenue in building closer economic relations. While Chinese solar panels remain competitive in the global market, the rise in labor costs at home is exerting increasing pressure on the industry. Chinese governing party guides the industry players to move outside for cheap labor and local low-tariff trade blocks. The setup of solar panel factories in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Morocco reflects this approach.


The developmental approach taken by China towards the Middle East is not limited to these mentioned cases. The presence of Chinese energy companies in the region, and China’s ‘One Road, One Belt’ trade and energy transportation plan signifies China’s serious consideration of the Middle East as a future path to economic development. What remains to be seen is the Middle Eastern governments’ approach to taking advantage of this opportunity to respond to their governance responsibilities in their countries. Perhaps the Middle Eastern exit strategy out of the current fiasco is waiting in the East.


For more information:

China Wants to Feed the World’s 1.6 Billion Muslims

Middle East Looks to China for Development, Opportunities

Chinese Soft Power and Green Energy Investment in the Greater Middle East

Fruitful Middle East trip brightens region’s future

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