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China’s Balancing Act in Libya

Authors: Frederic WehreySandy Alkoutami

Affiliation: The Washington Institute

Organization/Publisher: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy

Date/Place: May 10, 2020/Washington, DC, USA

Type of Literature: Analysis

Word Count: 2506


Keywords: China Foreign Policy, GNA, LNA, War in Libya


This analysis argues that despite being among powers involved in Libya, China’s foreign policy is to bring Libya into Chinese global ambition. During Qaddafi’s regime, China’s relationships with Libya focused on the economy. With the outbreak of the Libyan revolution, China abstained from the UN Security Council’s vote for military intervention in Libya and maintained dealing with Qaddafi’s officials. However, with this policy, the new political forces in late 2011 considered China as among countries with whom Libyans might have some political issues in the future.  From 2011 to 2014, China knew a decline in its investments in Libya. After 2014, China positioned itself and rebuilt ties with Libyans. In 2015, despite the political fragmentation among the Tobruk and the Government of National Accord (GNA), China learned from its mistake (in 2011) and pursued “cautious neutrality.’’ With this policy of neutrality and dealing with all, Beijing could preserve economic channels with both Haftar’s wing in the east and GNA in the west of Libya. Far away from political conflict between locals in Libya and competitors in the region, China has issued memorandums of understanding with every country in north Africa to hedge its bets and promote the grand strategy of its Road and Belt Initiative RBI.

By: Imad Atoui, CIGA Research Associate



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