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Geopolitical and Geo-economic Challenges to China’s Silk Road Strategy in the Middle East

Author: Mordechai Chaziza

Affiliation: Jewish News Syndicate writer, Ashkelon Academic College

Organization/Publisher:  Middle East Institute

Date/Place:  June 9, 2020/Washington D.C, USA

Type of Literature:  Analysis

Word Count: 2015


Keywords: China, MENA, Middle East, North Africa, Challenges 


This analysis is commissioned to expose geopolitical and geo-economic challenges to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), its new Silk Road in the Middle East. While China is increasing integration, engagement and  strategic flexibility with Middle Eastern states, the author deems this strategy as incomprehensive. Geopolitically, the new equilibrium internationally and regionally between the different powers seeking domination will trigger geopolitical crises and even wars that could cause risks to the new Silk Road. Without playing a great role in addressing central issues caused by external players in the Middle East, the competition between the US and Russia would have adverse implications on the Chinese project. Secondly, the regional competition between Iran and Saudi Arabia coupled with the US’ unilateral withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (Iran Nuclear deal) and its efforts to sanction Iran would also complicate the Chinese Silk Road. Additionally, the BRI infrastructure would also face threats from violent groups in the Middle East opposed to China. Finally, the region knows numerous hotspots and flashpoints of conflict exemplified in interstate disputes, like between Qatar and some GCC states. Geoeconomically, despite the warm welcome the Chinese have had for six years, critics haves raised that along with the benefits that China offers also comes unsustainable debt, environmental impact, and corruption from Chinese motives. Secondly, the collapse of the oil price has rendered Gulf countries to cut spending on new projects and returning unused budget allocations to the Ministry of Finance. Finally, bureaucratic corruption, a complex business environment, weak governance and the rule of law, low regional economic and trade integration, lack of economic diversification, and low productivity growth all would threaten the implementation of the BRI. 

By: Imad Atoui, CIGA Research Associate



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