How big is China's footprint in the Middle East?

The trade presence is sizeable but, despite the recent flurry of diplomatic activity, there’s more than meets the eye in the friendship game

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani meets with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in Teheran, on March 27, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS
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Is China about to become a significant political player in the Middle East? A recent flurry of diplomatic activities seems to point to this conclusion. The foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Turkey and Iran plus the secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) spent much of last week huddled in marathon meetings in the eastern city of Wuxi, Jiangsu province, at the invitation of the Chinese government.

A landmark treaty between China and Iran, pledging the two countries to extensive cooperation over the next 25 years, not just on economic affairs but on political matters too, also came into effect this week.

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