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China’s internet censorship 3, April 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in China.
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Click to open the picture normal sized.

This rather elegant design represents the key words that China censors in internet searches. Courtesy of information is beautiful.

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Future Chinese-US conflict over Middle East? 31, October 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations, China, China and the ME.
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Usually I find myself firmly on the more passive side of are China evil/viciously expanding their Navy/a mortal threat to the future of America. I firmly believe that China are simply expanding their Navy – if and when they do – in the remit of their own state interests and not as some hegemonic power-play. I don’t see some inevitable clash of civilizations or of powers or of pretenders.

However, when China’s former Special Envoy to the Middle East, fluent in Arabic and a former Ambassador to Saudi, Iraq and Iran, says that he sees an American-Chinese conflict as inevitable, then it would seem prudent to take note.

Obama’s new Middle East policy is only a strategic change. Yet America’s global goals and hegemonic complex cannot change. America always tries to hold the world’s main oil ‘switch’. There is thus competition and cooperation between China and America. In particular, America views China as a strategic competitor. And bilateral discord and clashes are unavoidable. China must not drop its guard in the Middle East over its oil interests and security.

Having duly taken note, I now ignore his advice and still firmly believe that there will be no such conflict. It will take light years before China can compete militarily with America in any meaningfully way, shape or form. True, smaller perhaps proxy conflicts are possible, but these are far from the order of magnitude that usually referred to with this kind of topic. Here’s hoping that I’m right.

China-GCC Free Trade Agreement? 22, September 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in China and the ME.
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chian gcc

China’s integration into Middle East’s markets continues apace. Plans have been announced to form a free-trade zone between the GCC and China. According to Qatar’s daily newspaper, The Peninsula, the first round of talks were held in Riyadh and were successful.

Key to the GCC’s thoughts are the removal of custom tariffs. As for China, they will welcome any kind of increased or deepened relationship with the GCC. China’s thirst for energy is increasing at seemingly inexorable rates whilst their domestic supplies are in their twilight years. The confluence of these factors (discussed here) rightly has the Chinese leadership searching for better links with oil producing areas of the world to bolster their energy security (discussed here). Indeed, it is thought that China’s so-called ‘string of pearls’ – naval bases strung around the Indian Ocean including a key one in Gwadar in Pakistan right at the Straits of Hormuz – are aimed first and foremost at guarding the life-line of oil and gas from the GCC to their mainland (more here and here).

However, not all of China’s best made plans are coming to fruition. Ben Simpfendorfer’s excellent New Silk Road blog mentions two setbacks recently for the red state.

Libya has rejected a $417 million bid by China National Petroleum Company (CNPC) for Verenex, a Canadian oil-exploration company with Libyan oil leases. Libya’s national company has since purchased Verenex at 30% less than CNPC’s offer price. I’m [sic] not sure if Libya’s response was specific to China itself, or a de-facto attempt to nationalize some of its oil assets. But the response is interesting given that Libya, alongside Algeria, is one of few countries in the Middle East to receive large numbers of Chinese workers. In fact, I heard from a Libyan central bank official in June that 6,000 Chinese workers had applied for visas in the previous month alone. And I wouldn’t be surprised if this has caused some friction.

Iraq may blacklist China’s Sinopec for its purchase of the Geneva-based oil-exploration company Addax, which owns several licenses directly issued by the Kurdish Regional Government. The licenses are in breach of an Iraqi law requiring all oil deals are made in Baghdad.

The DRC’s Chinese corridor 16, September 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in China.
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DRCs China corridor

I’m always partial to a nice map and this little number here is from Le Monde Diplomatique. It highlights the prevalence of China’s construction firms building thousands upon thousands of miles of rail and road links in the 3rd largest African country, the Democratic Republic of Congo.

China & the Middle East: An Unfolding Courtship 16, September 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in China and the ME.
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This is something that was published sometime ago. Yet, it is only now that I have found a suitable (but still not perfect) way of uploading it here. Use the arrow pointing downwards on the right to make it larger or click the ‘full screen’ button (the one furthest to the right) to have a read.

(PS. No, “an unburdened Panda” was not my idea)

Originally published in the Kuwait Times : 09/02/08

View this document on Scribd

China No.1 exporter to the ME 7, September 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in China and the ME, Middle East.
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Here’s a quick note of an interesting article in – of all places – the Torygraph, by the author of the New Silk Road Blog. It highlights the trend of China’s ever growing exports to the Middle East to the tune that they are now the number one exporter to the Middle East at $60bn (up from just $4bn a decade ago).

It contains a few interesting nuggets of information such as the existence of ‘a virtual Arab market town’ not far from Shanghai as so many buyers from the Middle East apparantly go there to look for products and it also cautions as to the effects of cheap Chinese products flooding Middle Eastern cities. Whilst Kuwait City and Doha need not worry so much, Damascus and Cairo, with their enormous populations, the young-age of many and their skills sets, have something to fear from this. The author concludes that this can only draw on a protectionist backlash at some stage.

China increases ties with Saudi Arabia 27, July 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in China and the ME, Saudi Arabia, The Gulf.
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A Chinese company has been selected to build 200 new schools in Saudi Arabia that when completed will accommodate 153,000 students.

Relations between China – the world’s second largest oil importer, and Saudi Arabia – the worlds top oil producer, are concentrated mainly on energy cooperation but China hopes to be able to increase bilateral trade from an estimated  $15 billion in 2005 to $20 billion in 2010.

Since 2001 China has signed some 3,000 contracts totaling $2.7 billion with the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) which includes Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

In 2004 an agreement on Economic, Trade, Investment, and Technological Cooperation was signed between China and the GCC and negotiations for a China-GCC free trade zone were initiated.

Meanwhile, the Chinese broadcasting company China Central TV on Saturday night launched an Arabic language channel for the Middle East and Africa as part of the government’s plans to improve its relations with the Arab and Muslim World. The channel is China Central’s fourth foreign language channel after English, French and Spanish.
Hat Tip: The Media Line

China’s LNG Terminals 2, June 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in China, LNG.
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China LNG TerminalsHat Tip: LNGpedia

China’s string of pearls 7, May 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in China, China and the ME.
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China's string of pearls

This (somewhat amateurish) map shows China’s string of pearls. This refers to ports that China has invested in to refurbish and use at their discretion. Those of a more alarmist nature see these moves akin to the establishment of Chinese naval bases by stealth. The map below highlights the reasoning behind these moves.

string-of-pearls1

China’s desire to secure the route for their ever expanding dependence on Middle Eastern oil and gas is understandable. No country in the world would want such a vital supply line out of their guaranteed control. Whilst China has frosty but reasonable relations with India and America, the only countries with the navy to challenge China in that part of the world, China can not count on these relations for ever. Indeed, with the ever increasing race for the Gulf’s oil and gas resources with India and the always-fractious issue of Taiwan with America, there are without doubt issues that can potentially arise.

Despite how understandable one may think China’s actions are, for India they must be arousing serious concerns. Having China’s potential military bases to close to their mainland, not to mention encircling them, is not something that the Indian government can take lightly. It is, therefore, no surprise that India are the second largest weapons importers in the world presently. As for America, they will not be overly pleased to see China’s reach extending towards the straits of Hormuz. Moreover, their preeminence in blue water is now coming under more and more of a threat. The military and the US Administration need to be aware, however, that these Chinese ports – despite what they might signify – are not, in and of themselves, a threat. America needs to keep any bellicose language to itself at this stage and save it for when it really matters.

The UAE’s enormous defense spending 27, April 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations, The Emirates.
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F-16E fighter jet

It has been announced that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is the third largest weapons importer in the world after China and India, according to the Swedish think tank SIPRI. Furthermore, as the Al Jazeera article reveals, that means that that UAE is importing over a third of the entire Middle East’s arms. Considering that this includes Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Iran, this is massively surprising. The UAE apparently bought 80 F-16E combat aircraft from America in addition to 50 Mirage fighter jets from France in the last four years alone. In an astounding bit of analysis, Al Jazeera’s correspondent suggested that this was of the UAE’s proximity to Iran.

This means that – if you’ll excuse some serious rounding up and generally inaccurate figures – that, per capita the UAE spend around $1750 per year on arms, where as China spend $8.72 and India $9.58. I think you’ll agree that the numbers are so vastly different that a few thousand (even million) either which way in terms of populations or arms estimates will not make any difference: either which way, the UAE are spending a huge amount for such a small country.

One last point: who is going to fly the planes and drive the tanks? I realise that there will, no doubt, be many UAE pilots in the US, for example, training away, but what happens when they get back? I spoke to a UK army advanced tactics tank commander in Kuwait where he was teaching the Kuwaitis which end of the tank is which. He was astounded at just how uncommitted and poor the elite of the Kuwaiti army were. The didn’t turn up to class, left half way through etc etc. Needless to say, if you did that in the British Army you’d be off to the glasshouse. Does the same thing apply to the UAE army and air-force? I fear it might. Such issues, apparently afflict the Saudi army too: all the toys that the American arsenal can give, but no dedicated or capable troops to use them.

Picture: F16-E Fighter jet