World / Opinion

Time for China to step up its engagement in Middle East

By Wang Xu ( Updated: 2016-01-18 13:22

So many conflicts taking place, so much blood spilled: the Middle East has long been regarded as a graveyard of empires, yet it seems that China is trying to work at least a minor miracle.

The Middle East won't be a graveyard of China but a touchstone for it to become a true global power, said Li Shaoxian, an expert of Middle East studies in Ningxia University in Yinchuan, Ningxia Hui autonomous region.

Li made the remarks while attending a press event in Beijing on Thursday.

It is time for China to gradually step up its engagement in the Middle East, Li said, as the country sees rise in economic interests, related security concerns, and cooperation dynamics within the region.

Li said 60 percent of China's crude oil was imported and half of them it came from the Middle East, and China is the largest trading partner of the Middle East with a trade volume of over $340 billion in 2014.

Meanwhile, the stability of the Middle East is deeply related with the stability and the security of western China, home of over 20 million Muslims, Li said.

Besides, the Middle East is the gathering point of the Belt and Road Initiative, so we need a peaceful and stable Middle East to promote that Initiative, he added.

Regarding the Middle East as nowhere but the place for China to test its political influence as a true global power, Li denies it will be a graveyard for China as long as Beijing steps up to the plate within the framework of mutual respect, dignity and noninterference.

Reiterating the importance of not taking sides, Li said, China is the only power that does not have "imperial interest" or proxies in the region, and with that dividends, China is in a unique position of now being able to play a fair role as a proactive facilitator of dialogues.

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