BEIJING: With the United States sidetracked by the ongoing Ukraine-Russia war, China may find an "opportunity" to increase its influence in the Middle East through its 'Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)', said a media report citing analysts.
According to the analysts, Beijing's meeting with members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) - Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain - in January demonstrates growing economic cooperation and strategic partnership between China and the Gulf countries.
Notably, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi held a series of talks with Gulf nations on economic cooperation and regional issues, such as the Iran nuclear deal in January. Moreover, Syria, which is seeking post-war reconstruction, also signed a memorandum of understanding on the BRI in January.
Now, with the US amassing allies to impose sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, China's ambitions to expand its influence in the Middle East could finally bear fruit as it may use this opportunity to further its objectives in the region, according to a Chinese media report.
According to experts, the Middle East is relevant for China to promote its global military presence both in terms of arms sales and potential access points.
Analysts believe that a complicated political landscape in the Middle East had slowed Beijing's progress in the region. However, China may fasten its pace now with the opportunity presented by the Ukraine crisis.
Also, Beijing's intentions to consolidate its position as a trade hub for the Middle East have been clear through its increasing bonhomie with the UAE, according to a media report.
According to The Hong Kong Post, Beijing intends to exploit the geographic and strategic position of the UAE, which could provide an essential link in China's grand economic strategy under the BRI consolidating its position as a trade hub for the Middle East and gateway to Africa.