After Russia and Pakistan, Iraq has received the largest amount of Chinese energy investment in all of Eurasia. Beijing is now in the process of turning the country into a major hub of its Belt and Road Initiative, a series of transportation and infrastructure projects that aims to create a continuous chain of ports, railways, and power plants running across the continent. Ksenia Svetlova writes:
Nowadays China is involved in the building of al-Khairat heavy oil power plant near Karbala [in central Iraq]. It took the promise to finance construction of 1,000 schools (and some 7,000 schools in the future) in return for oil products to secure the al-Khairat deal. China’s state company also won the contract to develop the Mansuriya gas field and there is no shortage of other industrial and civil projects.
In 2008, the China National Petroleum Corporation signed a huge production deal with the Iraqi government and became the first foreign firm to do so since the war. In 2013, China bought almost half of Iraqi oil production. During these years Iraq acquired Chinese drones to fight Islamic state, supported the Hong Kong national security law at the UN and defended China’s treatment of Muslims in Xinjiang.
China is slowly but surely building its position in the Middle East and that this new reality will affect the global power competition worldwide.
Last year, Tehran and Beijing also signed a major cooperation agreement. Svetlova suggests that China may see Iraq as a safer investment, or more reliable supplier of energy, than Iran. But given the Islamic Republic’s ever-increasing influence over its western neighbor, there is also a possibility that Tehran has itself encouraged the investment in Iraq.
More about: China, Iraq, Middle East