Twenty billion dollars in loans and $1.6 billion in financial aid was recently pledged by Chinese President Xi Jinping to countries in the Middle East to help boost economic growth there. “We should treat each other frankly, not fear differences, not avoid problems, and have ample discussion on each aspect of foreign policy and development strategy,” President Jinping said.
The aid will be used for projects involving oil and gas, nuclear power, and clean energy. It’s rare that such an energy-based approach is attempted to help a whole foreign region with economic development and greater political stability. Very old disputes between countries or various political and cultural perspectives are often viewed through the lenses of ideologies and religions.
By trying to contribute to the economic development of a whole region regardless of such affiliations, there is a different focus and potentially some shared benefits.
Some might assume that the political problems, conflict and violence need to be solved at the level of heads of state working out peace conditions and striking out momentous accords. However, these high-level gestures frequently don’t address poverty in practical terms, but poverty plays a role in the problems,
“The UN Arab Human Development Reports (UNAHDR) began to warn over a decade ago that the region faced critical demographic pressures, failures in economic development, and a combination of challenges related to income distribution, deep problems with corruption, nepotism, and discrimination. The UNAHDRs warned that these factors were compounding on a pre-existing agitation over a lack of freedom to threaten regional stability, and create significant challenges to given countries.”
Energy security and access are obviously huge issues, so addressing them might create a side benefit of alleviating some of the tensions and conflict.