China’s Global Dominance Tour: Next Stop Muslim World

Chinese mosque

China is ramping up its investments in–and friendliness with–the Muslim world, and a $4.5 million investment in development projects in Jordan, announced over the weekend, is the latest addition to that effort.

This week also marks 20 years of diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia, where a Chinese delegation is present to commemorate, and earlier this month China announced $200 million in unconditional aid to Pakistan. Then last week China issued the China-Africa white paper, which reinforced an impression the world is increasingly getting–that China is very much interested in Africa’s natural assets. And as Africa is almost 50% Muslim, it certainly works in China’s favor to buff relations with the Muslim world.

There is also the issue of Iran–the country was a BRIC hopeful but South Africa, not Iran, was tapped to join the club. Last Friday, the same day South Africa received its formal invitation, Iran issued a statement by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad saying that Iran would become the world’s 12th largest economy by 2015, a 16-point increase from its current 28th standing, according to gross national product. China may feel a particular need to appease some parts of the Muslim world right now, given that Iran was snubbed. China is, after all, the BRIC chair.

So is the effort to cement ties with the Muslim world part of China’s general plans for global dominance? It may be too early to know for sure. But what is certain is this: if that’s the case, then increasing aid and investments in the form of “development” is China’s tactic of choice. That’s a trend we’ll keep our eye on–and in the process we’ll learn more about the country’s larger intentions.

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[Image by Vmenkov]JN