China's inroads in the Maghreb, as part of its New Silk Road grand strategy, are shifting the balance of power within the sub-region and between North African countries, the European Union, the United States. Unlike Russia and the U.S., which tend to see the Maghreb as merely an extension of the Middle East, thus warranting little priority or attention, China views the sub-region as a heterogeneous group of countries within a wider Arab with their own unique characteristics and peculiarities.
Characterized as both ideological and pragmatic, China’s presence in the Maghreb remains focused primarily on trade, economic development and strategic cooperation. Unfettered access to natural resources, mainly energy, and the exploration of markets for Chinese exports have been important drivers of further cooperation. With a potential market of just over 100 million people, expanding trade and strategic partnerships in the Maghreb is also vital because it is the northern gateway to the African continent.
Notwithstanding historically close ties and deference to Europe, the Maghreb's growing economic relations with China carry ramifications that are as varied as they are complex. This increasing interdependence is raising concerns in the West, particularly in a few European capitals that typically view the sub-region as part of their own backyard. However, without counter-balancing China's grand ambitions, the developing synergies in energy, infrastructure, trade, investment, financial integration, and limited security cooperation will continue to shape the Maghreb, and ultimately, tilt the power balance in this part of the world.
In this discussion, speakers shared their insights and analyses of the emerging partnerships between China and the Maghreb countries by examining the complexities, and realities of Beijing's presence in this part of the world, through the lens of its Belt & Road Initiative (BRI). They examined how a growing Chinese presence in the Maghreb can feasibly advance the sub-region's economic development, while also safeguarding China's strategic interest in being a developer, collaborator and accelerator of South-South cooperation. Between receding American engagement and a deeply fragmented Europe, discussants assessed the West's potential responses (or lack thereof) and their likely impact on fostering security, democratization, stability, development, and intra-regional cooperation in the Maghreb.
A copy of Dr. Mordechai Chaziza's presentation can be found here:
Hafed Al Ghwell, Senior Fellow and Executive Director of the North Africa Initiative, SAIS FPI
Dr. Mordechai Chaziza, Senior lecturer, Ashkelon Academic College
Dr. Lina Benabdallah, Visiting Fellow the Center for African Studies, Harvard University, and Assistant Professor, Wake Forest University
Dr. Tin Hinane El Kadi, PhD Researcher, London School of Economics and Political Science