“China is doing something that complies with humanitarian values, contributing US$3 million to the UNRWA, a practice similar to the Scandinavian countries.”

MEETINGS between the Arab world and China was the beginning of what one may call the first genuine proto-globalisation.

It was a cross-cultural encounter that resulted in a maze of what many historians called the Silk Roads, in the plural.

The latter was discovered by a German archaeologist who found many bewildering trade routes connecting the Arab world and Persia, not excluding the Ottoman Empire, crisscrossing the Eurasian mountains and steppes, right across the Gobi deserts into Xinjiang. The roads broke apart into various arteries, invariably through trade, before making their way into Xi An and Guang Zhou in China.

These rediscoveries, ancient as they may be, have been pilloried by the West as China’s attempt to assert its influence in contemporary international relations through the Belt and Road Initiatives (BRI).

More interestingly, as early as 2012, when China was launching them, they were regarded by the hawkish Brahma Chellaney of India as the “debt trap”.

Yet, over the last seven years, the impeccable scholarship of Prof Deborah Brautigan at the Johns Hopkins University and Processor Meg Ritye at the Harvard Business School has rejected this theory with real empirical findings.

Onerous repayments are often imposed by the West and the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, in turn, the Western financial institutions, rather than China itself.

Brautigan is not any academic. She has spent more than 50 years of her life examining Africa’s foreign debt. Time and again, she has found a gaping gap between what the West says and what it does.

In the meeting between President Xi Jin Ping and various Arab leaders, China was not condescending at all, such as issuing the dictum “all ye must learn from us”.

At any rate, China agreed to work with the Arab world on their cyber fibre cable to ensure the safe transmission of the cyber optic cables, a further investment of the Green Energy sector and elements.

Xi also pledged that there is no such thing as an “indefinite war”, a feature that has become more and more endemic in Gaza, with Israel now promising to pummel the hapless 2.2 million citizens of Gaza with unrelenting carpet bombing and raids.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, the US countered that the Israeli war against Hamas has crossed no “red lines”.

How can there be no red lines when the people receiving the brunt of the murderous treatment are practically living in make-shift land and tents? They are being bombed without mercy.

These war crimes against the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank have got to stop, and they should be given the necessary respite.

It is heartening to know what Xi said in a speech to the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum in Beijing on May 29: “China will work with the Arab side as good partners to make our relations a model for maintaining world peace and stability.”

He listed artificial intelligence, green technology and finance as sectors open for greater collaboration. This is consistent with China’s efforts to climb up the supply chain.

It is also an attempt to prevent a repeat of post-pandemic stress where up to 30% of the BRI became non-performing projects, of which 60% of them experienced “acute stress”.

China pledged a total of US$69 million (RM324 million) for the reconstruction of Gaza. This amount is tiny compared with the US$100 billion needed to rebuild Gaza, a pulverised city, from the ground up.

At least China is doing something that complies with humanitarian values. China is contributing US$3 million to the UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency), a practice similar to the Scandinavian countries.

Meanwhile, Spain, Ireland and Norway have recognised Palestine as a state, which may be an example that Belgium and Portugal may want to emulate. China and other member states, especially Brazil, Russia, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea, may do the same.

UBS analysts estimate that growing Chinese ties to the Middle East could add more than US$400 billion to global energy-related trade by 2030. This event was attended by the heads of state from Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Tunisia. Talks have also focused on fast-growing trade and investment and regional security concerns amid the Israel-Hamas war.

Undoubtedly, China and the Arab world as well as North Africa and the Islamic world will have more convergence and confluence when they begin to explore their mutual material interest.

The writer is the founder of Emir Research, a think tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com