ISSN 2686 - 9675 (Print)
ISSN 2782 - 1935 (Online)

Китайский «Один пояс, один путь» в арабских странах северной и восточной Африки

6. OBOR — a Factor in Stabilizing Libya

Beijing views Libya — a country connecting the Mediterranean Sea to sub-Saharan Africa — as a potentially valuable BRI partner. Libya became the last NA country to “recognize” China in 1971, but it did not establish diplomatic relations with the PRC until 1978 [52, p. 13]. Since then, Libya has not terminated periodic political relations with Taiwan [18].

Until the beginning of 2011, that is, before the `start` of the civil war in Libya [22, p. 81-90], Chi-na was widely represented in the oil sector of Lib-ya, in the field of railway transport and telecommu-nications [11]. The Chinese have been busy with billions of euros in oil development and infrastruc-ture projects [4]. Libyan oil exports to China in-creased by 25% during 2010, fueled by a number of factors: low energy costs, optimal conditions for transporting products to Europe and the US, tax ad-vantages and even labor costs were below Chinese standards. China became the third consumer of Lib-ya's oil, using 10% of Libya's oil exports, while the share of Libyan oil in supplies to China was no more than 3.5% [104]. The value of Chinese con-tracts, mainly construction projects, reached US $ 18 billion. The largest Chinese companies in the Libyan market were: Commu-nication Construction and China Railway Construction Corporation, China Civil Engineering Construction, which oversaw the Eastern Sahara irrigation project. The China Gezhouba Group built homes in five southern cities, and Huawei Technologies built the infrastructure for mobile communications [70]. Of the US $ 6.6 billion in trade turnover (2010) between the two countries, the lion's share was oil, but it also in-cluded many other industries, largely due to the fact that China never imposed sanctions on the Gaddafi regime [87]. When fighting broke out in February 2011, there were 36,000 Chinese citizens in Libya working for 75 companies in the oil, rail-ways and telecommunications sectors [18]. In the period from February 22 to March 5, the PRC gov-ernment in just 9 days managed to carry out an unprecedented operation to evacuate 35,860 of its citizens by land, sea and air from Libya [15].

In 2014, when Libya was divided between two centers of power (Tripoli and Tobruk), the complex conflict in this NA country posed new challenges in terms of China's interests. In line with the UN position, China recognizes the Government of National Accord (GNA) as the “legitimate” gov-ernment of Libya. Since 2016, officials in Beijing have met with their GNA counterparts at least nine times [71]. Drawing on the lessons of its 2011 ex-perience and officially supporting the GNA, China is pursuing a policy of cautious neutrality and diplo-matic and economic diversification with a focus on long-term interests. In July 2018, during the 8th FOCAC ministerial meeting in China, GNA foreign minister Mohamed Taha Siala signed a MoU with State Counselor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, paving the way for Libya to join the BRI. GNA also welcomed the return of Chinese businesses to Lib-ya in 2018, especially in the areas of Libya's infra-structure modernization and rehabilitation, and has supported Chinese telecommunications com-panies including Huawei and ZTE. In 2019, bilat-eral trade between the two countries totaled US $ 6.21 billion, mainly driven by a recovery in Libyan oil exports to China [66]. Libya’s oil exports to Chi-na have more than doubled since 2017 [17]. In 2019, China imported approximately US $ 4.8 mil-lion worth of petroleum from Libya [71].

A senior delegation from Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) visited China in July of 2019 to hold talks with CNPC officials regarding crude oil purchases and possible collaboration on exploring and developing Libya’s oilfields and services. And CNPC’s PetroChina can count on its ongoing coop-eration with Libya’s NOC since the bulk of the country’s oilfields sit in territory controlled by the Libya National Army (LNA) [98].

Turkey's ongoing military intervention in Libya aimed at strengthening the power of the Transitional National Council (TNC) is fueling some tensions between Beijing and Ankara, despite the fact that China nominally supports the TNC. Wang Jingyan, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, stressed that while Ankara's sup-port of pro-GNA forces changed the situation against Haftar, the Turkish intervention is consid-ered provocative, caused by President Recep Tay-yip Erdogan's internal problems within Turkey and is likely to leave Ankara in greater isolation in the eastern Mediterranean. Other Chinese foreign poli-cy analysts see Ankara as over-ambition in Libya. There is also the view that "the stronger Turkey is in Libya, the less China will gain, as Ankara will seek to reduce US concerns in exchange for their support (or neutrality) in their ongoing struggle with Russia and the UAE" [71].

While countries like the UAE, Russia, France or Turkey can provide powerful military equip-ment to win battles, China is one of the few coun-tries that can provide financial and technical sup-port to rebuild and transform a country, no matter which faction dominates the ongoing civil war. But after the conflict reaches a balance point, China can use the synergy between the BRI framework and the post-conflict reconstruction of Libya, and with a cautious and limited approach taken by Beijing, will achieve greater opportunities to intervene not only in Libya's economic affairs, but also in its po-litical sphere [98].

So, the events of the civil war in Libya have become a new test for China's foreign policy, based on the long-standing doctrine of “non-intervention”. It has been transformed into a new strategy of “non-alignment”, in which Beijing, without staying aloof from the conflict, did not take sides between the GNA and the LNA [60]. Instead, the Chinese seem to be betting on both sides of the conflict and con-tinue to watch from afar, awaiting a final political settlement and peace that could lead to a stronger Chinese presence [73].

2 — 2022
Арутюнян Агавни Александровна, Отдел международных отношений Института Востоковедения Национальной Академии Наук Армении