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

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

3. China-Tunisia: Strengthening the Partnership within the Framework of OBOR

China established diplomatic relationship with Tunisia on January 10, 1964 [113]. During the long presidency of Habib Bourguiba (1957–1987), Tunisia had rather distant and even antagonistic relations with China. His anti-communist and pro-Western policies made it difficult to establish close ties. Throughout the 1960s, Bourguiba denounced China for its foreign policy actions, especially the border dispute with India. However, in 1961, he began voting for China's participation in the UNSC. Foreign policy tensions did not prevent the estab-lishment of trade relations as early as 1958. In 1983, the two countries signed the Sino-Tunisian Joint Committee on Economic, Trade and Technolog-ical Cooperation to facilitate trade relations, and made efforts to strengthen bilateral ties [120].

As a country at the intersection of three - the Mediterranean, Islamic-Arab and African civiliza-tions, Tunisia’s signing of the B&R agreement with China in January 2019 sets an example of bilateral cooperation for other Arab countries [47, p. 9]. Ac-cording to the Chinese Investment Tracker, Beijing’s investment in Tunisia between 2009 and 2014 amounted to merely US $ 110 million [47, p. 2].

Trade has risen between China and Tunisia, with the latter’s imports from the former valued at US $ 1.85 billion in 2017, ranking third behind France and Italy. However, China still views the country as an investment risk and is skeptical of its democratic transition and economic challenges [17]. Tunisian imports from China represented 8.4% of Tunisia's `total` imports, with a clear pre-dominance of electrical machinery, and equipment (56%) and fairly balanced between metals and metalwork (10%) and textiles and textile fabrics (10%) [74].

Tunisia, a country with key strategic posi-tions in the Southern Mediterranean, NA and the Arab world, joined the BRI in early September 2018 [53]. Tunisia and China, as part of the 2018 FOCAC, signed an agreement that marked the coun-try's first tangible steps towards forming a "strong partnership" with the BRI. The deals include pro-jects to transform Tunisia's southern port of Zarzis into an economic and commercial hub, the con-struction of a bridge `linking` Djerba, Tunisia's main tourist island, with Djorf in the mineral-rich Mede-nine region, and the construction of a 140-km rail-road linking the coastal Gabes region of the petro-chemical and phosphate industry to Zarzis. Tunisia and China have agreed to open a car plant in Tuni-sia, operated by China's state-owned SAIC Motor Corporation Limited, which will manufacture and export vehicles to the Medi-terranean `region` and Africa. They signed a tourism cooperation agree-ment that includes plans to open an air route to attract more Chinese tourists to Tunisia and ex-pand the NA country's tourism industry, which is a major source of foreign exchange [86].

Undoubtedly, China is interested in the Tuni-sian port of Bizerte because it provides easy access to Europe; in addition, the port is located at the critical node of the submarine fiber-optic network cables [120].

China’s Huawei Marine Networks delivered the “Hannibal” cable, linking Tunisia to Italy, in 2009, as well as another major cable linking Libya to Greece, in 2010. This has led to concerns about Chinese commercial investments being used for non-com-mercial activities, such as intelligence gathering and naval/military cooperation in the Mediterranean [17].

The Chinese energy construction company Sinohydro signed a contract with the Tunisian gov-ernment in 2016 for the construction of a dam (passes through the mountains in the El Kef prov-ince in northwest Tunisia), which will be complet-ed in 2022 and will be one of the largest dams in Tunisia. The dam, with a total storage capacity of 190 million cubic meters of water, will protect the region from flood and meet the needs for irrigation and domestic use of water in the region [63]. In 2018, China started its first attempt to construct an overseas centre for its self-developed Beidou Satellite which has become the fourth glob-al navigation satellite system preceded by the Glob-al Positioning System (GPS) of the US, Global Navi-gation Satellite System (GLONASS) of Russia and Galileo of the EU. Situated in the Djazala Science Park on the northern outskirts of Tunis, the Beidou Satellite Centre is a flagship project between Bei-jing and the Tunisia-based Arab Information and Communication Technology Organi-zation (AICTO). The centre facilitates smart city functions, enables unmanned driving of agricultural machinery, and helps farmers reduce costs, resource wastes, and damage to the environment [47, p. 11]. In April 2019, China and Tunisia signed a MoU, with a par-ticular focus on the development of clean energy such as wind and solar energy. At the beginning of 2020, TBEA Xinjiang New Ener-gy, a high-tech enterprise specializing in solar-grade high-purity poly-silicon material, together with the Amea Power from the UAE, won a contract to construct a power plant of 100MW in Kairouan, located in north-central Tunisia [47, p. 10-11].

Chinese firms can enter European markets through Tunisia, which is the first country along the southern coast of the Mediter-ranean to achieve free trade with the European Union (EU). In the 1990s, Tunisia signed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the EU to facilitate economic exchanges between the two shores of the Mediterranean [114].

Despite the fact that tourism, culture, agri-food, renewable energy and automotive sectors are all of interest to Chinese investors, but they are hesitant to invest because of political uncertainty, inse-curity, a conservative business climate, and restrictive fiscal mea-sures [120].

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