A container ship belonging to Cosco, a Chinese state-owned shipping group, recently docked in the north Lebanese port of Tripoli, ending its journey as the first vessel to sail the company’s new route from China to the Mediterranean, according to an article published by the Financial Times which added the ship’s arrival was a fillip for Lebanon — because of what it says about Beijing’s interest in its neighbor Syria.
As the Syrian government retakes control of most of Syria from the terrorist groups and aims to rebuild devastated cities, cash-strapped Lebanon wants to tap into a reconstruction effort that is forecast to cost about $200bn, the US newspaper noted. “Tripoli, just 35km from the Syrian border, is marketing itself as a logistics hub for reconstruction.”
“China, one of the few countries with the cash and diplomatic clout to drive the rebuilding of Syria, has shown interest in getting involved and sent delegations to Syria and Lebanon. But despite high hopes in Beirut, it has not yet made any firm commitments.”
“China has not invested in our port yet [for] reconstruction of Syria,” admitted Ahmed Tamer, Tripoli port manager. “We’re looking forward to do that, but it has not done yet.”
“Without becoming an active party to the Syrian conflict, China has cultivated diplomatic ties with Damascus. While western nations closed their Syrian embassies, China stayed and reportedly maintained an embassy staff of around 80 people. China and Syria have signed agreements of co-operation on trade issues and Chinese companies participated in last summer’s Damascus international fair. Syrian state media reported that China had granted 800 electrical transformers to Syria, and the Syrian national basketball team has trained in China.”
“The Syrian government has rejected European and American interference in reconstruction, oil-rich Gulf countries remain estranged, and its allies Russia and Iran both suffer from sanctions-damaged economies. So China, the world’s second-largest economy, is considered by outsider observers as the most realistic big investor.”
“China typically funds infrastructure abroad through loans, usually requiring Chinese companies to undertake the construction.”
“Chinese companies have experience in war-torn Middle Eastern nations. Many Chinese firms landed lucrative postwar infrastructure contracts in Iraq to the chagrin of US officials, said Paul Haenle, a former US National Security Council director on China.”
“China will see that in its sweet spot, the [Syria] reconstruction efforts,” added Mr Haenle, now director of the Carnegie-Tsinghua Centre in Beijing.
“When it comes to the rebuilding of Syria, Tripoli thinks it could play a logistics role. ‘The Chinese saw that even before we did,’ said Raya Haffar El Hassan, former Lebanese finance minister and chairman of the Tripoli Special Economic Zone.”
“Lebanon can become a charming pearl in the Belt and Road,” said Ambassador Kejian at the China-Arab Banking and Business Forum last month. He was referring to China’s policy of infrastructure development along its historic silk road trading route, fueled by loans and generally built by Chinese contractors, according to the article.
Source: Financial Times