China beams into the Gulf
A new satellite channel came to TV screens across the region last Saturday offering a unique insight into China and in the process making the world a smaller place. China Central Television was launching its Arabic language channel, which will broadcast 24 hours a day to 22 Arab countries across the Middle East, North Africa, Asia and the Pacific. Known as CCTV Arabic, it represents an unprecedented development in information exchange as China's communist regime tries to make a good impression on millions of Arabs. It is symbolic of China's increasing preoccupation with the Middle East.
While exports to the West have plummeted as a result of the global financial downturn, China's trade with the Arab world is growing. This year China overtook the United States as the world's biggest exporter to the Middle East. Improving diplomatic ties were evident last year when Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, met with the Chinese president Hu Jintao during a four-day state visit to the People's Republic.
And with tens of thousands of Chinese nationals now working in the region, together with China's increasing dependence on the region's oil, how Arabs view China is becoming a vital national security issue for the communist state. "Up until now they have played the non-interventionist role, but they are now of sufficient size that they cannot help but become involved," said Ben Simpfendorfer, the author of The New Silk Road and a Chinese and Arabic speaker.