Washington: The Middle East and North African countries (MENA) have become the next focus of Chinese ambitions as the communist nation signed several agreements with these countries in 2022 and ensured high-profile diplomatic visits to these nations.

Chinese ambitions to strengthen ties with MENA countries were emphasized by the unprecedented visit of Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the 48th session of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Islamabad in March 2022. His attendance as a "special guest" of host country Pakistan highlighted the importance China accords to OIC members, Global Strat View reported, adding that several countries were either part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) or intend to join it.

The diplomatic activities initially started with the visit of the foreign ministers of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and Saudi Arabia to Beijing in January which was followed by a visit to China by the Foreign Minister of Turkey.

In recent years, China has become the main source of foreign investment in Middle East countries as Beijing is engaging actively with Saudi Arabia amidst reports of a possible visit of Xi Jinping to the Kingdom later this year.

Furthermore, Chinese firms displayed their weapons at the 'World Defence Show' held in Riyadh in March 2022. In the same month, Saudi Advanced Communications and Electronics Systems Company signed (March 5) an agreement with China Electronics Technology Group Corporation to build military drones in Saudi Arabia.

According to Global Strat View, China is also eyeing to strengthen trade and investment ties with the UAE.

The Emirates has been building and upgrading port infrastructure for the BRI over the last few years with Abu Dhabi Ports and Dubai DP World cooperating with major Chinese companies.

Chinese influence continues to grow in Iraq, where Beijing invested around USD 10.5 billion in BRI-related energy projects in 2021 and the country is the third-largest oil supplier to China after Saudi Arabia and Russia. Chinese Oil and Gas Company SINOPEC signed a 25-year contract in January 2022 with the Iraqi Ministry of Oil to develop Iraq's second-largest gas field, Global Strat View stated, adding that the project aims to generate 1000 MW of electricity in Iraq.

According to the Iraqi Foreign Ministry, the two countries are also working for cooperation and joint coordination at the UN and other international organizations.

Beijing is also making its presence felt in Oman, Qatar, and Algeria as Oman is keen to develop its space program with the assistance of China's Shenzhou Training Centre. Furthermore, China is involved in the reconstruction of Syria, which is in line to join the BRI, for which it signed an agreement in January 2022.

In Africa, Morocco has emerged as an important destination for Chinese investments, with more than 80 projects across the country. It was the first North African country to sign the BRI cooperation plan. Morocco also signed the 'Joint Belt and Road Implementation Plan in January 2022.

China is increasing collaboration with Israel with an eye on augmenting its Artificial Intelligence (AI) capability. The two countries held the 5th round of the 'Joint Committee on Innovation Cooperation meeting in January 2022. China has also invested heavily in Israeli infrastructure projects, including the Tel Aviv light rail system and the country's main ports, a report by Global Strat View read.