After a recent successful stream of deals between China and countries within the Middle East and Europe, President Xi Jinping led China's further forays on the international stage with visits around the world this week. In his first foreign visit since his re-election by China's parliament in March, President Xi arrived in the United Arab Emirates on Thursday, welcomed by signs in Arabic and Chinese. Xi spent three days touring the Gulf state, noting that the two nations' "bonds of cooperation are growing stronger." In recent years, China has provided financial support to the UAE as it seeks to expand its infrastructure and industrial zones.
The Chinese leader then traveled to the African continent, making stops in Senegal, Rwanda, South Africa, and Mauritius. This was not Xi's first trip to Africa, following a tradition of recent Chinese leaders who made trips regularly during their time in power to emphasize the priority China places on the continent. In addition to serving as a major trading partner (Africa's largest bilateral trade relationship is with China), African nations also serve as a substantial pro-China bloc at the United Nations, a source of critical raw materials and an important part of the Belt and Road Initiative.
Xi's itinerary reflects China's global repositioning; some experts believe that as the United States retreats into its "America First" mindset, China seeks to step into the limelight as a leader of the international system. Particularly in Africa, China's expansive projects in a number of sectors take advantage of the lack of attention paid to the continent by others, mainly the U.S. As China-US Focus contributor Ian C. Forsyth argued, China's increased diplomatic, economic, and military investments in these regions help to "establish itself as the conductor of this orchestra. This helps to propel China into a greater role as a global leader."
Prepared by China-US Focus editorial teams in Hong Kong and New York, this weekly newsletter offers you snap shots of latest trends and developments emerging from China every week, while adding a dose of historical perspective.