China’s Xi Welcomes Qatari Emir, Calls for ‘Unity and Harmony’ in Gulf

In this Sunday, March 11, 2018, photo, Chinese President Xi Jinping applauds after hearing the results of a vote on a constitutional amendment during a plenary session of China's National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. China’s move to scrap term limits and allow …
AP Photo/Andy Wong

Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping called for “unity and harmony” among Persian Gulf states as he welcomed Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani to Beijing on Thursday.

Other Gulf states and Egypt have ostracized Qatar for allegedly supporting terrorism, undermining the governments of its neighbors, and cultivating a relationship with Iran.

Reuters noted on Thursday that China has kept a distance from the Qatar dispute until now, and Xi was still careful to speak vaguely of China playing a “constructive role according to the wishes of Gulf Cooperation Council countries” and finding an “appropriate resolution” to all disputes.

After a bit of mutual back-slapping over their deep personal friendship, Xi and al-Thani settled into a discussion of the oil and investment money China plans to acquire from Qatar:

“We are ready to have bigger investments in China, in infrastructure or in any other field we see as important for us,” [al-Thani] said.

“We are happy to provide China with liquid gas and we are ready to provide China with more in the near future. I am very happy to be in China.”

Last October, state energy giant Qatar Petroleum said it had signed a five-year agreement to supply China with 600,000 tonnes of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) per year.

Qatar’s state news agency said al-Thani and Xi had signed memorandums of understanding on diplomatic training, future trade delegations, and the creation of a road map for Qatar to take part in China’s Belt and Road initiative, an expansion of infrastructure and trade links worldwide.

Earlier in January, state-owned Qatar Airways said it had acquired a 5 percent stake in China Southern Airlines, in a move to gain access to the fast-growing Chinese market.

This was not the first time Qatar has signed Belt and Road documents; China has long prized its ports and shipping lanes as a key component of its ambitious plan to rebuild the centuries-old Silk Road trade route.

The GCC diplomatic crisis became a significant obstacle to Belt and Road plans for the Middle East when it erupted in 2017. On the other hand, Qatar’s need to find innovative paths around the virtual blockade imposed by its neighbors clearly brought Doha closer to Beijing and greatly increased Chinese investment in Qatar.

Qatari media portrayed the emir’s trip to Beijing as a victory lap against Saudi Arabia and the rest of the GCC, as in Wednesday’s report by the Gulf Times:

The timing and goals of the tour gives it great importance as it is the second tour of the Amir in Asia since the unjust blockade on Qatar since June 2017. The first tour covered Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia in October 2017.

The second tour confirms that the State of Qatar succeeded by all means in overcoming the blockade and its goals and was able to promote and expand its relations and strategic partnerships with different countries, especially major and influential countries that are international decision makers politically and economically.

This tour will open new horizons and markets for the Qatari economy, products and investments, which promote the State’s economy, serves its goals, aspirations, programs and plans of the Qatar National Vision 2030.

“China’s position towards the unjust blockade imposed on Qatar stood clear and neutral from the Gulf crisis and stressed that its policy is not to interfere in the affairs of other countries, as well as a need to resolve conflicts through dialogue and peaceful means,” the Gulf Times wrote, anticipating Xi’s remarks on the subject nearly word-for-word.

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