Morocco is the major hub of China in Africa

Issam Laaroussi China Plus Published: 2017-12-31 13:17:55
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Dr Mohammed Issam Laaroussi

Certainly china`s-Morocco relationship has been progressing for the last decade. The involvement of close partnership highly described by many observers as the emergence of China and Morocco’s ambition to strengthening their ties politically economically and culturally. Morocco concertize his rational-peaceful foreign policy`s pillars based on diversification of political and economic partners. Seemingly, this challenge is more likely adopted as a road map by the Chinese President Xi Jinping described his view of China’s role in the Middle East and Africa: “Instead of looking for a proxy in the Middle East, we promote peace talks; instead of seeking any sphere of influence, we call on all parties to join the circle of friends for the Belt and Road Initiative; instead of attempting to fill the “vacuum,” we build a cooperative partnership network for win-win outcomes.”  this statement stressed china`s position toward the Africa continent treating the African countries as economic partners without putting them under its political influence umbrella like western superpowers has.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang(R) shakes hands with King Mohammed VI of Morocco in Beijing, capital of China, May 12, 2016.[Photo: Xinhua]

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang(R) shakes hands with King Mohammed VI of Morocco in Beijing, capital of China, May 12, 2016.[Photo: Xinhua]

Morocco has been hailed as China’s gateway to Africa, but few countries have positioned themselves aggressively for the position in the way that Morocco has like Botswana and South Africa. Last year, the government of Morocco hosted the first Sino-African Entrepreneurs Summit in Marrakech in 2016, where Morocco later hosted the COP22 summit. Similar forums are planned in the future. The Leaders of both countries are very enthusiastic to push their relations to the high level concertizing a strategic partnership building a new type of international relations and a community with shared future achievements. Upgrading, by the way, bilateral cooperation through joint construction of the Belt and Road.

Morocco-China relationship dates back to November 1958, when Morocco became only the second country in Africa to recognize the People’s Republic of China. Ties deepened in 2016 when Morocco’s King Mohammed VI made a state visit to China. It was the second such trip to China during his reign and major role in moving the relationship forward, helping open up business in the development of the Moroccan city Tangier as an export zone but, also in other sectors such as tourism and culture.

At the political level Morocco and China share common insights on some issues, most notably in the policy of non-intervention in state affairs. The government of Morocco has largely refrained from commenting on issues relating to China’s “core interests”: Xinjiang, Taiwan, or Tibet. In return, China has not commented on the Moroccan position regarding the Moroccan Sahara. The Chinese position on the South of Morocco is very pragmatic. 

China distinguishes itself from other external partners like the African Union, European Union and United states, which have all raised concerns about Moroccan actions Sahara’s region. The Chinese have looked at the South of Morocco and taken economic opportunities where they exist. Instead of Chinese political options Morocco strive to convince china`s officials to play the balanced emergent superpower in the security council of the united nations, to take into account the consideration of specific provisions and people’s needs in the Middle East. The Morocco’s King Mohamed VI strive to reach a Chinese positive reaction either toward the Moroccan Sahara and Palestinian cause. China anticipates more conflict in the Middle East following the United States’ move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, which in turn would disrupt its investment plans in the region. Beijing has extensive economic and military relations with Israel, but also maintains close ties with Palestine. 

Alongside mutual non-interference, Morocco is also increasingly benefiting from Chinese efforts to diversify its foreign investment, especially regarding technology and tourism. Morocco is also becoming the default investment destination in North Africa, as the region continues to be unstable, with Morocco is reaping the benefits of stability. Moreover, growing anti-Chinese sentiment in more established China-Africa relationships is also leading China to diversify its investment portfolio to verge against anti-Chinese protests and backlashes that threaten existing investments.

In 1325, the famed traveler Ibn Battuta left Morocco for China, which he reached 20 years later after traveling far and wide. Today the journey would be less meandering, but there are still no direct commercial air links between the two countries. The lack of a direct air link makes the sudden increase in Chinese tourism to Morocco all the more startling.

Culturally, in 2008 China has founded The Confucius Institute at the University of Mohammed V in Rabat. It was the culmination of bilateral cooperation between the University of Mohammed V and the University of International Studies in Beijing. It has started its teaching work since 2009. Some 1,500 Moroccans have learned the Chinese language in this institute and it plays a unique role in establishing a bridge between the two countries by holding Chinese language certificates, participating in the "Chinese Language Bridge" competition for Moroccans students at the university.

It has been said that Culture is able to generate assets such as skills, products, expression and insights that contribute to the social and economic well-being of a community. Both culture and values shape economic development. According to Sen, the values held by a society will affect economic development efforts. Since China and Morocco and Africa in general, are both low-trust regions, I felt that it was important to try to prove that trust is more easily placed within the Chinese informal networks than Africa.  Both China and Morocco are resisting traditions from Western culture. 

The use of Asian values and institutions are responsible for the Chinese economic advancement over Africa. Morocco and China share some basic similarities in terms of cultural structures and glorious history, regardless of having different economic performances, which would not strain Morocco’s china growing political, economic and cultural ties in the future. However, both countries need to overlook their strategic relations in order to create more bilateral opportunities, inspiring the influence of informal networks as well.     

(Dr. Mohammed ISSAM LAAROUSSI is a professor of international relations based in United Arab Emirates)

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