Baghdad [Iraq] : Iraq has begun rebuffing Chinese investment proposals to move away from Chinese dependence.
As scepticism grew over China’s investments in the region and globally, Iraq has begun efforts to limit the growing influence of China, reported Asian Lite International.
By May 2022, Iraq’s Oil Ministry had forestalled three major deals with Chinese companies that would have allowed them greater control of oil fields
These agreements include Russia’s Lukoil, Britain’s BP and American oil major Exxon Mobil which wanted to sell stakes in major fields to Chinese state-backed firms. However, Iraq’s Oil Ministry has intervened to stop these deals from materializing, reported Asian Lite International.
Oil has always been a key factor in world politics. And in the 21st century, its significance has increased even more as energy has become a significant driver of economic growth.
The Middle East and specifically Iraq are one of the richest lands in terms of oil reserves. And therefore, Iraq has become important for Chinese foreign policy. It is said that the country is the third-largest oil supplier for Beijing.
Beijing has been the topmost investor for Baghdad and the latter has benefitted the most from the Belt and Road initiative with the receipt of USD 10.5 billion for infrastructure projects such as a power plant and an airport, reported Asian Lite International.
However, Baghdad has been sceptical of China’s growing influence in the oil industry that was also perceived unfavourably by the Western oil companies, which remain crucial markets for the Iraqi oil industry, reported Asian Lite International.
The officials from the government of Iraq have been constantly expressing their grave concerns about the speed at which Beijing is trying to take over Iraq in the oil sector.
A recent protest in Iraq’s south-eastern governate of Maysan, which is the headquarter of a Chinese oil firm China Petroleum Engineering and Construction has already hinted towards growing unrest in the country with regard to the expansionist ambitions of China concerning the Iraqi oil industry, reported Asian Lite International.
According to analysts, China is leveraging the security vacuum which is resulting from the US withdrawal from Iraq in 2011. Beijing is doing so by aligning its state-owned firms with the militia groups so that it can reap the benefits in the oil sector.
For Beijing, Baghdad is the preferred trading partner in the Middle East and the largest oil supplier only next to Riyadh and Moscow. Apart from the energy reserves, one of the critical aspects Beijing wants to benefit from is Iraq’s strategic location near the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz – the two sites which are pivotal for the BRI, reported Asian Lite International.
Since the US had already withdrawn from the region, Beijing got the opportunity that it was long seeking. Its active role in Iraq’s reconstruction after years of war and conflict has given it a position of influence in the country.
China has already started reaping fruits from the opportunities presented in the aftermath of the conflict in Iraq and that too without getting involved militarily.
The Iraqi citizens are seeing this growing Chinese might in their country along the lines of colonialism. Hence, protests outside Chinese establishments have been occurring multiple times.
As one Iraqi official remarked, “We don’t want the Iraqi energy sector to be labelled as a China-led energy sector and this attitude is agreed by government and the Oil Ministry.” (ANI)