06:11 GMT +325 May 2018
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    Journalist take pictures outside the venue of a summit at the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, Monday, May 15, 2017

    'Long-Term Strategy': Chinese Firms Eager to See Syria Part of Silk Road Project

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    The postwar reconstruction of Syria is an attractive project for Chinese firms, which would like to see a stable Syria play a key role in the "One Belt, One Road" economic initiative.

    The eagerness of Chinese companies to get involved in projects to reconstruct war-torn Syria was plain to see at the Syria Day Expo in Beijing earlier this month, which was attended by hundreds of Chinese specialists in infrastructure investment.

    The Expo will be followed by several similar events in China, including a Syria Reconstruction Expo, Pepe Escobar reported in Asia Times. 

    In addition, Qin Yong, deputy chairman of the China-Arab Exchange Association, announced that Beijing intends to invest $2 billion in the creation of an industrial park in Syria that will initially bring together 150 Chinese companies.

    Dmitri Abzalov, President of the Center of Strategic Communications, told RIA Novosti that Chinese companies are keen for the Syrian government to award them contracts for reconstruction projects.

    "Syria itself may not have money, but if there is a lasting peace then an international conference will be held and funds for rebuilding the infrastructure will be allocated," Abzalov said, adding that Chinese companies are keen to plan in advance for such an eventuality.

    "China is not only laying railroads or power lines, but it does everything with its own technology. That means that Chinese experts will be needed to service this infrastructure network in the future, which you could call China's long-term strategy," he explained.

    In addition, Chinese energy companies may be interested in the development of the country's oil and gas reserves, most of which are located in the eastern province of Deir-ex-Zor.

    Before the Syrian conflict began in 2011, the Syrian government's main energy contracts were with Western energy companies such as Shell and Total, but Chinese energy firms are keen to get a bigger share of the market.

    In contrast to the US, which sees formal military relations as crucial to relationships with its allies, China is more interested in building economic relationships. Abzalov said that China is not seeking a military presence in the Middle East, but wants to expand economic ties there.

    "It is unlikely that China will get a military base from Bashar Assad: it is more plausible that cooperation will be on a predominantly economic plane, which means that Moscow and Beijing will share the roles among themselves: the military one for Russia, the economic for China," Abzalov said.

    Such an arrangement would appear to suit the Syrian government. Earlier this month, the Syrian Ambassador to China Imad Moustapha confirmed that China, Russia and Iran will have priority over other participants in implementing economic initiatives and projects in Syria.

    Chen Fengying, a research fellow at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told Sputnik that the restoration of Syrian infrastructure must be the post-war priority.

    "Almost everything in Syria now needs restoration. Roads and house have been destroyed there, and only after restoring infrastructure and solving problems related to providing the population with food, we can talk about the restoration of production."

    "Syria is located along the Silk Road. If the situation in this country stabilizes, we will be able to invest in various sectors of Syria's economy within the framework of the project 'One Belt, One Road,'" Chen said.

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    One Belt One Road, New Silk Road, infrastructure project, infrastructure, China, Syria, Beijing
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