Professor Henelito A. Sevilla explains the importance of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Manila, 17 October 2019 –  “The Middle East region is critical to the success of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.”

This has been the central thesis of the speaker’s presentation during the Mabini Dialogue on “Fueling the Dragon’s Flame: China’s Belt and Road Initiative in the Middle East” held on 17 October 2019 at the Benedicto Room, Carlos P. Romulo Library, Department of Foreign Affairs Building.

Professor Henelito A. Sevilla, Ph.D. of the Asian Center, University of the Philippines Diliman, served as the guest speaker. In his presentation, he discussed the importance of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BIR), the dynamics of China’s foreign relations with Middle Eastern states, and the volatile security environment that China has to navigate to engage the region.

With China’s growing influence in the Middle East, there are questions on how China would navigate the insecurity in the region without compromising its interest and breaking its principles of non-interference. The Middle East has been China’s top supplier of energy, which is much needed to fuel China’s economy.

Beyond oil, the Middle East and China also expanded their trade and economic relations, particularly in infrastructure investment and cooperation in renewable energy, nuclear energy, and space technology. China is seen in the Middle East as a reliable strategic and economic partner as its investments have no political strings attached, unlike with the US and some European countries.

Prof. Sevilla noted that China intensified its political and security involvement in the region in recent years. He sees China as a ‘transitional power’ in MENA, shifting from a conservative power with minimal political intervention to a more engaging one. He raised the question of whether China is abandoning its non-interference policy to secure its strategic and economic interests in this volatile region.


FSI Officer-in-Charge Ms. Celeste Vinzon-Balatbat awards the Certificate of Appreciation to Professor Henelito A. Sevilla.