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China-MENA Podcast

November 3, 2023

10 Years On: China’s Belt & Road Initiative and its Future in the Middle East

By Atlantic Council


Key takeaways

  • Impact of the Belt & Road Initiative
  • China’s Strategic Goals and Future Plans
  • Competition for Leadership in the Global South
  • Alternatives and Response to the BRI
  • The EU’s Global Gateway Initiative
  • China’s Renewed Commitment to the BRI
  • Broader Foreign Policy Strategy of China
  • China’s Economic Relationship with the Middle East


00:00 – Introduction
02:29 – Shaping Foreign Policy: China’s BRI and the Global Order
07:04 – Reviving Commitments: China’s Renewed Focus on the BRI
11:07 – Summit Dynamics: Sparse Western Presence at the Belton Road Summit
12:37 – Emerging Axis: China’s Intensified Focus on the Developing World
15:48 – Geopolitical Chess: China’s Quest for Influence in the Global South
19:06 – Global Rivalry: China’s Strategy for Garnering Developing World Support
24:40 – Power Balance: India’s Role in the Global Competition
26:08 – Mission Engagement: Challenging China’s Diplomacy in Africa, Latin America, and Asia
29:56 – Resilience and Revolution: Offering Digital Alternatives to the BRI
34:19 – Economic Endurance: BRI’s Stability Amid China’s Economic Slowdown
36:57 – Strategic Partnerships: Gulf Countries’ Economic Diversification with China
39:56 – Outro

In this episode

David O. Shullman
Senior Director
Global China Hub
Atlantic Council

David O. Shullman is senior director of the Global China Hub at the Atlantic Council, where he leads the council’s work on China. Prior to joining the Atlantic Council, David was Senior Advisor at the International Republican Institute, where he oversaw the Institute’s work building the resilience of democratic institutions around the world against the influence of China, Russia, and other autocracies. David served for nearly a dozen years as one of the US Government’s top experts on East Asia, most recently as Deputy National Intelligence Officer for East Asia on the National Intelligence Council (NIC) in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). In this role David led the US intelligence community’s strategic analysis on East Asia, represented the IC in interagency policy meetings, and advised senior White House and Cabinet officials. Prior to joining the NIC, David was a senior analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency. David earned his PhD in Political Science from UCLA, a MALD from the Fletcher School, and a BA from Georgetown.

Yun Sun
Senior Fellow and Co-Director, East Asia Program
Director, China Program
Stimson Center

Yun Sun is a Senior Fellow and Co-Director of the East Asia Program and Director of the China Program at the Stimson Center. Her expertise is in Chinese foreign policy, U.S.-China relations and China’s relations with neighboring countries and authoritarian regimes. From 2011 to early 2014, she was a Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution, jointly appointed by the Foreign Policy Program and the Global Development Program, where she focused on Chinese national security decision-making processes and China-Africa relations. From 2008 to 2011, Yun was the China Analyst for the International Crisis Group based in Beijing, specializing on China’s foreign policy towards conflict countries and the developing world. Prior to ICG, she worked on U.S.-Asia relations in Washington, DC for five years. Yun earned her master’s degree in international policy and practice from George Washington University, as well as an MA in Asia Pacific studies and a BA in international relations from Foreign Affairs College in Beijing.


In this episode, titled “10 Years On: China’s Belt & Road Initiative and its Future in the Middle East,” our host Jonathan Fulton is joined by esteemed guests David O. Shullman and Yun Sun to delve into the current state of China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and its implications for the Middle East.

The episode analyzes the recently held Belt and Road Forum, the involvement of various MENA countries in the initiative, and the challenges and opportunities it presents for the region’s development agendas. Get ready to explore the complexities of China’s global infrastructure plan and its impact on the Middle East as we discuss the geopolitical dynamics, competing interests, and potential alternatives to the BRI. 

Hosted by

Developing countries will continue to engage with China, but they need to negotiate for better terms and develop resilience against negative effects

David O. Shullman

The Belt and Road Initiative exemplifies China’s ambition to reshape global dynamics, providing growth alternatives to emerging nations against the prevailing US-led order

Yun Sun

About the China-MENA podcast

The China-MENA podcast features conversations with academics, think-tankers, and regional specialists on Chinese Influence in the Middle East and informs US and MENA audiences in the policy and business communities about the nature of China’s outreach to the region.

At a time when China’s global footprint is getting deeper and deeper, it has never been more important to understand its foreign policy and the Middle East is one of the world’s most consequential regions: home to major religions, diverse cultural and social heritage, central to global energy markets, and of course, geopolitics, linking people and markets in Asia, Africa and Europe.  This show will help you understand what China is doing in the region, and how the region is engaging with China as an increasingly important external power.

Podcast series

Listen to the latest episode of the China-MENA podcast, featuring conversations with academics, government leaders, and the policy community on China’s role in the Middle East.

Recommended reading

This podcast was funded in part by a grant from the United States Department of State. The opinions, findings, and conclusions stated herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Department of State.

Further reading

Related Experts: Jonathan Fulton

Image: BEIJING, CHINA - OCTOBER 18: Chinese knot-shaped installation for the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation is seen on the street on October 18, 2023 in Beijing, China. (Photo by VCG/VCG )No Use China.