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China-MENA Podcast

January 10, 2024

China’s Role and Impact on MENA’s Air Domain

By Atlantic Council


Key takeaways

  • Presence in the MENA Region
  • Implications on the Air Domain and Military Capabilities
  • Concerns about Chinese Exports and Technology Transfers
  • Chinese Technology Transfers and Impact on the Air Domain
  • Understanding China’s Presence in the Region


00:00 – Introduction

03:53 – Sophisticated Weapon Systems: Development and Transfer by China

07:54 – Balancing China’s Strategic Objectives: The Key Challenge

13:42 – Shifting Stance: China’s Evolving Role in the Middle East

17:03 – Arab and Jewish Political Influence: Examining China’s Perspective

20:59 – Seeking an Unbiased Operational Perspective: Hope of Analysts

22:34 – Potential Confrontation and Implications: Israel-China Dynamics

28:08 – Military-Civil Fusion Concerns: Exploring the Chinese MCF Concept

31:42 – Technology and Arms Exports: Concerns over China’s Influence

35:47 – Beto Satellites and Dual Technology Purpose: China’s Approach

36:49 – Cooperation Agreements: Lack of Specific and Quantifiable Details

42:41 – Impact on Regional Security: Discussing China’s Technological Influence

44:55 – Forecasting Advanced Technology and Arms Transfers by China

47:23 – Seizing Opportunities: China’s Role in the Middle East

52:10 – Conclusion

In this episode

Colonel (Reserves) Dr. Assaf Heller
Director of Research
Elrom Air and Space Research Center
Tel Aviv University

Colonel (Reserves) Dr. Assaf Heller is currently the Director of Research at Tel Aviv University’s Elrom Air and Space Research Center. He previously served in and commanded the Israel Defence Force’s military and intelligence research units.

Sarah-Masha Fainberg
Senior Researcher and Head of Great Powers Research Program
Elrom Air and Space Research Center

Tel Aviv University

Dr. Sarah-Masha Fainberg is a Senior Researcher and Head of Great Powers Research Program at Tel Aviv University’s Elrom Center for Air and Space Studies, where she focuses on Russian and Chinese policy in the MENA region. She previously served as a Policy and Strategic Issues Adviser at Israel’s Ministry of Defense and Research Fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv (Russia Program). A graduate of the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, she holds an M.A. and a Ph.D. in Comparative Politics from Sciences Po, Paris.


In this episode of the China-MENA Podcast titled “China’s Role and Impact on MENA’s Air Domain,” host Jonathan Fulton discusses China’s influence on the air domain in the Middle East and North Africa with experts Assaf Heller and Sarah-Masha Fainberg. They explore Chinese technological transfers and arm exports and its implications on the air domain and military capabilities in MENA, Chinese weapon systems, China’s military-civil fusion concerns, and Beijing’s growing technological influence on the region.

Tune in to gain insights into the implications of China’s expanding presence in the region and its effects on military capabilities and hear the experts’ forecast on advanced technology and arms transfers by China.

Hosted by

The Chinese influence in the Middle East should not be overlooked. It encompasses both strategic and operational impact, and we must consider it seriously

Assaf Heller

China seeks to restore and preserve its position as a global power through a national rejuvenation journey

Sarah-Masha Fainberg

Learn more

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

Middle East Programs

Through our Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East and Scowcroft Middle East Security Initiative, the Atlantic Council works with allies and partners in Europe and the wider Middle East to protect US interests, build peace and security, and unlock the human potential of the region.

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: FH-97A, an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), is displayed during the China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, China on Nov. 8, 2022. ( The Yomiuri Shimbun )