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China-MENA Podcast September 20, 2023

China’s Role in Conflict Mediation in the Middle East

By Atlantic Council


Key takeaways

  • China’s Mediation Quest in the Middle East
  • Craving China’s Role: Appetite for Involvement
  • China’s Rise: Crafting a Responsible Power Image
  • Non-Interference Story: China’s Investment Narrative
  • Deep Dilemma: Skepticism on Complex Involvement
  • Unfolding Potential: China’s Gradual Mediation Role
  • Hope Amidst Doubt: China’s Complex Involvement
  • Geopolitical Ambitions: China’s Shaping Influence
  • Diplomatic Magic: China’s Outreach and Persona
  • Economic Drive: China’s Role in Stability


00:12 – Introduction

01:59 – Global Ambitions: Mediation and Geopolitical Dynamics

08:17 – Economic Engagement: China’s Rising Role

12:14 – Commitment Gaps: China’s Mediation Challenges

14:23 – Tensions and Uncertainties: China’s Role in Saudi Arabia and Iran

18:25 – Geopolitical Partnerships: China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia

22:51 – Limitations Unveiled: China’s Struggles in Conflict Mediation

27:29 – Global Reach: China’s Quest for Influence

31:52 – Unraveling Israel-Palestine Peace Plans

34:01 – Middle East’s Reaction to China’s Involvement

37:44 – GCC Tensions: China’s Priorities and Missteps

40:24 – Iran’s Concerns: Analyzing China’s Rising Influence

41:22 – Outro

In this episode

Sanam Vakil
Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme
Chatham House

Dr. Sanam Vakil was appointed director of the Middle East and North Africa programme in 2023. She was previously the programme’s deputy director and senior research fellow, and led project work on Iran and Gulf Arab dynamics. Sanam’s research focuses on regional security, Gulf geopolitics, and on future trends in Iran’s domestic and foreign policy. She is also the James Anderson professorial lecturer in the Middle East Studies department at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS Europe) in Bologna, Italy. Before these appointments, Sanam was an assistant professor of Middle East Studies at SAIS Washington. Sanam is the author of Action and Reaction: Women and Politics in Iran (Bloomsbury 2013).

Helena Legarda
Lead Analyst
Mercatur Institute for China Studies

Helena Legarda’s research focuses on China’s defense and foreign policies, including their domestic sources and drivers, and their geopolitical impact. Prior to joining MERICS she gained professional experience at the Delegation of the European Union to China and at research and advisory firm China Policy in Beijing. Helena holds a Master in Public Policy degree with a focus on International and Global Affairs from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and a BA in Chinese Studies from the University of Oxford. She also studied Chinese language at Peking University.



In this episode, we embark on a thought-provoking journey into China’s involvement in conflict resolution in the Middle East and North Africa. Your host, Jonathan Fulton, is joined by the insightful voices of Helena Legarda and Dr. Sanam Vakil. Together, they dissect China’s strategic approach to mediating conflicts and its consequential impact on the MENA region.

Amidst a landscape seeking fresh perspectives in conflict resolution, a pertinent question emerges: Can China wield transformative influence? As we navigate the intricate terrain, we invite you to delve into the nuances, obstacles, and potential avenues presented by China’s mediation role in this dynamic region.

Brace yourselves for an enlightening discourse that promises to reshape your vantage point on global politics.

Hosted by

Change awaits. Yet, for now, our reality is navigating these inner boundaries and encapsulated processes shapes our path forward

Helena Legarda

Bridging the ambition-action gap can reshape the region, inspiring meaningful dialogues and enduring resolutions

Sanam Vakil

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: Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian (L) meets with his Saudi counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud at the Foreign Ministry.