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China-MENA Podcast February 7, 2024

Domestic Drivers of China’s Foreign Policy in MENA

By Atlantic Council


Key takeaways

  • China’s Domestic Drivers of Foreign Policy in MENA
  • China’s Core Interests and Soft Power Projection in MENA
  • China’s Global Role and Soft Power Challenges
  • China’s Influence in the Middle East and Domestic Influences on Foreign Policy


00:00 – Introduction

04:47 – Concerns about leadership future raised by Premier’s performance

08:23 – China’s passive stance in world affairs

11:20 – Impact of changes in US leadership on China’s strategy

15:22 – Reshuffling of China’s internal priorities during the Trump presidency

18:26 – Chinese middle class’s interest in international relations

21:05 – Summary of Evan Osnos’ article on Chinese concerns

25:31 – Intrigue within the party and navigating power dynamics

27:35 – China’s core interests as an intimate link between China’s international interests and what serves the stability of the party-state

31:51 – China’s focus on regional stability and development

36:36 – China’s dominance reshaping the world with little commonality

39:45 – Comparison of envy towards South Korean culture and China

43:10 – China’s crucial role in the Middle East

45:27 – Taiwan’s Unresolved Status: A Ticking Time Bomb

46:21 – Conclusion

In this episode

Kerry Brown
Director, Lau China Institute and Professor of Chinese Studies
King’s College London

Kerry Brown is Professor of Chinese Studies and Director of the Lau China Institute at King’s College, London. He is an Associate of the Asia Pacific Programme at Chatham House, London, an adjunct of the Australia New Zealand School of Government in Melbourne, and the co-editor of the Journal of Current Chinese Affairs, run from the German Institute for Global Affairs in Hamburg. He is President-Elect of the Kent Archaeological Society and an Affiliate of the Mongolia and Inner Asia Studies Unit at Cambridge University. From 1998 to 2005 he worked at the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as First Secretary at the British Embassy in Beijing, and then as Head of the Indonesia, Philippine and East Timor Section. Kerry directed the Europe China Research and Advice Network (ECRAN) giving policy advice to the European External Action Service between 2011 and 2014.


In this episode, host Jonathan Fulton and guest Kerry Brown discuss the domestic drivers shaping China’s engagements in the Middle East. They unravel the complexities of China’s internal landscape, including the middle-class aspirations and interest in international relations and the impact of Xi Jinping’s leadership. Jonathan and Kerry also analyze China’s internal party dynamics and the intimate link between China’s international interests and what serves the party-state’s stability, shedding light on its diplomatic decision-making and potential implications for MENA.

Join us for a thought-provoking exploration of China’s foreign policy strategy and domestic underpinnings.

Hosted by

It’s strange how China tries to change public opinion while facing an image problem. People love their cuisine and kung fu, but the political system makes it challenging for them to win hearts

Kerry Brown

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.

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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.

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Image: People gather to attend a ceremony to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on July 1, 2021. ( The Yomiuri Shimbun )