Photo by Josh Hild

China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) project is designed to enhance economic cooperation between the OBOR partner countries. The OBOR is also called Belt and Road initiative (BRI). According to China, the BRI ensures the peaceful resolution of conflicts and sovereignty of the states involved. However, the rising tensions in East mediterranean sea have put a question mark on this great economic project.

The disputed natural resources in the East Mediterranean sea is causing tension in the region. Recently Turkey and Greece announced mutual exploration activities in the area. Despite facing opposition from Turkey and Israel, Egypt announced the cooperation with South Cyprus. These two are examples of how these tensions in the eastern Mediterranean can grow.

Navy of the United States of America is also present in the region while the USA has threatened to impose sanctions on Turkey. Furthermore, the presence of Russian and Iranian troops in Syria is also posing a threat to the peace of this region. This huge militarization of East mediterranean sea can negate the cooperation.

First, we will discuss the role of China. China’s trade policies are considered as game-changers. Experts opine that China’s geostrategic mindset can complicate the situation of traditional allies. China became economically assertive after acquiring membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO). Now China’s open-door policy and BRI can make China a balancing actor between the different nations.

After these economic policies, China has emerged as a threat to American hegemonic status. Now after the trade war between China and the USA, China realized that it will have to increase its cultural and political influence. Therefore the launch of Belt and Road Initiative is one of China’s attempt to maintain its economic security.

Now it is clear that China is using BRI as a tool to influence its neighbor countries. After the increased US presence in South China sea China is trying to normalize the relations with Vietnam and Cambodia. Many economic experts term China’s BRI as a ‘debt trap’. This is because China imposes heavy conditions on the countries want to get the loan and economic aid from China.

Critical alliances and Chinese port projects make Mediterranean sea an important area. Piraeus Port is an important port used by China to carry trade with Europe. China is also making heavy investments on roads, highways, and railways to connect this port to central and western Europe.

Besides this China is also negotiating with Turkey for Izmir port. China’s alliance with Egypt will also be beneficial for China due to the importance of the Suez Canal. Furthermore, China has also acquired the rights to manage the port of Ashdod in Israel for forty-nine years.

Interestingly all these ports are considered as competitors of each other in Eastern mediterranean sea. Also, the heavy military presence of NATO and US forces can endanger the Chinese investments in East mediterranean sea.

Gas disputes of the Mediterranean can create obstacles for China in the region. However apparently China is implementing its “wait and see” strategy and has maintained its neutrality in regional politics of the East Mediterranean sea.

Moreover, China is trying to strengthen relations with existing governments of the region. China is strengthening its relations with Egyptian dictator Abdel Fatel el Sisi. This is because Egypt’s Suez canal has strategic importance in China’s OBOR. However, China cannot maintain its neutrality among Egypt, Turkey, and Israel. Sooner or later China will have to diffuse tensions among these rivals to continue its BRI.

China claims that the BRI project will not interfere in regional politics instead it will help these countries to resolve their issues peacefully. It is possible in future that China may convert its non-interference policy to tension diffusing policy.

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