Lebanon is turning east for economic support after the lack of progress in talks with Western and Arab states. According to the Associated Press, Lebanon is seeking to secure investments from China, while dwindling its chances of obtaining the support from the West and the Arab states to overcome its financial crisis.
The agency said in a report published Wednesday that Lebanon, which had long been an area of competition between Iran and Saudi Arabia, is now at an important point in the escalation of tensions between China and the West, noting that the government of Hassan Diab, is currently seeking for Chinese support.
The AP noted that Diab received the Chinese ambassador to Lebanon, Wang Qijian, earlier this month, and after that the Lebanese Minister of Industry, Imad Hoballah, was instructed to study cooperation opportunities with Beijing.
The AP report begins:
Facing a worsening economic crisis and with little chance of Western or oil-rich Arab countries providing assistance without substantial reforms, Lebanon’s cash-strapped government is looking east, hoping to secure investments from China that could bring relief.
But help from Beijing risks alienating the United States, which has suggested such a move could come at the cost of Lebanese-U.S. ties.
“We have moved very seriously towards China, but we are not turning our backs on the West… we are going through exceptional circumstances, and we welcome everyone who intends to help us,” the agency quoted a ministerial official, who asked not to be named, as saying.
The official pointed out that China has proposed to contribute to ending the decades-old energy crisis in Lebanon through its government companies, stressing that the Beirut government is currently studying this proposal.
The aforementioned and economic official, Hassan Muqalled, assured the agency that Beijing also offered to establish a network of power stations and a tunnel linking Beirut and the Beqaa Valley, and a railway along the coast of Lebanon.
Muqallah, who visited China several times in 2018 and 2019, estimated the value of the projects proposed by Beijing at $12.5 billion.
The report pointed out that these investments may bring benefit to both parties, pointing out that China may benefit from improving its relations with Lebanon as this country is a springboard for the reconstruction of neighboring Syria.
The report also suggested that the Lebanese port of Tripoli, which has been expanded in recent years, may become an important point in the Chinese “Silk Road” project.
Lebanon is what happens when you create a neoliberal paradise where bankers run the show. https://t.co/Qh9rVkh9e7
They can’t blame the collapse on socialism, so expect to see the west fault Hezbollah rather than the handful of elites who ran a decades long Ponzi scheme government
— Rania Khalek (@RaniaKhalek) July 6, 2020
For its part, the American ambassador to Lebanon, Dorothy Shea, warned the Lebanese government against rapprochement with Beijing, as she said that turning towards the East will not solve all the country’s problems, warning that this rapprochement may take place at the expense of the prosperity, stability and financial sustainability of Lebanon, not to mention its long relations.