China’s ‘soft power’ in the Middle East has failed

China’s soft power in the Muslim world is failing, the country’s top foreign policy official has warned.

The foreign minister, Liu Xiaoming, warned that the country was losing ground to the West when it comes to soft power and regional relations, especially in the region, and criticised US President Donald Trump’s efforts to build relationships with Muslim countries.

Liu told the China Strategic Forum on Monday the US was not building lasting relationships with its Muslim allies and the region needed to develop its own strategy.

“The West needs to develop a strategy for building lasting and stable relationships with the Muslim countries, and this includes a strategy to maintain China’s regional influence,” Liu said in a speech to the forum, attended by a group of prominent foreign policy experts from countries including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

“China is a soft power, and its soft power is not effective,” Liu told the forum.

“It is difficult for the West to achieve its goals if it cannot even reach a fair balance of soft power with its soft powers,” Liu added.

China has a reputation for being soft in dealing with its neighbours.

Its strategy has been to build bridges with Arab states, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

But it has also been criticised by the US for its crackdowns in Muslim countries and its backing of Islamist groups such as Islamic State (IS) and Al Qaeda.

Luan, a member of the National People’s Congress, is the fourth Chinese foreign minister to attend the forum this year.

The forum, chaired by Chinese President Xi Jinping, was organised by the Asian Development Bank and was attended by officials from the UAE, Qatar, Oman, Egypt and Pakistan.

Lianhe Zaichun, a former US State Department official who is also a member, said the Middle Eastern region was a very important market for China, but it needed to improve its relations with Muslim allies in order to keep the Chinese people happy.

“If China’s approach is not good, the world will be poorer,” Zaichoun told the conference.

“So we need to improve our relationship with the Arab countries, because they are important in the world,” she added.

“And we have to work together with Muslim and non-Muslim allies to strengthen them and build a new global strategic partnership.”

Zaichoun’s comments came after China’s foreign ministry said it had no plans to hold a visit to Qatar next year as the country is already “focusing on other issues” and “does not plan to engage with Qatar”.

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