China has greatly increased its presence in North Africa in terms of trade and investment over the past two decades. One of the countries with which it has developed relations in North Africa is Morocco, which has an important point in terms of geostrategic location. Pragmatism may be the best word to describe China-Moroccan relations. Because both parties are aware of each other’s importance and therefore try to use these beneficial aspects. Although China knows that Morocco is a state close to the West, it continues its intention to establish good relations with Morocco due to its geostrategic position. Morocco’s ties with the Gulf countries, its membership in the African Union, its diplomatic closeness with Sub-Saharan Africa is welcomed by China, but it also increases the attractiveness of Morocco.
Moroccan-China relations have generally been and continue to be stable and there have been many high-level official visits between the two countries. Issues such as non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, win-win situations, common development, stability, and cooperation between the two were also reflected in the attitudes of the two. In addition, China supports Morocco’s political stability. For example, he made statements supporting the Moroccan administration during the 2011 uprising.
Morocco was the first state in the region to sign a memorandum of understanding with China in the context of the Belt-Road Project. This has had a positive effect on Morocco’s economy, as many Chinese companies have started to come to Morocco. In addition, the number of Chinese companies is increasing day by day as Morocco acts as a bridge due to its geographical location.
King VI. Muhammad sought to reconstruct the foreign policy of the country, so he started looking for new trade from the East, even if he was connected to the West. As a result, Morocco started to receive investments from China and Chinese investments increased considerably between 2011-2015. With China’s investment in the Noor solar power plant project in 2014, total investments have increased by 195 percent in 4 years. In 2016, President Xi Jinping and King Mohammed announced a strategic partnership between the two countries and signed many agreements in various economic sectors. After 2016, the trade volume between the two countries reached $ 5.3 billion in 2018 from $ 4 billion. However, most of this trade volume consists of China’s exports to Morocco. While China’s share in Morocco’s total imports was 7.5% in 2014, it was 10.4% in 2019. In the same period, Morocco’s exports to China remained at a low level. At this point, the European Union meets more than half of Morocco’s imports and nearly two-thirds of its exports and continues to be Morocco’s major trade partner.
According to media reports, more than 30 Chinese companies participated in the projects in Morocco from 2000 to 2012. These projects generally include the signing of a $ 248 million memorandum of understanding with China Exim Bank for the construction of a highway in 2011, hospital projects to be made in various regions of Morocco, and a 150 million Yuan loan agreement for 8 construction projects in the capital Rabat. In 2016, Morocco announced a $ 10 billion deal to establish a new economic center in the north with the help of development organizations and Chinese companies, including the international aviation company Haite Group, Morocco-China International and BMCE Bank of Africa.
With the advancement of Moroccan-China relations, three Confucius Institutes have been established in Morocco. The first one is at the 5th Mohammed University in 2008, the second at the 2nd Hasan University in 2012 and the other at Abdelmalek Essaadi University in 2016. Again, in 2016, Morocco decided to abolish visas for Chinese citizens and thus the number of tourists from China increased 6 times in 2 years. In addition, Morocco participated in the 3rd stage trials of the Sinopharm vaccine in the context of vaccination studies against coronavirus and also started to use this vaccine after the success of the vaccine.
In the Western Sahara issue, which is a very important issue for Morocco, China remains neutral. In this context, China does not recognize neither the Polisario front nor Morocco’s sovereignty over the land in question. As a permanent member of the United Nations (UN) Security Council, China also supported abstainingly UN resolution 2240 in 2018. According to this decision, the Western Sahara problem must be brought to a compromise-based pragmatic, realistic and lasting political solution. Due to the good relations with Algeria, which supports the independence movement of the Polisario Front, and the fact that it does not want to spoil it, China approaches the Western Sahara problem indifferently and impartially. In order to realize the Belt-Road Project, China is trying to improve its relations with the Maghrib countries and in this context, it wants to make between the two neighboring countries, Algeria and Morocco. The worsening tensions between Morocco and Algeria could threaten China’s political and economic interests in the region. Therefore, China intends to act as a mediator for the solution of the problems between Algeria and Morocco. Because China is trying to bring these two countries together in the middle to make the North Africa and Mediterranean parts of the Belt-Road Project properly formed and operational.
The development of economic relations with China is an aspect of Morocco’s global vision to attract foreign investment. It is part of this global vision to attract the maximum number of partners to the country in order to establish strategic partnerships, to diversify the economy, to increase investment in the country and to trade. However, this does not mean that Morocco has loosened its ties with the EU and the USA. Because Morocco acts together with the West again. Regarding this matter, King Mohammed VI said, “Morocco is free in its decisions and choices and is not the exclusive protected area of any country. It will continue to fulfill its commitments to its partners.” In addition, the Kingdom of Morocco wants to make progress within the scope of the vision it has created for the development and diversification of the country’s economy and to increase the trade volume. For this reason, it takes steps to improve economic and bilateral relations with China. Morocco with China in order to attract investments to the country and increase its geostrategic impact together with the Belt-Road Project; China, on the other hand, is trying to keep its relations with Morocco and Algeria at a good level in order to increase its influence in the region by increasing its gains in North Africa and the Mediterranean and to implement the investments required by the Belt-Road Project in the region in question. Although the trade volume between the two countries has decreased slightly due to the measures taken to prevent the epidemic from spreading during the pandemic period, the trade volume will increase rapidly after the pandemic situation has passed. We can understand this from Morocco’s participation in the 3rd phase trials of the Sinopharm vaccine and the purchase of these vaccines. From this point of view, we can say that the near future of China-Morocco relations, which we can base on a pragmatic basis, will continue well.
 Yahia Zoubir, “Expanding Sino–Maghreb Relations”, Chatham House, Middle East and North Africa Programme, February 2020, s. 12.
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