In recent years, China has identified as a prominent financial actor in Iraq, as part of its objective of forging closer economic connections with the Middle East.
China is deliberately leveraging Iraqi reconstruction efforts by establishing energy and connectivity infrastructure projects under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), according to Valentin Popescu of the Policy Research Group (POREG).
In Iraqi universities, it is also building schools and establishing language training centers. With the end of the US combat mission in Iraq, Beijing is promoting energy projects with Baghdad under the BRI, with a total investment of $10.5 billion, making Iraq China's third-largest energy partner.
According to POREG, Chinese firms Power Corporation of China and Sinotech are finalizing subcontracting for the construction of 1000 schools in Iraq under the 'oil for reconstruction' initiative negotiated with the Iraqi government in December 2021.
In Iraq, the Chinese language and culture are being encouraged by Beijing.
Salahaddin University in Erbil's Chinese Language Department provides language training and education to Iraqi students, as well as organizing activities that promote a positive image of China.
Popescu reckons that these attempts are part of Beijing's aim of strengthening economic connections with Middle Eastern countries by capitalizing on the Arab leaders' growing sense that the US is withdrawing from the region.
Baghdad looks to be open to Chinese funding to help rebuild the country's war-damaged and aging infrastructure.