China signs deal to build 1,000 schools in Iraq as Beijing pushes for greater role in Middle East after US withdrawals
- The deal will see Power China and Sino Tech helping the Iraqi government’s plans to rebuild the education system after years of war
- The country is now a major destination for Chinese investment in the Middle East and Beijing is the biggest buyer of Iraqi oil
According to the Iraqi News Agency, Power China will construct 679 schools and the other 321 will be built by Sino Tech.
According to Unicef, nearly 3.2 million school-aged Iraqi children have no access to school.
US armed forces initially withdrew from the country in 2011, but former president Barack Obama then sent them back in 2014 after Islamic State militants seized large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria.
The troops remained there even after the militant group was driven from its last Iraqi stronghold in 2017.
Meanwhile, China has been stepping up engagement with the Middle East to fill the gap left by the US in recent years.
During a phone conversation with Iraqi President Barham Salih in August, Chinese President Xi Jinping said China would continue to support reconstruction efforts in the country.
According to the Chinese embassy in Baghdad, Iraq is now a major destination for Chinese investment in the Middle East, mostly in the oil industry. China is the largest buyer of oil produced in Iraq.
Chinese companies are also in talks to build more infrastructure in the country, from power supplies, communications to schools, water supplies, airports and railways.
Wang also said Beijing remained committed to developing its comprehensive strategic partnership with Iran, according to a foreign ministry statement.