Iraq has become the third-biggest Belt and Road Initiative partner in energy engagement, after Russia and Pakistan. Fudan University’s Center for Green Finance and Development in Shanghai reported that in 2021, Iraq received $10.5 billion in investment under the Belt and Road infrastructure initiative.
China–Iraq relations have advanced in recent years, but China-Iraq energy cooperation has been the cornerstone of their bilateral relationship since 1981, when the China Petroleum Engineering and Construction Corporation started operations in Iraq. China vigorously opposed the 2003 US war on Iraq and called for a withdrawal of all foreign forces from the country. Now, almost 20 years after the war in Iraq began, billions of Chinese yuan are being invested in assorted projects, from green energy capabilities and heavy oil plants to building roads and schools.
On 4 July 2022 Iraq Ministry of Education announce it had launched a project to build 106 schools in two governorates within an agreement with Chinese companies to construct 1,000 schools, according to an official statement. The Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the project, first educational project between Iraq and China.
The Education Ministry said in a statement carried by Aliqtisad News and other Iraqi publications that 61 schools would be built in the central-south Diwaniya Governorate and 45 others in the central province of Babil. The statement noted that Iraq needs nearly 12,000 new schools due to the steady rise in the number of pupils and the damage of a large number of schools during the war.
In December 2021, under the patronage and presence of the Prime Minister, the Iraqi government announced that it had signed 15 contracts with China to build 1,000 schools in Iraq. Two Chinese enterprises will build modern schools – PowerChina will build 679 and Sinotech the remaining 321.
This was part of a 2019 accord reached by the two countries allowing Chinese firms to carryout projects in Iraq in exchange for crude oil supplies. China signed the deal Iraq shortly after the US announced the end of its combat mission in the country, having left over a million Iraqis dead.
Two solar power projects in southern Iraq
In August 2021 Chinese state-owned Power Construction Corp of China (Power China) signed a deal with the government of Iraq to provide up to 2 GW of solar power capacity in the country. This was in accordance with a contract deal between Iraq and China that was reached in 2019.
The first phase of the agreement included 750 MW of photovoltaic (PV) parks. Both solar installations are in the Al-Muthanna Governorate, which borders Saudi Arabia in southern Iraq. The solar projects have a total capacity of 130 MW and 500 MW, respectively and will be distributed across the Governorate.
Even though a major oil producer, Iraq has set a target of producing 20% to 25% of its total power from renewables by 2030, which equals an installed renewable generation capacity of 10 GW-12 GW.
It aims to do this address supply issues that cause daily power outages. Iraq’s power grid suffers hour-long cuts year-round. In hot summer months when temperatures regularly reach 50 degrees Celsius, these shortages worsen as households rely heavily on air conditioning.
- Zawya, July 4, 2022. https://www.zawya.com/en/projects/bri/iraq-launches-106-school-project-in-two-provinces-g37uhjfl
- Iraqi News, July 23, 2022. https://www.iraqinews.com/iraq/china-to-construct-two-solar-power-projects-in-southern-iraq/
- Renewables Now, Aug 27, 2021. https://renewablesnow.com/news/power-china-to-seals-deal-for-2-gw-of-solar-in-iraq-752126/