Capabilities Analysis

China's dependence on Suez Canal presents vulnerability


Beijing's economic links to the West depend heavily on the Suez Canal, a key maritime route through which about 60% of Chinese trade with Europe typically transits.

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A French soldier stands on the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, while cruising in the Suez Canal in Egypt, on December 18, 2022. [Ludovic Marin/AFP]
A French soldier stands on the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, while cruising in the Suez Canal in Egypt, on December 18, 2022. [Ludovic Marin/AFP]

China's reliance on the Suez Canal as a critical maritime route would be a vulnerability if tensions keep ratcheting up in the Red Sea and the Taiwan Strait.

Completed in 1869, the Suez Canal runs across an isthmus of Egypt to connect the Mediterranean and Red seas and provide a path between Africa and Asia.

One of the world's most used shipping lanes, the canal receives about 30% of global maritime shipping cargo. More than 1 million barrels of crude oil pass through the Suez Canal into the Red Sea each day.

For China, specifically, the canal provides the shortest path to supply Europe and a key avenue to receive Russian oil imports.

Approximately 60% of Chinese trade with Europe typically transits through the Suez Canal, according to an analysis by investment firm Fitch Ratings.

The importance of the Suez Canal and the region has been underscored by recent attacks by Yemen's Iran-backed Houthis on commercial vessels in the Red Sea.

The attacks, which began in November, have disrupted commerce and endangered the lives of civilian sailors, forcing some vessels to detour via Africa's Cape of Good Hope.

The detour extends travel by 10 to 15 days and has led to increased operational costs for Chinese and other exporters, including for fuel and labor, straining profit margins and complicating supply chain logistics.

Restricting access

In the event of a crisis in the Taiwan Strait, the United States and other Group of Seven (G7) nations could potentially impose sanctions on China.

The G7 nations had a rapid and coordinated economic response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, indicating the ability to do likewise if China escalated against Taiwan.

The economic countermeasures could include restrictions on trade in major industrial sectors or more narrow limits on subsectors with high dependencies on G7 countries.

Sanctions could also be applied to China's use of the Suez Canal. In this scenario, the G7 nations would likely compensate Egypt for the loss of revenue incurred by restricting Chinese access.

Over 100 million jobs in China depend on foreign final demand, and nearly 45 million of these jobs depend on final demand from G7 countries, according to an analysis by the Atlantic Council.

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Very good.


No state will be able to pressure Egypt to stop navigation in the Red Sea in the face of China. Otherwise, they could have influenced Egypt in its relations with Russia since the war. This is a weak and bad analysis.


America and Europe had made a much easier request to Egypt; to close its airspace for Russia’s warplanes in its war on Ukraine. However, Egypt rejected their request. Therefore, it can’t be imagined that it will close the Suez Canal in the face of China which isn’t at war with it.


This programme is amazing.


China's projects in the vicinity of the Suez Canal will not allow Egypt to approve of the Americans' request. To cut it short, even if China had no interests in Egypt, this is an international canal governed by international and Egyptian laws. There is nothing that can prevent a state from passing [through the canal]; otherwise, we would have prevented the Russians. Your analyst is weak.


Who knows Egypt will accept that demand


Everything will happen on time. May Allah protect us!