While pledging $23 billion in loans and aid, President Xi Jinping told members of the Arab League today that China would like to form a strategic partnership to become "the keeper of peace and stability in the Middle East, the defender of equity and justice, promoter of joint development, and good friends that learn from each other," according to the South China Morning Post.

Why it matters: As Axios' Erica Pandey has reported, China is determined to win influence in the Middle East, largely through its massive Belt and Road infrastructure initiative. And while Beijing has not been shy about developing economic partnerships in the region, Xi's comments signal a new level of political engagement.

The $23 billion includes...

  • $20 billion in loans to stimulate economic development in countries with reconstruction needs
  • $3 billion in special loans for sovereign funds
  • $150 million to support "social stability efforts" in the region
  • $90.6 million in aid to warn-torn countries like Syria and Yemen

Go deeper: China's long game for Middle East influence

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Deadly Hurricane Zeta churns inland after lashing Louisiana

A satellite image of Hurricane Zeta. Photo: National Hurricane Center/NOAA

Hurricane Zeta has killed at least one person after a downed power line electrocuted a 55-year-old in Louisiana as the storm moved into Alabama overnight.

What's happening: After "battering southeastern Louisiana and southern Mississippi, it was "racing north-northeastward," continuing "life-threatening surge and strong winds continue over southern Mississippi and southern Alabama" late Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center said.

23 mins ago - World

Taiwan reaches a record 200 days with no local coronavirus cases

Catholics go through containment protocols including body-temperature measurement and hands-sanitisation before entering the Saint Christopher Parish Church, Taipei City, Taiwan, in July. Photo: Ceng Shou Yi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Taiwan on Thursday marked no locally transmitted coronavirus cases for 200 days, as the island of 23 million people's total number of infections reported stands at 550 and the COVID-19 death toll at seven.

Why it matters: Nowhere else in the world has reached such a milestone. While COVID-19 cases surge across the U.S. and Europe, Taiwan's last locally transmitted case was on April 12. Experts credit tightly regulated travel, early border closure, "rigorous contact tracing, technology-enforced quarantine and universal mask wearing," along with the island state's previous experience with the SARS virus, per Bloomberg.

Go deeper: As Taiwan's profile rises, so does risk of conflict with China

Updated 48 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

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