East Asia and the Middle East are extremely different similar regions. Determining the East Asian country most similar to the Middle East and North Africa region requires considering various social, cultural, economic, and political factors.
One way to answer this complex question is by analyzing the data from the Country Similarity Index. The index attempts to quantify how similar countries are to each other relative to other countries, using a variety of statistics from five broad categories: demographics, culture, politics, infrastructure, and geography.
The data suggests that China is the most similar East Asian nation to the Middle East. On the other end of the spectrum, Japan has the least amount of traits in common with the Middle East. (Note that Mongolia is considered to part of the Central Asia region)
(Middle Eastern countries are defined as Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen)
Interestingly enough, China‘s Xinjiang Province is predominately Muslim, although less than 2 percent of the overall country in Muslim. However, its government, infrastructure, and geography make China especially stand out as having more characteristics of Middle East than other East Asian countries.
Both China and many Middle Eastern countries are often characterized by forms of authoritarian governance. There is state control over key sectors of the economy and society. In addition, freedom of the press tends to be more limited in China and most Middle Eastern countries compared to Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan.
China and some Middle Eastern countries, particularly in the Gulf region, have experienced rapid economic growth and development in the recent decades. They have a lot of newly built transportation networks, airports, and urban infrastructure. While China has excellent infrastructure, it is not as far advanced as Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. While the Middle East has some highly developed countries, it also has some war-torn countries like Yemen and Syria, where infrastructure is much more limited.
The Middle East is known for its dry climate. China is the only country in East Asia with a significant amount of desert. The Gobi Desert makes up a substantial portion of the country’s land area. Furthermore, China is closer to the Middle East than other East Asian countries. In fact, Western China borders Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The Most Similar Middle Eastern Country to China
The Country Similarity Index suggests that Iran is the most similar Middle Eastern country to China. Neither China nor Iran are especially rich or poor. Both countries may have mixed economies, combining elements of state control and market-driven principles. China and Iran have governments that may be characterized as authoritarian, with centralized authority and limited political freedoms. In addition, Iran has a more temperate climate and is more mountainous than many other Middle Eastern countries.