Chinas Diplomatic Initiatives in the Middle East: The Quest for a Great-Power Role in the Region

Presented by: Shaima Farouk Salameh – Supervised by: Dr. Nepal Izzedine Jamil – Assistant Professor of Political Science – Suez University

  • Arab Democratic Center

Introduction :

China is one of the great powers in the international system, and one of the most important emerging economic countries, which many researchers are interested in as a result of the role China plays at the international level in general and the regional level in particular. Therefore, this paper focused on an article entitled “China’s diplomatic initiatives in the East. Al-Awsat: The Quest to Play the Role of the Great Powers in the Region ”, This article was written by Yoram Efron (Asian Studies Department, University of Haifa, Israel), and it is an article published on Research Gate, although the author represents a view on the growth of Chinese powers and his recognition of the role played by China, but it embodies a major trend within Israel and the states The United States of America at the same time, which prompted us to take a look at the most important ideas contained in the article, with an analysis of the political dimensions proposed by the author during his article published since June 2017, and the article will be presented, and the ideas received in terms of form and content will be discussed as follows:

  • The content of the article.
  • Critical view of the article.

First: the content of the article.

The researcher began by talking about the outbreak of the Arab Spring revolutions since 2011 and the need to change China’s policy in the Middle East, as the Middle East has been a crucial region for China since 1963, as it is a primary source of energy for China to develop its economy, and the share of oil imported from the Middle East has increased to 60% from Its consumption compared to 53% in 2013, and it is expected to continue to increase in the coming future.

The complex composition of the countries of the Middle East is also one of the main reasons pushing China to formulate a new strategy, especially after the growth of Islamic groups since the outbreak of the Arab Spring, which is one of the main threats to China due to the growth of the separatist Uyghur group – with an Islamic character – that threatens the regime inside China, in addition to the existence of Non-neutrality states.

Beginning in the 21st century, China began to improve its relations with the Middle East by increasing high-level visits with the countries of the region, and Beijing decided in 2009 to formulate a strategy that enables China to play a vital role in the Middle East, as it established the China-Arab Cooperation Forum, many of which constituted military exercises and visits. Reciprocal.

China has also been involved in major issues in the Middle East because of its permanent membership in the Security Council and has participated in the Iranian negotiations, the civil war in Syria, and has launched many initiatives regarding the eternal Israeli-Palestinian conflict, despite that China still claims that it is a developing country, and it cannot Provides financial aid to the Middle East, and this raises an important question: To what degree does China intend to enhance its role in the Middle East in reality and more specifically?

In fact, China does not intend to invest large economic or military resources to play a role in the region, and most of the efforts are statements and initiatives, so this article contains: The main topics of China’s speech about its future role in the Middle East through China’s initiatives in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict , And the civil war in Syria.

  • China’s initiatives to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Since 2010, China has presented three diplomatic initiatives, the most important of which are the four points of 2013, and another five-point initiative has been proposed regarding a ceasefire in Gaza, and this initiative is just talks that did not enter into force. With these talks, China aimed to improve its political image and strengthen its role The region is at the expense of the United States of America and the global system. China is trying to create a role in the Middle East region, but unlike traditional powers, it avoids the extensive use of political, economic, and military resources to achieve these ends.

Changing China’s Policy Since 2011.

China lost a lot because of its negative positions in the Middle East after the outbreak of the Arab Spring revolutions, and a report analyzing the relationship between China and the Middle East proved that the relationship between them did not improve despite the increase in dependence on energy sources, and another study confirmed that the importance of the Middle East lies in that it is a source of energy supplies and that the outbreak The revolutions represent a great threat to energy security in China, and what the Arab region witnessed has a negative impact on the Chinese economic interests, as China incurred heavy losses in Sudan and Libya directly.

The writer criticized China’s policy towards the Middle East, and it must learn from the lessons of the past in order to adopt a new strategy to protect itself and its interests in that part of the world.

The Arab Spring shattered the fabric of deep and prevailing relations and interests and destroyed the Western network of relations, which made China a great opportunity to consolidate its feet, but other Asian countries were earlier than China, such as India, Japan, and South Korea.

But China’s interest is to change the global system without shaking the system sharply. The Chinese move is focused on blocs that do not sympathize with the United States of America. The conservative trend inside China indicates that China is the second greatest economy in the world, and that the Middle East is the most important region in the world. China is directing its investment towards this region in order to generate more profits and to become a great power capable of influence.

The researcher also talked about an article written by Wang Jubeibi, one of the most articles in China that dealt with Wang’s new strategy, which is the policy in which China aims to expand into regions farther west, including the Greater Middle East, and this hypothesis was based on the transformation of the United States of America towards rebalancing in Asia. This leads to an increase in tension on the eastern front of China. Therefore, China has to expand towards Central Asia and the Middle East until the balance between the two powers occurs.

Although the United States enjoys military dominance in the Middle East and bears the burden of stability, its economic interests are limited and are not linked to the official network of relations, in addition to the weak ideology and its interests are limited to oil.

There are many common interests and factors between Beijing and Washington regarding the Middle East, the most important of which are: opposition to fundamentalist Islam, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, common interests in the desire to solve the region’s problems, and although Wang’s strategy aims to expand into the Middle East, it does not aim to friction with the United States of America. .

In order to achieve this strategy _ “expansion towards the west” _ Xi Jin stated in 2013, regarding the establishment of the economic belt of the Silk Road and the Maritime Silk Road, aimed at unifying the economies of China, Central Asia, Russia and Europe. For this plan, billions of dollars were set in order to connect China with the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea from Through a network of highways, railways, and sea ports, but there are two main considerations: The first is the influence of the United States of America in the Middle East is still very much in place, the second is likely to be unstable in the Middle East for a long time, so China must be careful not to sink into the regional mud. .

As for the Chinese initiative on the Palestinian issue, China participated in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on May 6, 2013, as Chinese President Xi Jinping presented a four-point proposal to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and this proposal was put forward after separate visits between the Chinese President and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu from On the one hand, and with the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, on the other hand, the Chinese proposal included:

  • The establishment of a Palestinian state on the basis of the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and to declare peaceful coexistence with Israel.
  • Negotiation should be the only path to peace with compromise by both sides to achieve this.
  • Halting the Israeli settlement process.
  • Lifting the siege on the Gaza Strip.
  • The basis for settling the crisis is “land for peace.”
  • The international community must play a role in the development of the Palestinian state.

Another proposal was submitted by the Chinese Foreign Minister in the following year, on August 3, 2014, consisting of five points to settle the armed conflict in Gaza. China declared its support for the Egyptian initiative for a ceasefire and urged the two parties to start negotiations, and set up a mechanism to ensure the achievement of the negotiations, and Israel called for a ceasefire. Fire, release of detainees, and improvement of the humanitarian situation in Palestine.

However, the Chinese initiatives did not take the form of a timetable, and did not enter into force, and China also reduced its support for the Palestinian cause as a result of not unifying the Arab position, and China did not impose any sanctions on Israel, but China contributed to Gaza in 2012 with one million dollars, while Japan provided 200 million After 2014, China increased its stake to support Azza to $ 1.5 million.

China’s initiative on resolving the Palestinian issue.

The war in Syria attracted many international parties, despite China’s slight participation in the Middle East conflicts. However, China’s reaction to harming the Syrian cause was clear in support of one of the parties to the conflict, Bashar al-Assad, where alliances with Russia in the Security Council and thwarted many attempts to condemn Bashar al-Assad, And Beijing announced that the solution in Syria should be through dialogue, not by force, and China used its veto power in the Security Council in 2011 and February 2012, which was calling for Assad to step down, and it also voted against the General Assembly resolution condemning Al-Assad and the UN Human Rights Council resolution that condemned the crimes. A war in Syria, and Syria abstained from attending the Friends of Syria Forum, which was attended by more than 100 countries to impose sanctions on Bashar al-Assad, after Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against the rebels, and China protested that the evidence was insufficient, and used its veto power with Russia to prevent the Syrian case from being referred to court. International Criminal.

All these stances angered the Chinese people and criticized them by Arab countries, prompting China to adopt a less severe stance, as it supported some initiatives that made reservations about Assad’s behavior. It condemned the metaphors committed by Assad and called for investigations.

China in the Middle East supports the position of Russia and Iran in Syria to preserve its interests and as a result of its fear of the rise of the Islamists, it believes that ISIS represents a direct threat to Chinese security, China also talked about the necessity of appointing representatives to draft the roadmap in Syria with the survival of the Assad regime to ensure political stability According to the Chinese view, the fierce war in Syria between Assad’s forces and the opposition and armed groups has made it impossible to reach a political dialogue.

But China and Russia have been providing protection to the Assad regime in order to preserve their interests, and thus accusations have been directed at Beijing about exploiting the Middle East in favor of its economic gains while ignoring acute problems in the Arab region, prompting China to present a proposal in which it clarifies that it does not follow Russia blindly and in accordance with policy. The Chinese Foreign Ministry recognized the need for political change and proposed a path that is in line with its strategic interests while remaining on the Assad regime and solving the problem internally.

Finally, the researcher concluded that China plays a fundamental role in the Middle East in the interest of its interests and that it is trying to exploit the problems of the Middle East in order to provide opportunities to improve its diplomatic position.

Second: A critical view of the article.

Finally, the writer has presented two main points regarding China’s strategy towards the Middle East, which are the Palestinian issue and China’s position regarding the Syrian crisis, but the article did not explain the extent of the economic role that China plays in the Middle East, in addition to ignoring the decline of the US role with regard to Middle East issues as well. The article was also not neutral, as it expresses the American-Israeli vision, which reduced the importance of China in the Middle East despite the great economic role that China plays in the Middle East, where it is likely to turn into a pivotal political role in the region.

China does indeed play a limited role in terms of financial aid and contributions compared to the role played by Western powers and Asian powers. However, China relies on investment and development according to Chinese economic thought more than financial aid. The article also focused on the negative role that China played with regard to the Syrian crisis and that it in The end adopted the Western vision to gain the support of the countries of the Middle East, and ignored the variables and ties that link the Chinese political system with the Syrian regime, and its alliance with Russia and Iran.

In addition to the lack of clarity of ideas in the article, the researcher confused the Chinese strategy in the Middle East and the role it played on the Palestinian issue, and he elaborated on presenting China’s role in the Palestinian issue without explaining the nature of the Chinese relations with the Israeli side on the one hand and with the Palestinian side on the other hand. Therefore, the author did not clarify the limits of the role that China plays in the Chinese issue and the Middle East.

SAKHRI Mohamed
SAKHRI Mohamed

I hold a bachelor's degree in political science and international relations as well as a Master's degree in international security studies, alongside a passion for web development. During my studies, I gained a strong understanding of key political concepts, theories in international relations, security and strategic studies, as well as the tools and research methods used in these fields.

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