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China comes to the Middle East as the future master of the situation

China comes to the Middle East as the future master of the situation

26.02.2018
Tags: China, Politics, Middle East, Analytics, Trade, Israel, Iran

Beijing is becoming an increasingly active player in the Middle East, competing for influence on the region and with Russia and the United States. And, it must be admitted, very successfully. But why do the Chinese need the Middle East? What is the meaning of his strategy, traditionally turned into the future? And why is his policy compared to walking in the minefield?

China exported more than 30 reconnaissance and strike unmanned aerial vehicles Rainbow-4. Among the buyers are such states as Saudi Arabia and Iraq. "The export of drones to countries included in the Chinese concept" One belt is one way, "and the role that these machines play in global counter-terrorism activities, increase Chinese military exchanges and strengthen the international influence of Beijing," the report of the Chinese Society of Aeronautics and Astronautics reported.

The Chairman of the People's Republic of China, Xi Jinping, voiced the concept "One belt - one way" in September 2013. This global strategy, including projects "Economic belt of the Silk Road" and "Sea Silk Road of the XXI century", involves the creation of an extensive infrastructure network from the western borders of China to the eastern and southern borders of the EU. It will help reboot the Chinese economy, demonstrating a slowdown in growth from 10,4% in 2010 to 6,9% in 2017.

New transport corridors will allow to optimize supplies, reduce the cost of many Chinese goods, strengthen the position of the Chinese in the European and Asian markets and give access to new ones, for example, in Africa. "Belt" will expand the geopolitical influence of Beijing, as it will cover a large number of countries, linking their economies and resources - technological, human, financial, political.

The Middle East is of key importance for the realization of this ambitious concept. Its geographical position turns the region into an important transit point on the way between Asia and Europe.

Among the lights

Realization of the conceived purpose will demand from China the big economic and power resources. And again roads lead to the Middle East - energy was and remains one of the most important factors shaping Beijing's foreign policy. According to the results of 2017, the import of natural gas to China increased by 26,9% (to 68,6 million tons), and oil imports - by 10,2% (to 419,57 million tons). Among the largest exporters of blue fuel to China is Qatar, and Black Celestial purchases from Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Until recently, Riyadh was the main supplier of oil for the needs of the PRC, but in 2016 and 2017 it occupied the second place after Russia.

Given this, it is not surprising that the PRC is one of the most important economic and trade partners of the countries of the Middle East region. Beijing invested a multibillion-dollar investment in Iran, Iraq and the Arabian monarchies and in the long term expects to significantly improve the level of interaction with them by creating a free trade zone with the countries members of the Cooperation Council of the Arab States of the Persian Gulf (GCC).

Do not deprive the attention of the Chinese and Palestine. In January 2016, Xi Jinping announced that she will receive assistance of 50 million yuan (at current rates this is about 8 million dollars). At the same time, China is actively developing relations with Israel. For example, its companies are building new container terminals in the Ashdod port, a light metro in Tel Aviv and digging a tunnel on Mount Carmel in Haifa, actively interested in Israeli technologies in such areas as the Internet, cybersecurity, medical equipment, alternative energy sources and agriculture .

Israel's sworn enemy is Iran, but with it the PRC also maintains long-standing friendly relations. Beijing often came to the aid of Tehran in difficult times, when the Islamic Republic suffered particularly from international sanctions. Cooperation is also developing today: for 2017 the turnover increased by 22%, amounting to about 30,5 billion dollars. At the same time, as a unit of national currency, the Iranians use the yuan.

Thus, Beijing manages to balance in the complex system of political relations of the Middle East, maintaining an equally warm relationship with those countries and peoples that each other can not tolerate. One of the advantages of China in this sense is the lack of religious, colonial and historical baggage that influences other states. The Chinese demonstrate a lack of preferences between Jews and Arabs, Sunnis and Shiites, interacting with all "on the basis of mutual respect and mutual benefit" and adhering to the policy of non-intervention. This is radically different from the militaristic policy that the Middle East region is used to.

At the same time, security issues play an important role for China, first of all the threat emanating from IGIL *. Like Russia, the PRC has an internal source of religious extremism in the person of Chinese Muslims - Uighurs, fighting in the ranks and IGIL, and "Djebhat an Nusra." Subsequently, they can return to their homeland and apply their "skills" there. In addition, terrorist groups in the Middle East threaten China's economic interests, jeopardizing the implementation of the concept of "One Belt - One Way". That is why Beijing supports the fight against terrorism in the Middle East, supplying weapons and drones to the region.

Chinese also act as peacekeepers, realizing that conflicts between the states of the region create delays and obstacles on the way to the same "Belt". In particular, they support any efforts that can reduce tension between Palestine and Israel, and are ready to act as an intermediary between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Everything for stability in the region, everything for the realization of the One Way.

Mining field of experiments

The main question in this connection is how long will China keep its balance without inclined to one side or the other? Even a slight influence on some aspect of the regional system of the Middle East can provoke a chain reaction and "pour gasoline" into the smoldering fire of intractable conflicts.

So, despite the cooperation, in the relations of Riyadh and Beijing, there remains distrust - Saudi Arabia is suspicious of China's policy in Syria. As part of the Syrian crisis, China has moved to the side of Russia and Iran, vetoing the UN Security Council with numerous resolutions emanating from Western countries. It goes without saying that this is contrary to the interests of Riyadh.

But the PRC has its claims to the Saudis - their support of the Sunni population of China, the same Uighurs. A significant part of the princes of Saudi Arabia sympathize with the attempts of the latter to fight for their religious autonomy. Including, and therefore, the PRC tries to reduce its dependence on Saudi oil, diversifying its supplies, and Russia has come here at the right time.

China's sympathy for Iran can not but affect the interests of Israel and the United States, which intend to limit the influence of the Persians in the region. The expansion of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) to the Middle East and support for Iran's entry into it is also troubling for Riyadh. And although Beijing tries in every possible way to maintain impartiality, the Chinese will inevitably take one of the sides, obviously, the side of Iran if its entry into the SCO does take place.

To minimize risks, China will most likely use economic instruments of influence on the countries of the region, for example, the economic attractiveness of the Belt. Participation of the Middle East in it will give him the opportunity to develop infrastructure and investment program, create jobs, reduce unemployment among youth, and help smooth uneven economic growth in large settlements.

In parallel, China seeks to expand cultural and educational exchanges, in particular, offering to train technical experts from the member countries of the "Belt" concept. This strategy will help to eliminate additional sources of instability. War is a war, and no one has canceled a pragmatic business. This is where China stands.

Anna Polyakova
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