September 20, 2006

Sept. 20, 2006: #1 China - Middle East

Note: I notice that using Microsoft's Internet Explorer, the following is all bold but with Mozilla Firefox, the bold / not bold areas are as I wanted them. Things happen when I post on certain topics.

CHINA'S MIDDLE EAST STRATEGY, By Barry Rubin, Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal, Volume 3, No. 1 - March 1999, posted by AnnieO

Barry Rubin is Senior Resident Scholar at the BESA Center for Strategic Studies and Editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs. His latest book, The Transformation of Palestinian Politics, will be published by Harvard University Press. Previous books include Paved with Good Intentions: The American Experience and Iran; Secrets of State; Modern Dictators; Cauldron of Turmoil; Paved with Good Intentions; Essays on the Middle East's New Era; and a monograph, North Korea's Threat to the Middle East and the Middle East's Threat to Asia.

Editor's Summary: China's involvement in the Middle East has some negative and destabilizing effects on the region. By supplying weapons of mass destruction to Iran and other countries, while also campaigning for an end to sanctions against Iraq, Beijing has an important impact. These activities, however, are motivated by economic goals rather than political ambitions. They are also restrained by China's concern over its image as well as regarding relations with the United States.

The People's Republic of China has neither strong historical ties nor long-standing strategic interests in the Middle East. Yet its relationship with the region is an interesting and increasingly important one.

One of the major controversies of recent years has been whether China seeks to become a leading great power, even a global hegemonic power. While China's Middle East strategy indicates that its interests extend far beyond East Asia, however, its involvements are far more limited in ambition -- though larger in extent -- than during the past. In this arena, at least, China's direction seems more set out by a pragmatic effort to promote development at home by obtaining money and oil, rather than any political or strategic design.

Three motives stand out in shaping Beijing's regional policy: ideology and self-image; economic profit; and that area's direct or indirect effect on interests closer to home. Each of them has a number of aspects and implications, and all of them have evolved over time. This paper will briefly introduce this trio of factors and then evaluate each of them at length:


China's emphasis on modernization has required extensive financing and increasing access to oil. The Middle East has become China's fourth largest trading partner, but developing this commerce has sometimes involved China in political controversies and regional issues. [....] supplying customers no one else will service with goods no one else will sell them. [....]
A. Arms Sales [....]
1. Missiles [....]
2. Nuclear [....]
3. Chemical and Biological Weapons [....]
4. Conventional Arms [....]
Conclusion [....]

A. Asian Issues [....]
B. Preserving U.S.-China Relations [....]
C. The Problem of Chinese Muslims [....]
A. Iraq [....]
B. Arab-Israeli Peace Process [....]
C. Restraints on Chinese Policy [....]

Two factors cut across this contradiction:

First, China's link to radical states is not primarily an ideological or strategic choice but the result of that country's relative weakness and lack of a technological edge.

Second, China has managed to develop and preserve good relations with virtually every country in the region, most obviously both Israel and Iran simultaneously.

In general, then, Chinese strategy can be judged as relatively successful. But its irresponsibility regarding arms sales -- and a tendency to violate commitments to restrain them -- could point to serious future problems for China's Middle East policy.

Providing Arms -- China and the Middle East , Dan Blumenthal, Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2005

Chinese policy in the Middle East has grown more active over the past decade. With its overriding goal of securing oil and gas to fuel China's economic growth, the Chinese government has actively cultivated its relations with the oil-rich Middle East, especially Iran and Saudi Arabia. In their dogged pursuit of this goal, Chinese policymakers have been more than willing not only to undercut U.S. nonproliferation efforts but also to work closely with governments that export Islamism—despite Beijing's concerns about China's own increasingly assertive Uighur Muslim population. Rather than distance itself from these promoters of jihad, the Chinese government has gambled that embracing Iran and Saudi Arabia in lucrative oil and weapons deals will buy it some protection from their export of political Islam.

Though Beijing has historically tried to avoid direct confrontation with Washington, China's new Middle East strategy is inimical to U.S. nonproliferation goals. Beijing may pledge to adhere to U.S. counter-proliferation policy, but its willingness to cultivate relations with Middle Eastern states, on the back of sales of both conventional weapons and materials applicable to weapons of mass destruction programs, indicates that its promises are insincere. Indeed, as China has grown more confident, it has more brazenly challenged U.S. policies. Consider two recent events: [....]


Blogger rosemarie59 said...

thanks for the link to the Blumenthal piece---I'm finally able to put the pieces of the Chinese strategy together.

Wed Sep 20, 11:22:00 AM 2006  

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