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China’s Confused Middle East Policies

by Joshua Kurlantzick
April 1, 2011

Police arrest a man after calls for a "Jasmine Revolution" protest, organised through the internet, in front of the Peace Cinema in downtown Shanghai February 27, 2011.

Police arrest a man after calls for a "Jasmine Revolution" protest, organised through the internet, in front of the Peace Cinema in downtown Shanghai. (Carlos Barria/Courtesy Reuters)

As unrest sweeps through the Middle East, China has reacted in many different, and sometimes conflicting ways. It has issued its traditional call for countries to respect other nations’ sovereignty, while simultaneously deploying a large naval operation to evacuate Chinese workers from Libya, and backing a UN resolution imposing sanctions on the Libyan regime. It has cracked down on any sign of a “jasmine revolution” at home, while sometimes publicly noting the failures of the most autocratic Middle Eastern governments.

China’s Middle East confusion will, in the long run, help neither Beijing nor the Arab-Muslim world. In a new piece in The National newspaper of Abu Dhabi, I outline China’s emerging Middle East headache. You can read it here: “China lacks focus in the Arab world, missing a mutual opportunity”.

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  • Posted by Michal Grochol

    I don’t know why one should call Chinese policy as confused. The approach: We don’t do anything until it is really necessary, seems to be very clever. Who pays for solving problems in the Middle East? The West. Who concentrates on business? China.

    China has one very big advantage. It does not care about Israel. From their pragmatic point of view: China needs resources and who has them? Arabs.

    Unlike the USA, China is homogeneous country with a very long tradition of trade without barriers like human rights or religion. I see only one big disadvantage, Chinese will need some time to understand non-Chinese, non-Western, non-East Asian world. Once they master it (like Russians) they will definitely play “divide and rule”.

  • Posted by Cold Chow Mein

    It seems to me a sensible strategy. “Let them Bleed” may sound a bit simplistic but does not seem illogical. More importantly, the West can never come up with a coherent and honest strategy to deal with the Arab world without exposing their own hypocrisy and making a ridicule of themselves – consider Yeman, Saudi, Syria and last but not least Palestine.

    Because of their lack of will or ability or both to resolve the Israel/Palestine problem in the first place, they will not be able to muster the kind of support they need to do anything meaningful in the Arab world. Neither people in the West or in the Arab world are fully convinced of the objective of military intervention.

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