Monday, March 13, 2023

There has been a great deal of analysis about the Chinese-brokered improvement of relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran. 

The agreement was seen as a major diplomatic triumph for China, coming as Gulf Arab states perceive the United States as winding down its involvement in the Middle East.

“I think it is a sign that China is increasingly confident in taking a more assertive role in the Middle East,” said Muhammad Zulfikar Rakhmat, an Indonesian academic affiliated with the Washington-based Middle East Institute.

China’s economic interests increasingly draw it into conflicts far from its shores. It’s by far the biggest customer for Middle Eastern energy exports, while the U.S. has reduced its need for imports as the country shifts toward energy independence.

Chinese officials have long argued that Beijing should play a more active role in the region, said June Teufel Dreyer, a political scientist at the University of Miami specializing in Chinese politics.

Meanwhile, U.S.-Saudi frictions have created “a vacuum that Beijing was happy to step into,” Dreyer said.
Absurdly, the Chinese Foreign Ministry published a statement claiming that Beijing “pursues no selfish interest whatsoever..”

Clearly, this is all about Chinese interests - in sidelining the US as a power broker in the Middle East, in extending its own power and influence - solidifying its status as a superpower.

Where does Israel fit in this Chinese calculus? Apparently, as an obstacle.

On Saturday, PA dictator Mahmoud Abbas hosted a delegation headed by the Chinese special envoy for the Middle East, Zhai Jun.
The President referred to the historical relations between China and Palestine, and the Palestinian leadership's keenness to strengthen and develop them for the benefit of the two friendly countries, appreciating the support provided by China to the Palestinian people and their just cause in all fields, stressing that Palestine will remain supportive of China in international forums despite all pressures .

In turn, the Chinese special envoy affirmed the firm and principled Chinese position in support of the Palestinian people and their just cause, and that China, whether during its presence in the UN Security Council or in all forums in which it is present, will remain supportive of the Palestinian people's right to freedom and independence..
As far as I can tell, Zhai Jun is not visiting Israel. He last visited a year ago and briefly said that while China and Israel do not agree about Iran, China "understands" Israel's concerns.

Both China and Israel seek to expand their influence in the region, and in that sense they are rivals - and China is the 900 pound panda. 

In 2021, Zhai Jun published a manifesto of sorts describing China's goals for the Middle East: "China and Middle Eastern Countries: Towards a Brighter Shared Future."  Israel is barely mentioned., only named in the 2,800 word article as an afterthought: "China has by far established 14 strategic partnerships with regional countries and the League of Arab States, and an innovative comprehensive partnership with Israel, adding strong vitality to the friendship and cooperation between the two sides."

Even when the document discusses the moribund peace process, it manages to avoid mentioning Israel by name:
In 2002, the Chinese government appointed its first Special Envoy for the Middle East. Over the past 18 years, five successive special envoys have made more than one hundred trips to the Middle East to promote peace talks and worked tirelessly for resolving the question of Palestine and other issues in the region. China’s Special Envoy for Syria and Ambassador for China-Arab States Cooperation Forum (CASCF) Affairs, two roles created later, have also conducted shuttle diplomacy and contributed their wisdom to resolve relevant hotspot issues. This is another example of how China upholds justice and assumes responsibility as a major country. Such efforts have been widely applauded and supported by the parties concerned.   
China sees an opportunity to exploit the US incompetence in the region under the Obama and Biden administrations and it is exploiting it. Israel is at best a distraction and at worst an enemy in Chinese ambitions to dominate the region economically and diplomatically. 

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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 18 years and 38,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.


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