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Sun. April 14, 2024
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China in the Middle East: Neo-colonialism or mutual benefit?
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Beijing wants to push itself back into the international spotlight, especially now that the global arena permits it to do so. Rewind to Deng Zhao Ping's time in power in the 1970s. Under his leadership, China started to pursue a new approach to interacting with the world system, making political and economic decisions that were more open than they had been under Mao Zedong. Its reliance on a set of concepts, the most important of which is how to interact and communicate with major countries, the neighborhood policy, and the relationship with the United States, allowed Deng's Chinese foreign policy's characteristics to start to emerge.

In the past decades, China has used to distance itself from the conflicts taking place in the Middle East, and to take a policy of neutrality towards its issues and parties as an approach to it, and Beijing has been able to maintain its position throughout the recent period, as it has moved away from the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and it has not been involved in the Sunni conflict- Shiites before, and this balanced policy gave it good economic and political gains with most countries in the Middle East. However, the game has changed when the United States of America during Biden’s administration decided to follow “America First” as they are being reluctant to intervene and engage in the Middle East, and it does not have a renewed vision in this regard, as it satisfied itself with securing its presence in the regions and outposts. And upon that, China has quickly decided to bridge the gap in the middle east by being beneficial to all, as it seeks to create stability and reduce national and sectarian conflicts in the region as much as possible.

By financing the Iranian-Saudi discussions to restore the two nations severed diplomatic and economic ties since 2016, China has lately been able to enjoy the benefits of its impartial stance.  With no doubt, this would improve Middle Eastern stability and lessen power struggles, which would reduce Sunni-Shia conflicts—conflicts that serve no purpose other than torment and division—and give China a prominent position in the international system. This suggests that China's political influence is on the rise in the world, particularly in the Middle East.

It is significant that China's connections with the Middle Eastern nations were restricted to business matters, the values of cooperation and development, and had nothing to do with the political unrest in the region. Beijing, which now has a significant and significant political impact in the area, has the potential to alter the variety of political actors at the regional and global levels. The fact that China has intervened in regional conflicts by putting forth numerous initiatives to find a resolution and offer solutions, including beginning to sponsor talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran, as well as its initiatives towards the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the war in Sudan, and the Libyan crisis, may be what best exemplifies this country's current political role.

But the puzzle here is Does China intentionally willing to implement a win-win situation or to both polarize and to colonize the policies of the Middle eastern countries?

China is using its initiatives to persuade other nations that by working together economically, it is possible to create a new future. America, however, thinks that this behavior is political rather than economic and will have an impact on world security, particularly in the Middle East, which is a significant source of oil.

The astonishing Chinese expansion in the Middle East, which prominently reintroduced itself and started acting as a direct mediator between Iran and Saudi Arabia, is noteworthy. This agreement does not represent Saudi Arabia's replacement of the United States as a strategic ally or a sign of Saudi reliance on China. Instead, this shows how China is becoming a more important geopolitical role in a region where there is a power vacuum brought on by the confused US approach of siding with past adversaries while criticizing old allies in the sake of what Obama dubbed "balance." Ultimately, Washington, not Riyadh, is where the notion that the Saudis should talk to Iran to "share the region" originated. China, not the United States, is currently the only global entity with the power and influence to dramatically alter Iranian behavior.

China, on the other hand, places a high value on the Palestinian problem and will continue to promote peace negotiations. Senior Chinese officials have also indicated that they are prepared to assist in resolving the conflict and facilitating negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and the government of Israel. As a result, the Palestinian side is turning to China after realizing that the US administration lacks the motivation and resolve to negotiate with or exert pressure on the Israeli side. This is demonstrated by the fact that Prime Minister Netanyahu was not extended an invitation to the White House, in contrast to what happened following the reelection of any Israeli prime minister. Despite the Israeli government's objections, Washington preferred to extend an invitation to Israeli President Herzog.

The process of transforming forces that takes place peacefully on the Chinese side will have a positive impact on supporting peace and stability in the region, which seeks to achieve the same goals as China in peaceful and sustainable development. China has weight in the region in light of its extended relationship with Saudi Arabia, as Beijing is the largest importer of Saudi oil, and in light of what is between it and the countries of the region for military, political and economic cooperation within the framework of the Belt and Road Agreement, in which China was able to move forward, even in light of the Corona crisis and other crises. The economic world that the world is going through because of the Russian-Ukrainian war.

Perhaps the United States and Israel will not stand idly by in the face of these changes, and there may be violent reactions from both sides, and perhaps an escalation. However, despite this, and in light of the recent developments, it seems that the American side, at least, is currently seeking calm in light of the presence of a major economic crisis in American banks and the emergence of some weakness in the Biden administration, which is now being felt by everyone, in addition to the strained relations between the Israeli and American sides and the attempt to calm the situation. In the end, it is undeniable that China offered alternatives to the Arab decision-maker considering the new role it plays as a model of responsible power in the region.

Dunia Essam is a fellow, MA Candidate in International Relations and a Graduate Teaching Assistant at The American University in Cairo. She obtained her BA degree with a thesis titled 'Great Powers in the Middle East: The Impact of the Great Powers' Geopolitical Interests in Prolongation of Syrian Civil War’ at Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime. Her career interests lie at the nexus of foreign policies and the middle eastern studies

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