News / Middle East

    China Gears Up to Play Bigger Role in Middle East Politics

    FILE - Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince and UAE Armed Forces Deputy Supreme Commander Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nayhan, left, talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, center, during a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Dec. 14, 2015.
    FILE - Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince and UAE Armed Forces Deputy Supreme Commander Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nayhan, left, talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, center, during a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Dec. 14, 2015.

    Chinese President Xi Jinping's first official visit to the Middle East next week is a signal of Beijing's intention to be a major player in Mideast affairs, analysts say.

    The Chinese government has not yet announced specifics of Xi’s Mideast tour.  But official agencies in Iran and Egypt say he will visit the region beginning January 20.  This would be the first time in 12 years a Chinese president will visit the two countries.  Xi is also expected to visit Saudi Arabia.

    China, has been signaling its growing interest in dealing with thorny issues in the Middle East. 

    China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi, right, speaks at a press briefing with Syria's Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem at China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing, Dec. 24, 2015.
    China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi, right, speaks at a press briefing with Syria's Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem at China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing, Dec. 24, 2015.

    Beijing issued its first ever policy paper on the Arab world on Wednesday, promising to support Arab governments in their fight against terrorism through long-term security cooperation, intelligence sharing and technical cooperation.  In December it hosted Syrian Deputy Prime Minister Walid al-Moallem, and also representatives of the Syrian opposition.

    Beijing recently sent Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Ming to Saudi Arabia and Iran to help lower tension caused by the execution of a controversial Shi'ite cleric and the attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran.

    The recent moves sparked speculation that China might send its troops to Syria to fight alongside Russian soldiers.  Analysts are asking why China wants to step into a diplomatic mine field that poses serious risks.

    FILE - A bomb is released from Russian Su-34 strike fighter in Syria, Oct. 9, 2015.
    FILE - A bomb is released from Russian Su-34 strike fighter in Syria, Oct. 9, 2015.

    “If you are able to make a difference in the Middle East, you will be regarded as a major country.  China faces restrictions in the Middle East, but it is ready to play its role,” said Li Shaoxian, vice president of Institute of Contemporary International Relations, a government-run think tank.

    But Li says, "Unlike Russia, China has no need or aspirations for a military role.  We can accept anything that is in line with the desires of local people in another country."

    China is worried that disruptive events in the Middle East may impact the thinking in its vast Muslim population.  It is possible that thousands of Chinese Muslims have migrated to fight for different forces in Syria, he said.

    Managing contradictions

    Analysts say there are signs Chinese leaders are determined to get a taste of managing disputes in the Middle East, which it has avoided for decades.  One in particular is its effort to be friendly with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

    “China is trying to strike a delicate balance.  It wants to support the Palestinian cause because this will earn it respect and sympathy in the Middle East. But it cannot turn its back on the useful technologies that Israel can supply,” Daud Abdullah, director of the London-based Middle East Monitor told VOA.
    “We know, for instance, that Israel has been covertly supplying to China the arms know-how it acquired from the U.S.”

    Most analysts believe China will tread carefully, because taking sides in the tumultuous Mideast can have negative repercussions in its own region of Xinjiang, which is a hotbed of Islamic terrorism.  For example, it is careful not to take a stance that would displease Turkey because Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang are Turkic speaking people.

    “I think China is trying to find a political role for itself in the Middle East.  It is difficult for China to stay neutral, but it is going to give it a try,” Francesco Sisci, professor at the Renmin University in Beijing, said.

    Economic motives

    The Middle East is important because the region is one of the three routes chosen for China’s Silk Road program, which is expected to boost the Chinese economy in a big way, Sisci said.

    “Beijing will try to be neutral with regard to tensions among Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria.  But they want China to take a more clear cut stance,” Hichem Karoui, political adviser at the Diplomatic Institute at Qatar, said.

    Li cited three other reasons why China wants to play a major role in the Middle East.  More than half of China’s energy imports come from the region.  It is an important aspect of the Silk Road program, which involves building infrastructure projects across several countries. And it is essential to play an important role in the Middle East to be taken seriously as a major power, he said.

    You May Like

    Russian-speaking Muslim Exiles Fear Possible Russia-Turkey Thaw

    Exiled from Russia as Islamic radicals and extremists, thousands found asylum in Turkey

    US Presidential Election Ends at Conventions for Territorial Citizens

    Citizens of US territories like Guam or Puerto Rico enjoy participation in US political process but are denied right to vote for president

    UN Syria Envoy: 'Devil Is in the Details' of Russian Aleppo Proposal

    UN uncertain about the possible humanitarian impact of Russian proposal to establish escape corridors in Aleppo

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: hassan
    January 14, 2016 6:52 PM
    Like every other nation, China is looking out for it's national interests.

    by: Ricardo from: Brazil
    January 14, 2016 1:12 PM
    China is successfully increasing its economic and political influence in Latin America and Africa. Now came the turn of the Middle East. Probably, soon there will be Chinese missiles, tanks, fighters and bombers in various Arab air forces.

    The acquisition of know-how in the manufacturing of weapons will be beneficial to China however, it might jeopardize the export of such equipment by the United States.

    The most relevant fact in this matter is that as China increases its economic and political influence around the world, the harder it will be for the United States to prevent China to expand its territory.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora