China’s position in the Middle East to support a multipolar international system


The Chinese strategy in the Middle East and the world is summarized through the principle of the economy leading politics, which was evident through the success of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative in strengthening the inevitable Chinese political presence in the region according to its economic initiative of the Belt and Road, so it has become very reliable to enhance China’s political presence in the East  Middle East, especially in conflict countries in the region, such as Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen.  Here, China presents itself as a major player in the Middle East region, within the framework of a system in which all international powers, with the exception of the United States of America, seek to be a multipolar international system. Chinese intervention in the region is no longer an issue of choice, in fact, for Beijing. Rather, it has become a matter of necessity to protect its interests, with China obtaining more than half of its oil imports from the Middle East and Iran, most of which come from the Arab Gulf states. Therefore, China’s strong desire to consolidate and expand its trade relations in the region comes as a first cover for intense security and political involvement.  This growing Chinese presence in the Middle East region through its Belt and Road initiative came to support and strengthen China’s policy of advancing westward as a national security strategy for Beijing that allows it to achieve an internal regional balance by heading east and west to penetrate the depth of the US naval encirclement policy in the Indian and Pacific Oceans or the Indo-Pacific region in the American sense and Asia Pacific in the Chinese sense. Hence, China has already begun to implement large-scale infrastructure projects for the reconstruction of Iraq and Syria after the Islamic State of ISIS, and to link both Iraq and Syria with the new Chinese Silk Road with China’s keenness to participate through United Nations peacekeeping forces in Lebanon, and to appoint a number of Chinese military advisors in Syria.

 And after China approved the first anti-terrorism law in the Chinese state in December 2015, this paved the way for active military participation in anti-terrorism missions at home and abroad, especially in the Middle East. Therefore, China’s support for Iraq’s efforts in its war against the “ISIS terrorist organization” came through the exchange of information and the provision of training between Beijing and Baghdad.  In addition, China’s military cooperation with Iran expanded, with the two countries conducting several joint military exercises.  China also held joint military exercises to combat terrorism with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the Chinese city of Chongqing, followed by the UAE and other Arab countries.

 Hence the Chinese President Xi Jinping’s pledge in July 2018 to pump $23 billion in aid loans to several Arab countries, in a move that reflects a broader Chinese involvement in political files in the Middle East through the portal of foreign investment and humanitarian aid.  The Chinese president told a conference attended by representatives of 22 Arab countries in the Chinese capital, Beijing, in July 2018, that the Chinese loans to them will be allocated for projects that will provide good job opportunities and will have a positive social impact in several Arab countries that have needs for reconstruction, such as: (Iraq, Palestine, Syria and Yemen).  Here, Beijing, at the height of the Syrian war, expressed its willingness to help reach a political solution and formed, alongside Moscow, an opposition front within the Security Council to draft American and European resolutions against the Syrian regime, which at that time marked the beginning of a strong Chinese openness to regional and international issues in the region.  Hence the Chinese focus on exploiting the weaknesses of American influence in the region as a result of the failed American war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the failure to find a settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the popular anti-American position throughout the Arab world, in order to limit American influence and expand the sphere of influence.  Chinese in it.

 In the face of intertwined and complex disputes and conflicts in the Middle East region, China is actively playing its role as a major responsible country, and seriously applying (the new Chinese concept of common, integrated, cooperative and sustainable security), by working to strengthen cooperation and coordination with Arab countries, to push for a political solution to hotspot issues in the region, especially the Palestinian issue. Here, this includes China’s security involvement in the region, which is the continuous Chinese support for the positions of the “Arab League” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  China was also able to secure a large place for itself in the Middle East as a mediator with great global influence, which threatened US hegemony in the region. Beijing’s success in restoring relations between the two regional rivals: Saudi Arabia and Iran, and their agreement to reopen the two embassies after seven years of estrangement, is tantamount to diplomatic success and major Chinese security involvement in the region, and a real threat to US hegemony in the Middle East and the Arabian Gulf.

 China has already moved towards many countries in the region within the framework of its Belt and Road initiative, especially its calculated strategic move towards Lebanon and the Chinese acquisition of huge economic projects in it, as part of Beijing’s broader path to enter the depth of the Middle East region, after the appeal of the Secretary-General of Hezbollah, “Hassan  Nasrallah” in November 2019 to China to save Lebanon, whose economy is suffering from a great deterioration.  That Chinese support has also extended to Syria and President Bashar al-Assad, where Russia has long sought Chinese support for Syria’s reconstruction.  The Chinese government also appointed its special envoy for the Syrian issue in 2016, who worked to contact all parties concerned with the Syrian issue and made great efforts to advance peace negotiations between the conflicting parties, which contributed to Chinese wisdom and solutions in resolving the Syrian issue.  Chinese influence has also extended at the present time to other circles such as Jordan, especially with China signing an agreement for the construction and maintenance of the (Jordanian nuclear reactor), which can be considered as a big and important step from my point of view to strengthen the Chinese presence in all countries of the region.  The pace of military relations between China and the countries of the region has also increased, through China’s provision of many new weapons systems to the countries of the Middle East, even if on a small scale.  China has also worked through the Chinese People’s Liberation Army to provide military training for the Saudi army, and the same has been done with the UAE army.

  Even on the cultural level, China’s commitment to cultural cooperation with all countries of the Middle East within the framework of what is known as soft power complemented its previous efforts in the circle of security and political engagement in the Middle East, which was evident from China’s participation in many cultural and academic initiatives in the region, such as  (Chinese-Arab Year, the Chinese-Arab Research Center, the “Silk Road Book Translation” program, exchange programs for researchers, scholarships for Arab students and artists to visit and study in China), and others.  China has also put forward several practical initiatives in the concept of (global and regional security), foremost of which is the “Global Security Initiative” in April 2022, which stipulates respect for and takes into account the interests of all parties, and it declares from time to time that global security cannot be reached without achieving  Security in the Middle East region mainly.

 Hence, we reach an important conclusion that there are significant signs of changes in Beijing’s massive participation in the Middle East region under the administration of President “Xi Jinping” and its continuity in the new era, which is what China tried to implement after the success of the Twentieth National Conference of the ruling Communist Party in Beijing in  October 16, 2022, by playing a more credible and trusting role with all concerned parties in the Middle East.  Maintaining “balanced relations” with everyone, and steadfastly pursuing a peaceful and independent foreign policy, as well as affirming the approach of non-interference in the internal affairs of any other country, and its history being free from colonialism or interference in the affairs of the Middle East.  Therefore, all the countries of the region view it as a provider of security solutions when seeking to establish peace between the countries of the region, which was the culmination of Beijing’s diplomatic success through the completion of the Saudi-Iranian reconciliation in the region.

Dr.Nadia Helmy
Dr.Nadia Helmy
Associate Professor of Political Science, Faculty of Politics and Economics / Beni Suef University- Egypt. An Expert in Chinese Politics, Sino-Israeli relationships, and Asian affairs- Visiting Senior Researcher at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES)/ Lund University, Sweden- Director of the South and East Asia Studies Unit