China’s Growing Influence In The Middle East
When President Barack Obama decided not to attend the ASEAN meetings, many contended his absence opened up an avenue for China to gain an upper hand in Asia.
“However, international politics hardly follows such binary dynamics. Indeed, for many reasons, Beijing’s goal to bolster its position in Southeast Asia at Washington’s expense is very likely to fail,” asserts Benjamin Schreer of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.
According to Schreer, China’s efforts to fill the vacuum may be fruitless because regional leaders understand the reasons behind Obama’s absence; China’s unwillingness to engage in discussions over its territorial disputes in the South China Sea limited its progress; and more nations in the region are adopting a defensive posture against China, rather than an offensive one.
“Finally, US allies appear willing to shoulder a greater burden to support America’s pivot. Australia is a case in point. Prime Minister Abbott just announced his government’s decision to share the financial costs of an enhanced US Marine presence in the North,” he adds.
Asia is not the only region into which China is trying to make greater inroads. As the US “pivots” away from the Middle East, China is pivoting toward it and that, Zachary Keck argues, is a move that should cause Iran to worry.
While Iran has been distracted by what the US is doing, China, a nation with which Iran has few shared interests, has steadily gained a foothold along Iran’s borders.
“In some cases, particularly the Middle East, [Iran and China] are starkly at odds. Consequentially, should Iran avoid a conflict with the U.S. in the next few years, it’s likely to find China to be its most menacing threat in the future,” he writes in The Diplomat.
Furthermore, China is forming stronger alliances with Iran’s foes, most notably with Iraq.
“Iraq is not the only Persian Gulf country with which China is deepening its involvement. For the past decade Saudi Arabia – Iran’s principle adversary – has been China’s top oil supplier. Last year Riyadh provided China with a full 20 percent of its oil imports, and this number has been rising steadily. Both sides see this as a long-term relationship, as was evident when they agreed to jointly build an oil refinery in Saudi Arabia last year.”
Additionally, Ha’aretz reports that China recently sold Turkey sophisticated missiles over the objections of NATO – another sign of China’s growing presence in the region.
While Beijing’s trade in small arms is not a new development, the sale to Turkey is a “major breakthrough for its advanced weapon sales” that is likely to grow as China’s pressing energy needs make improved ties in the Middle East more advantageous, notes the report.