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Chatting with my Chinese Friend (6): US, China, and Middle East

Editor: Li Kun 丨CCTV.com

09-29-2015 15:25 BJT

By H. Karoui

"Do you think the state visit of President Xi Jinping to the USA would somehow impact the Middle East?"

Mr. Yu's question did not surprise me. We were watching video footage of the visit on TV in Beijing, while sipping an excellent several years' old Pu’er tea. I said:

"The Middle East, as well as other regions strategically need some kind of agreement between Beijing and Washington. There will be an impact indeed, although it is still too early to assess it correctly. [This talk occurred on the first day of Xi’s visit]. However, observing that much of what has been said for decades about China and the USA, in connection with the Middle East, would look irrelevant today, if not obsolete… I mean all that ranting about the possibility of a confrontation with the Middle East and so on."

"Do you say this because of the friendly relations in China and the USA?"

"Only partly so. Actually, I did not think of this, but rather of state interests. Today, the USA and its Middle East partners must engage China to assure a more active role in that part of the world."

"Why do they need that, asked Yu?"

"The discovery of huge reserves of shale gas in the Green River Formation, which covers portions of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming, maybe would change US-Middle East relations forever. These are said to be the largest known deposits in the world. Recoverable shale resources are estimated at about 800 billion barrels. This is more than triple the proven oil reserves of Saudi Arabia. The USA does not need the Middle East anymore…"

Impatiently, Yu interrupted me: " I don’t see where would China be in this picture…"

"China is the world largest oil importer, Mr. Yu. It is the second largest economy and is even said to have outdone the US in some reports. Trade exchanges with the Middle East have been growing at a fast pace and are still on the rise…"

"So?"

"Arab and US diplomats posted in the region say China is invited to share the burden of securing oil travel through the Arab-Persian Gulf."

Yu pondered and said: "Here comes the question on the costs and impact…"

"You are right. While I cannot answer for China, I know at least what the Arabs of the Gulf think. Costs could be shared, as it has been the case with the USA."

"How about the impact on the population, asked Yu? Is it not better for the Arabs to secure their waters and lands themselves?"

"I agree with you. China should be aware of the flaws that have plagued relations between Arabs, Americans, and Russians. The Cold War has been one of the worse periods in modern history. The Middle East was divided: some with the Soviet Union, some with the USA and the West. It was a time of proxy wars everywhere. China kept away from involvement in any wars, and remained a power for peace. The Western literature on international relations makes it clear that we live in a world of organized chaos… a world of power politics. The law exists, but one feels sometimes it serves the powerful more than small countries, which are obliged to cling to it, though. For they have no other choice. However, with the rise of China to global power, it is not unlikely that such a situation may gradually change."

"How would you assess the change, asked Yu?"

"Globally, and regionally, I replied. On the global scale, China has been faithful to its traditional Five Principles on peaceful coexistence, announced in the fifties of the last century, and reiterated since by every new leader, from Deng Xiaoping to Xi Jinping. The expression {peaceful rise of China} could not have a better meaning. Remember the 5 principles: 1.Mutual respect for each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty; 2. Mutual non-aggression; 3. Mutual non-interference in each other's internal affairs; 4. Equality and cooperation for mutual benefit; 5. Peaceful co-existence. Therefore, if these principles continue to guide Beijing’s behavior in the world, this would highly and positively impact global affairs. China can teach the world a new behavior of global power. The problem is that both the USA and the Middle East hold strong tendencies to push Beijing towards changing its behavior, requesting them to be more involved in regional and global security issues."

"Why is this a problem?"

"Because of miscalculations. Today, in the Middle East, the Arab states that have benefited from an oil and gas bonanza, and US protections, are facing a situation where the latter would gradually  retreat from the role it has assumed so far: that of policeman, granting the safe transfer of oil from the Arab-Persian Gulf to the rest of the world. If this happens - and it would be the case sooner or later - it would create a vacuum that nobody knows exactly what forces would fill up. The USA is not dependent on the Middle East for oil in the same way it has been in the past, which was to a large measure what has determined its policies in that region during most of the twentieth century. In 2014 for the first time, the United States overtook Saudi Arabia and Russia as the largest oil producer in the world. Clearly, the Middle East is losing its geopolitical importance as an oil provider for the USA, although it still remains strategically important. The Americans still hope to construct a pipeline network that would connect the Middle East to Europe, through Turkey, reduces at the same time Europe’s reliance on Russia. Qatar, Iraq and Iran mainly would provide an alternative to the Russia natural gas to Europe, without the costs involved with LNG transportation by ships."

"It is quite complicated, said Yu."

"Yeah, let’s simplify it with  another tea ..."

 

 

( The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com. )

 

 

Panview offers a new window of understanding the world as well as China through the views, opinions, and analysis of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

Panview offers an alternative angle on China and the rest of the world through the analyses and opinions of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.


 

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