Chinese President XI Jinping promoted the expansion of cooperation of Beijing with the Middle East — a region that was once on the periphery of the interests of the PRC. The expansion of trade and investment, the intensification of diplomatic exchanges and the expansion of military ties gradually strengthen China's position in the middle East. If Washington will not take retaliatory action, China can realize its ambitions in the region, incorporating the middle East into the orbit of its economic and diplomatic influence. The USA is still responsible for resolving the most difficult of the middle East task writing Daniel Kliman and Abigail grace in an article for the American edition of the Foreign Policy.
Oil has traditionally served as a connecting link in relations between the US and the Arab States. While the US has reduced its dependence on foreign oil due to the shale revolution, China increased its imports of middle East oil. Global demand for middle Eastern oil grew. Despite the fact that Beijing seeks to diversify its sources of foreign oil, he remains one of the top three importers of oil from Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran.
The huge Chinese appetite in the sphere of energy resources creates conditions for the formation of close economic ties in the region, which can also serve to deter US influence and improve the sensitivity of Arab States to the requirements of the PRC. Indeed, China, as a leading regional importer of energy, it can use appropriate levers of influence. For example, due to a pricing dispute Beijing recently warned that can refuse to import oil from Saudi Arabia.
In addition to energy trade, the economic influence of China in the middle East thanks to its expanded investment. Arab countries seeking to reduce its dependence on oil exports and to diversify the economy by creating new industries, welcome Chinese investment. Saudi Arabia and Jordan discuss Beijing's development plans in the framework of the initiative "One belt and one road".
Saudi Arabia during the state visit of king Salman in Beijing in March 2017 signed a wide-ranging package of trade agreements for a total amount of $65 billion, China and Saudi Arabia have signed bilateral agreements in the oil sector, in the field of renewable sources of energy and space. In addition, the continued Egyptian cooperation with China in the Suez canal. In Oman, China is implementing the project on creation of "industrial city of Sino-Oman" in place of the fishing village of Duqm. The project cost is estimated at $10.7 billion Provided by the construction of a refinery capable of processing 235 thousand barrels of oil per day. At the same time, positioning its engagement with the Middle East as a purely commercial, China has strengthened its economic relations with the Arab States, without jeopardizing the expanding ties with Israel and Iran.
In Israel, China has allocated funds for the establishment of ports and Railways, it has become a growing player in the Israeli high-tech sector. While the US and its allies in Europe, Australia and Japan increasingly view Chinese investment as a threat to Israel, not taking proper precautions, may become the "back door" through which China will have access to the technology necessary to dominate the most important sectors of the 21st century.
Economic relations of China with Iran, for which Beijing is the trade partner number 1, continue to deepen. While European companies were worried about possible us sanctions on their business in Iran, Chinese state-owned investment arm CITIC Group has created for Iran's line of credit in the amount of $10 billion In 2017 trade between China and Iran exceeded $37 billion, yoy growth of 19%. The US withdrawal from the nuclear agreement with Iran and the imposition of sanctions threatens the Iranian business of the foreign company that may lead to reduction of their presence in Iran. However, the threat of sanctions, it seems, does not affect the expansion of China trade and investment relations with Tehran. In the near future, Iran may not be any other alternatives but to cooperate with China.
Growing China's relations with the Middle East are not limited to commercial and financial activities. Beijing intensifies diplomatic exchanges. In particular, the Chinese President toured Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran in January 2016. Later Jinping was welcomed in Beijing by the Saudi king and the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu. China has also demonstrated a willingness to participate in resolving regional disputes. For example, Beijing has provided Syrian President Bashar al-Academitcheskaya support and consistent support for the Chinese media. Israel and Palestine participated in the world Symposium in Beijing. Although it is unlikely that China will ever play a significant role as a mediator in any of the regional crises, its growing willingness to consider regional issues demonstrates the changing perception of Beijing and its role in the region.
In addition to the diplomatic moves, China has bolstered its military involvement in the middle East. The Chinese Navy has made efforts to demonstrate its presence in the vicinity of such strategic points as the Strait of Hormuz, Bab-El-Mandeb and the Suez canal. Since 2010, Chinese Navy ships come into ports of the countries of the cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Persian Gulf and Egypt, Israel and Iran. In June 2017, China and Iran conducted joint naval exercises on the outskirts of the Strait of Hormuz. China ultimately seeks to gain military access to the region, like in neighboring Djibouti.
The Chinese Navy ships
Moreover, China reportedly signed an agreement to open a new facility in Saudi Arabia for the production of military drones. Although there is no hope that China will displace the United States is a key supplier of weapons in the region, arms sales to the middle East creating new markets for low-cost high-tech weapons systems to China, further stimulating Chinese research and production. China's willingness to sell arms to almost any regional entity, regardless of its intentions, can exacerbate regional conflicts by providing countries with the means to conduct war at attractive prices.
For US, it is time to attract the attention of regional allies to the growing participation of China in the middle East. First we need to debunk the statements of the PRC that its activities are exclusively commercial in nature and is not fraught with geopolitical ambitions.
Washington should point out to the Persian Gulf countries and Israel on the nature of the relationship between China and Iran. This aspect is too often ignored. The United States should tell Israel to problems associated with Chinese investment in its high-tech sector.
Amid the growing tensions in the middle East, the United States simply cannot ignore the regional game China. It would be a mistake to let China continue to use their economic opportunities in the region and strengthen diplomatic influence, while the United States bear the burden of settling regional crises.