25 May 2015
A scan of white papers on multiple foreign policy issues published by the Chinese government is glaring for one thing: the absence of a formulated, conceptual approach towards the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). This is a part of the world that is crucial not only to Chinese strategic and economic interests but also to how tensions in the restless Muslim province of Xinjiang will develop.
For much of the four decades of economic reform that has positioned China as one of the world’s foremost players, the People’s Republic could remain aloof to crises in the MENA region as Beijing single-mindedly pursued its resource and-export driven objectives. That is proving increasingly difficult as tortuous, bloody and violent conflicts threaten to redraw the post-colonial borders of a region that is crucial to a continued flow of oil and through which at least 60 percent of Chinese exports pass.
The MENA region moreover has become home to hundreds of thousands of Chinese expatriates who repeatedly have had to be rescued from escalating violence in countries like Libya, Syria, Iraq and Yemen or who were taken hostage by insurgents or criminal gangs in places like Egypt’s Sinai desert and Sudan. As a result, China has been forced to breach its policy of non-interventionism by establishing ties to opposition forces in countries like Libya, Syria and Afghanistan to hedge its bets in situations of political change.
… James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies as Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, co-director of the Institute of Fan Culture of the University of Würzburg and the author of the blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer, and a forthcoming book with the same title.
RSIS / Online
Last updated on 26/05/2015