China, in its efforts to fuel the economic take-off and expand its global influence, is breaking new ground in recent chapters of the conflicting geopolitical scenario of the Middle East by again applying massive doses of pragmatism to foreign policy. Concerned about the oil supply and the destinations of its investments, the Chinese government acrobatically ignores rivalries in the region, avoids choosing sides in historic disputes and sets up a wide range of alliances, to achieve strategic goals. and escape the traps of the Middle East. .
The conflict of opposition to the Iranian theocratic regime against its regional enemies, Israel and Saudi Arabia, allies of the United States, appears as a brilliant illustration of the Chinese approach. The Manichean logic of the Cold War, transplanted today, would suggest an automatic alignment from Beijing to Tehran, but leader Xi Jinping, following a 21st century compass, sews ties with all relevant figures on the local board.
Last year, China and Iran implemented steps of rapprochement in the economic, political and military fields. Lenses accustomed to the bipolar world rushed to stick in Beijing an inevitable course of antagonism with Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Chinese foreign policy, however, ignores the trap and implements a momentary approach to Iran, but without deviating from a road map determined by strategic interests, responsible for a holistic view of the Middle East.
As the world’s leading importer of oil, China is looking for suppliers regardless of its political or religious side. The planet’s second largest economy also has a strategic interest in keeping sea routes, like those in the Persian Gulf, free from turbulence or blockages to strangle international trade and oil flows.
Xi Jinping, in 2013, announced a central pillar of his foreign policy, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The strategy, supported by the abundance of Chinese capital, is to travel the world investing primarily in infrastructure, such as ports, airports and railways.
In the BRI cartography, the Middle East presents colors of exceptional geographical and historical importance, as a bridge for Chinese trade with Europe, a flow already verified centuries ago with the famous Silk Road. Beijing is gaining regional weight by investing in Israeli ports, skyscrapers in Egypt, petrochemicals in Saudi Arabia and telecommunications in Iran.
In early 2016, six months after the signing of the controversial nuclear deal between world powers and the Iranian regime, Xi Jinping landed in the Middle East to reaffirm his options. The tour started in Saudi Arabia and ended in Iran, a clear demonstration of the tactics of flying over regional rivalries.
The recent rapprochement between Beijing and Tehran has met short-term needs. Faced with the policy of “maximum pressure”, diplomatic and economic, imposed by the Trump administration, the Iranians wanted to report an exhaust valve, represented by China.
The Asian giant, on the other hand, has also used the greater flirtation with Iran to show Israelis and Saudis’ dissatisfaction with its support for the measures against China. implemented by Trump’s foreign policy, determined to isolate Beijing.
The Middle East, recently accustomed to a bipolar logic typical of the Cold War, is beginning to live with a more complex scenario, redesigned mainly by the calculations of China. An opportunity to review concepts in one of the most turbulent regions on the planet.
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