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Former Ambassador Chas Freeman Opines, Chinese Development Replacing U.S. Wars in the Middle East

Jan. 22, 2022 (EIRNS)—Chas Freeman, a retired career diplomat with the State Department, posted an article on the Quincy Institute’s online publication Responsible Statecraft today titled, “In the Middle East, Impacts of Sino-American Rivalry Remain Minimal,” with the kicker, “Recent regional developments are being driven by local dynamics, not great power rivalry. But China’s role in the Middle East is sure to grow.” He begins: “The gods of war in Washington have decreed that the international situation is now being shaped by two transcendent forces: great power rivalry (especially between our country and China) and authoritarian efforts to dismantle democracy. But trends in the Middle East clearly contradict both this worldview and the U.S. policies that flow from it. To those in the region, the U.S. seems to be combating the China of its nightmares, not the China they observe.”

After reviewing the developments across the region in the past several years, arguing that countries are acting on their own interests, not related to the U.S.-China conflict, he writes:

“Of course, China is now so big economically that it cannot help but be a growing factor in the regional worldview. Between 2000 and 2020, China’s GDP quintupled in size. Its industrial economy is now twice as large as America’s, though its services economy remains much smaller. China has become the world’s largest consumer market and its biggest importer of hydrocarbons. It is an emerging technological superpower in an increasing number of fields.

“One-third of China’s energy imports are from the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council], with the largest portion from Saudi Arabia. Chinese companies buy one-sixth of GCC oil exports, one-fifth of Iran’s, and half of Iraq’s. China has become the region’s largest foreign investor and trading partner. The states of the region want more, not less Chinese engagement. As China takes a lead in global technological innovation, it has become a significant collaborator and customer for Israel’s high-tech companies and a partner in Saudi Arabia’s efforts to develop a domestic armaments industry. Seventeen Arab states have joined the Belt and Road Initiative. Last week, the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, and Bahrain as well as the Secretary General of the GCC were in Beijing to discuss the expansion of their relations with China. They were followed by the foreign ministers of Iran and Turkey.”

He concludes: “Like America a century ago, China has no apparent imperial or ideological agenda in the Middle East. Unlike today’s United States, China does not ask countries in the region to change their political systems and values, punish them for failing to do so, or demand exclusive relationships with them. It has yet to profess opposition to continuing American involvement in the region. Instead, it has suggested the formation of a multilateral dialogue on security issues and, when the time is ripe, a regionally managed “collective security mechanism for the Gulf.”

In short, China proposes to help bridge Iranian and Gulf Arab views rather than impose its own or take sides.

“The United States can cooperate to mutual advantage with China, other rising powers, and the oil producing countries of the region, or it can overwrite obvious interests it shares with China and others with irrational antagonism and pursue a pointless game that no one can hope to win.”

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