Western observers were shocked to learn on March 10 that Saudi Arabia and Iran would resume diplomatic relations thanks to China’s intercession, Asia Times reported.
China has a negligible footprint in the Middle East by US standards. But China’s influence in trade and technology, particularly, has expanded significantly in Western Asia, enabling Beijing to transform its slow buildup of soft power into an unheard-of diplomatic coup.
Saudi Arabia is a clear winner in the agreement. A suspension of hostilities indicates that Iran and its proxies will withdraw after decades of proxy warfare between Shiite Iran and the Sunni kingdom. John Kirby, a spokesperson for the US National Security Council, stated on March 10 that “any attempt to de-escalate tensions there in the region……is in our interest,” adding that the US welcomes the accord.
But, China’s victory in the Persian Gulf suggests that American efforts to rein in China’s technological and telecommunications dominance have failed. China’s diplomatic activities are significantly influenced by its ability to technologically transform regional economies.
According to a report published in Asia Times, China’s dependence on Middle Eastern energy is the primary reason for its immediate interest in regional stability. Beijing has no interest in a regional conflict that may disrupt the flow of energy. Yet China’s aspirations for the region also take advantage of its economic potential in an expansion of Eurasian infrastructure under Chinese leadership.
Chinese diplomacy produced the Saudi-Iran joint statement, which lauded “the great initiative” of President Xi Jinping, over the previous few months and in broad daylight, much to the amazement of Western commentators.
Turkey, which has expanded ties with both Israel and the Gulf States in recent months, is a vital player in China’s strategy.
Trade figures reveal that China’s exports to important countries in the region approximately doubled over the past three years, highlighting the country’s expanding influence.
The Iran-Saudi accord received cautious hope from certain Israeli observers. Turkey is acting in a similar manner to Saudi Arabia, Seth Frantzman wrote in the Jerusalem Post on March 11. Ankara has been making amends with nations it had previously been hostile to, like Israel and the Gulf. This demonstrates that diplomacy, rather than conflict, is becoming the norm in the Middle East. This has been made explicit by the Abraham Accords, Negev Forum, I2U2 (India, Israel, UAE, US), and other organisations, read a report in Asia Times.
The recent transformation of Turkey from the sick man of the regional economy to a star performer was also taken into account by the Iranian leadership. Chinese trade finance helped the Recep Tayyip Erdogan administration muddle through a currency crisis that had the nation on the verge of hyperinflation just a year before. Chinese exports to Turkey have increased by thrice since 2019.
Turkey, which has the strongest army in the area and has repaired ties with Israel and the Gulf States, offers a counterweight to Iran’s regional ambitions (“How Erdogan Got Back in the Money,” Asia Times, February 20, 2023).
Fewer than 2,000 people work at China’s sole military installation in the Middle East, and there are barely 200 combatants stationed there.
In comparison, the US has 7,000 people at the 5th Fleet’s headquarters in Bahrain, 10,000 at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, 3,800 at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, 2,500 at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, and an additional 4,000 troops in Djibouti, among other locations.
What China has that the US does not have is a strategy to reshape the economy of the region through the use of AI-guided solar power, ports, railroads, and digital infrastructure.
Earlier in 2022, the UAE terminated talks to purchase the American F-35 stealth fighter after Washington requested that the UAE drop its ambitions to purchase Huawei 5G mobile broadband systems. US experts asserted that Huawei’s 5G network for consumers may be used to spy on American aircraft. The UAE preserved the contract it had with Huawei but purchased 80 French Rafale fighters in their place.
An AI-enabled solar energy network is being built as part of Huawei’s Red Sea Project, which was inked in 2019. It will power a city of one million residents.
Last week in Barcelona, the Chinese company dominated the World Mobile Conference. Top American officials were sent to the conference to issue a warning that Huawei’s 5G networks might be used by Chinese spies to collect information.
The United States is asking other governments and the private sector to take into account the threat posed by Huawei and other Chinese information technology companies, State Department’s cyber chief Robert Strayer said in a press conference on March 1. It was Strayer who claimed the company was “duplicitous and deceitful.”
Turkcell, the largest mobile carrier in Turkey, staffed a kiosk inside the enormous Huawei pavilion in Exhibition Hall One to promote their partnership with the Chinese business, which supplies the majority of Turkey’s broadband infrastructure.
US prohibitions on the most cutting-edge computer chips with transistor widths of 7 nanometers or less, according to Huawei officials, won’t have an impact on their global infrastructure business, which relies on established technology that China can produce domestically, Asia Times reported.