How China Won the Middle East Without Firing a Single Bullet

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By Ramzy Baroud

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“If oil and influence were the prizes, then it seems China, not America, has ultimately won the Iraq war and its aftermath – without ever firing a shot.” — Jamil Anderlini

Amuch anticipated American foreign policy move under the Biden Administration on how to counter China’s unhindered economic growth and political ambitions came in the form of a virtual summit on March 12, linking, aside from the United States, India, Australia and Japan.

Although the so-called ‘Quad’ revealed nothing new in their joint statement, the leaders of these four countries spoke about the ‘historic’ meeting, described by ‘The Diplomat’ website as “a significant milestone in the evolution of the grouping”.

Actually, the joint statement has little substance and certainly nothing new by way of a blueprint on how to reverse – or even slow down – Beijing’s geopolitical successes, growing military confidence and increasing presence in or around strategic global waterways.

For years, the ‘Quad’ has been busy formulating a unified China strategy but it has failed to devise anything of practical significance. ‘Historic’ meetings aside, China is the world’s only major economy that is predicted to yield significant economic growth this year – and imminently. International Monetary Fund’s projections show that the Chinese economy is expected to expand by 8.1 percent in 2021 while, on the other hand, according to data from the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, the US’ GDP has declined by around 3.5 percent in 2020.

The ‘Quad’ – which stands for Quadrilateral Security Dialogue – began in 2007, and was revived in 2017, with the obvious aim of repulsing China’s advancement in all fields. Like most American alliances, the ‘Quad’ is the political manifestation of a military alliance, namely the Malabar Naval Exercises. The latter started in 1992 and soon expanded to include all four countries.

Since Washington’s ‘pivot to Asia’, i.e., the reversal of established US foreign policy that was predicated on placing greater focus on the Middle East, there is little evidence that Washington’s confrontational policies have weakened Beijing’s presence, trade or diplomacy throughout the continent. Aside from close encounters between the American and Chinese navies in the South China Sea, there is very little else to report.

While much media coverage has focused on the US’ pivot to Asia, little has been said about China’s pivot to the Middle East, which has been far more successful as an economic and political endeavor than the American geostrategic shift.

The US’ seismic change in its foreign policy priorities stemmed from its failure to translate the Iraq war and invasion of 2003 into a decipherable geo-economic success as a result of seizing control of Iraq’s oil largesse – the world’s second-largest proven oil reserves. The US strategy proved to be a complete blunder.

In an article published in the Financial Times in September 2020, Jamil Anderlini raises a fascinating point. “If oil and influence were the prizes, then it seems China, not America, has ultimately won the Iraq war and its aftermath – without ever firing a shot,” he wrote.

Not only is China now Iraq’s biggest trading partner, but Beijing’s massive economic and political influence in the Middle East is also a triumph. China is now, according to the Financial Times, the Middle East’s biggest foreign investor and a strategic partnership with all Gulf States – save Bahrain. Compare this with Washington’s confused foreign policy agenda in the region, its unprecedented indecisiveness, absence of a definable political doctrine and the systematic breakdown of its regional alliances.

This paradigm becomes clearer and more convincing when understood on a global scale. By the end of 2019, China became the world’s leader in terms of diplomacy, as it then boasted 276 diplomatic posts, many of which are consulates. Unlike embassies, consulates play a more significant role in terms of trade and economic exchanges. According to 2019 figures which were published in ‘Foreign Affairs’ magazine, China has 96 consulates compared with the US’ 88. Till 2012, Beijing lagged significantly behind Washington’s diplomatic representation, precisely by 23 posts.

Wherever China is diplomatically present, economic development follows. Unlike the US’ disjointed global strategy, China’s global ambitions are articulated through a massive network, known as the Belt and Road Initiative, estimated at trillions of dollars. When completed, BRI is set to unify more than sixty countries around Chinese-led economic strategies and trade routes. For this to materialize, China quickly moved to establish closer physical proximity to the world’s most strategic waterways, heavily investing in some and, as in the case of Bab al-Mandab Strait, establishing its first-ever overseas military base in Djibouti, located in the Horn of Africa.

At a time when the US economy is shrinking and its European allies are politically fractured, it is difficult to imagine that any American plan to counter China’s influence, whether in the Middle East, Asia or anywhere else, will have much success.

The biggest hindrance to Washington’s China strategy is that there can never be an outcome in which the US achieves a clear and precise victory. Economically, China is now driving global growth, thus balancing out the US-international crisis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Hurting China economically would weaken the US as well as the global markets.

The same is true politically and strategically. In the case of the Middle East, the pivot to Asia has backfired on multiple fronts. On the one hand, it registered no palpable success in Asia while, on the other, it created a massive vacuum for China to refocus its own strategy in the Middle East.

Some wrongly argue that China’s entire political strategy is predicated on its desire to merely ‘do business’. While economic dominance is historically the main drive of all superpowers, Beijing’s quest for global supremacy is hardly confined to finance. On many fronts, China has either already taken the lead or is approaching there. For example, on March 9, China and Russia signed an agreement to construct the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS). Considering Russia’s long legacy in space exploration and China’s recent achievements in the field – including the first-ever spacecraft landing on the South Pole-Aitken Basin area of the moon – both countries are set to take the lead in the resurrected space race.

Certainly, the US-led ‘Quad’ meeting was neither historic nor a game-changer, as all indicators attest that China’s global leadership will continue unhindered, a consequential event that is already reordering the world’s geopolitical paradigms which have been in place for over a century.

Biden Regime’s Hostile Message to China

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by Stephen Lendman

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In early January, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi extended an olive branch to the incoming Biden regime.

Days earlier, head of China’s Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee Yang Jiechi called on Biden/Harris to repair deteriorated bilateral relations under Trump, saying:

His government “is prepared to work with the US to move the relationship forward along the track of no conflict, no confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation for the well-being of both countries and peoples.”

His remarks and Wang’s fell on deaf ears in Washington.

Prospects for improved bilateral relations are virtually nil.

President Xi Jinping, Yang, and other Chinese officials know that hostile policies pursued by Trump will likely continue in similar fashion under Biden/Harris.

The new regime in Washington is highly likely to continue imperial rage against China, Russia, Iran, and other nations free from US control.

In stark contrast to Sino/Russian cooperation, both nations renewing their Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation in pursuit of “ever-lasting peace and win-win cooperation,” US relations with both countries are more dismal than any time in recent decades.

On Thursday, China’s PLA said it’s tracking the provocative movements of the USS John McCain guided-missile destroyer as it unacceptably sails through the Taiwan Strait.

The message of its movements is clear. US hostility toward China under Biden/Harris is unchanged.

According to PLA Senior Colonel Zhang Chunhui, movements of the warship are being closely monitored, adding:

The US under Biden/Harris is up to its old tricks — willfully creating tensions, disrupting regional peace and stability.

Because of a pattern of repeated US provocations, the PLA’s Eastern Theater Command is on high alert.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said the following:

“China has closely followed and grasped the situation of US warships passing through the Taiwan Strait.”

“China will continue to maintain a high level of alert at all times, respond to all threats and provocations at all times, and resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

“It is hoped that the United States will play a constructive role in regional peace and stability, not the other way around.”

Chances of Biden/Harris turning a page for improved relations with China are virtually nil — what its leadership and PLA understand well.

Transit of US warships near Chinese waters have nothing to do with freedom of navigation, the rule of law, and what the US navy’s seventh fleet called Washington’s “commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific (sic.”

These unacceptable provocations are all about showing the flag and Washington’s aim to dominate a part of the world not its own.

Similar provocations occur in the Middle East, near Russia’s borders, and elsewhere worldwide.

Along with endless US wars by hot and other means, it’s how Washington’s hegemonic scourge operates everywhere.

While continuing the US one-China policy, Biden affirmed his regime’s support for Taiwan, calling it “rock solid.”

Last week, Beijing warned Biden that supporting Taiwan’s independence “means war.”

According to the South China Sea Probing Initiative, US warships provocatively sailed through the Taiwan Strait 13 times last year.

Pentagon military flights continue near China’s territory.

Biden/Harris support an increased US military footprint in the Indo-Pacific. 

Days after their inauguration, the USS Theodore Roosevelt carrier strike group sailed through the South China Sea.

A Pentagon Indo-Pacific Command  statement said the “7th fleet conducts forward-deployed naval operations in support of US national interests throughout a free and open Indo-Pacific area of operations to foster maritime security (sic), promote stability(sic), and prevent conflict (sic).”

US imperial aims are polar opposite the above claims.

According to Sino/US relations expert Shi Yinhong, bilateral “confrontation and arms competition will basically remain unchanged as the US will deploy more strategic weapons to the Indo-Pacific.”

While Sino/US military relations remain stabile, hostile Biden regime actions toward China could change things for the worst.

Pledges by US officials to maintain stable bilateral relations can be broken by Washington in pursuit of its hegemonic aims.

It’s why the US can never be trusted, time and again saying one thing, then going another way.

According to US war secretary Lloyd Austin, Biden regime “strategy will be arrayed against threat(s) (to the US that don’t exist), and China presents the most significant threat going forward because China is ascending (sic).”

“Russia is also a threat (sic), but it’s in decline (sic).”

Military expert Song Zhongping said Austin’s remarks indicate US hostility toward China.

The US tolerates no nations free from its control.

Its policy highlights the risk of war against an invented enemy by accident or design.

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