Over the course of many years in the past, China has always been viewed as a power-hungry nation, that will stop at nothing to gather as much territory and geo-political influence it can for itself, by any means possible. This aim was spurred further by the initiation of its Belt and Road Initiative, that got countries like Pakistan and China to surrender key point of maritime trade and control to China, allowing it to expand its regional autonomy on water, as compared before to land.
However, China is now playing a dangerous new game. Even after the world knows about what China does to countries that take its debt, China has been slowly expanding its influence in West Asia, with countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Israel. All these countries are at somewhat odds with each other, and are extremely important points of interest to the US. Given the gravity of the situation, two questions arise: How did China accomplish such things, and what do these things mean for the rest of the world?
For us to decode what these things would mean for the world, we must decode what they mean for China and its new partners in West Asia. China, over the past few years, has been engaging in continuous undercover negotiations with such Middle Eastern nations, and has successfully pulled off deals that many countries before it, like the USA or the UK, failed to do so.
China’s deal with Saudi Arabia is not one of less concern. Saudi Arabia has always been an importer of ballistic missiles over the past few years, but now with China’s help, they have seemed to be engaging in building their very own arsenal of ballistic missiles, all because of the help supplied to them by China. This information has been confirmed, since satellite scans showcase the presence of an operating ‘burn pit’ that is used to burn off the remaining propellant used for the manufacturing of ballistic missiles.
Earlier in this year during November, the Biden Administration had approved a deal worth $650 million, which involved the sale of 280 air-to-air missiles to Saudi Arabia. This deal was completed under the objective of ending the conflict in the country of Yemen, which included missiles, as well as 596 missile launchers, alongside US Government contractor engineering and support facilities. Given the Trump Administration’s friendly ties with Riyadh, this deal was passed off by the succeeding government with not much effort, since both the administrations tend to agree on Saudi Arabia being the country’s counterweight against any actions taken by Iran in the Middle East.
Given Saudi Arabia’s importance to the US, this deal with China rings all of the alarm bells that the US has installed, because such a deal means lesser dependence on the US for its defence needs, and lesser influence of the US over Iran in the Middle East, not to mention its dependence on oil from Saudi Arabia to meet its requirements for central heating.
Despite of USA’s approach to reduce dependence on western oil, it still needs to maintain a foothold in the Middle East, just in case things go sour. China, on the other hand, imports 48% of its oil requirements from Saudi Arabia, which is well worth over $78 billion. With this amount of money, China has enough clout in the Middle East to spread its influence and even format the narrative of incidents in the region to its benefit, which is all thanks to the USA’s hasty departure from Afghanistan which created an immense power vacuum, which China is fulfilling right now.
China’s deal with Iran is not one of lesser concern. It is its biggest deal with any country in the Middle East, and an extremely valuable one for the country’s Belt and Road initiative. So, what does the deal say? The deal stipulates that China and Iran enter into a joint-cooperation period for a duration of 25 years, over the course of which China will invest a staggering $400 billion in Iran as part of its Belt and Road Initiative, and in return would receive oil at a discounted rate over the duration of those 25 years.
This deal is critical for the success of China’s BRI initiative, since Iran is the sweet spot on the Silk Road. Iran successfully links Central, West and South Asia and hence acts as a focal point for China to complete its BRI projects, creating a single belt of roads, railways and a network of sea ports and airports to fulfil its trade requirements, and allow it to dominate the region. And given the country’s proximity to the African continent, it furthers China’s ambition to involve African nations under its BRI initiative, some of which are already part of it.
China has its footprints in the African continent already, with a military base in Djibouti, and infrastructure deals involving the building of railway networks, connecting countries like Kenya, Nigeria and Ethiopia, alongside deals in more countries, even the likes of Sudan and Uganda.
Moving on, China’s deals with Israel are not exempt of any suspicion. It’s comically funny how China has been successful in striking deals with both Israel and Iran, two countries that are the sworn enemies of one another. China had invested almost $15 billion in Israel over the period of 2011-2017, and is operating trains, innovation centres, and soon an entire terminal at the Haifa Airport. It had recently bribed Israeli defence companies to illegally provide them with missiles in exchange of bribes that were up somewhere in the millions.
China has even signed a deal with UAE in 2019, amounting up to $3.4 billion, which involves the use of the Jebel Ali port for the export of Chinese goods. What’s curious about this very port, is that it is used extensively by the US Navy, and is the busiest port used by them outside of their very own country.
So, how did China execute such strategically critical deals for itself, when others before it had failed to prevail? Well, for one, the lack of a Chinese track record in the region helped. In comparison to the US or the UK, who have had significant investments and deals in the region for decades in the past, China has essentially functioned as a clean state, and has only promised money and infrastructure to these countries. And since they haven’t pulled any shady stuff like they have with other countries yet, they have been viewed as a power-balancer in the region, which is being used to counteract the dependence of Middle Eastern countries on the West, namely the US.
So, what does all of this mean for the rest of the world? This is something that remains to be seen, since Chinese influence is still in its nascent stages in the West-Asian region. However, even its initial progress has triggered all alarm bells for the US, catching the Biden administration in a do-or-die situation, forcing it to make compromises to ensure its presence in the region it has already invested billions of dollars within, and essentially giving it a run for its money, or well, billions of it.