Xi Jingping visits the Middle East majors
The news that President Xi will visit Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt next week signals major features of China’s foreign policy.
China has long been a supporter of a deal with Iran to end nuclear weapons development options and to end sanctions and threats. China’s approach was, ultimately, born out. China will be focusing on taking steps to reintegrate Iran back into global and regional trade. There will be much to talk there about the New Silk Roads and the key role of Iran. While some see this as a time when China might seek to pull Iran their way, that is not really the Chinese style. President Xi will seek to develop clear pathways for greater integration and trade.
China will focus on creating a positive agenda and not involve itself in trying to blunt the approaches of others.
China will also persevere with a collegiate approach with Iran to the Syrian question, which also involves Bahrein and Yemen. The major Sunni nation in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, and the leading Shia nation, Iran need to find benefits from a peaceful approach to the Syrian question, and to the wider development of peace and trade in the Middle East, to break out of 1000 year old vice of religious conflicts and territorial clashes. The New Silk Roads can be the key to this new dawn if China can help them see the positive potentials as a motivator for change.
In both Saudi Arabia and Iran, China is the largest buyer of their oil, and both will want to keep that business, which has shown signs of waning as China understandably wants to avoid dependency on a war torn region. Both nations should want to convince President Xi that the Middle East can lead with the oil supplies and the New Silk Roads. Both nations might develop a clearer understanding of shared future agendas through the conversations with President Xi.
Egypt is the key to European connection to Africa through the Suez Canal, and it is the land connection from Eurasia to Africa. It also dominates North Africa and is trying to maintain its economy and society after several years of internal strife. President Xi will seek to establish greater agendas for development of trade but also for assistance in developing routes from Asia to Africa and Africa to Asia. China has been the main contributor to African GDP growth and will seek to enhance that with Egypt.
Syrian peace based on self-determination is a priority for China in helping the Syrian people escape the strife that has engulfed them since the attempt to overthrow Assad started. China has trade and geopolitical agendas, but it is also a signal that China’s agenda for global peaceful and sustainable development is backed by real actions. The visit is an indicator of China’s future role that bilateral discussions will continue to be a main feature of the President’s visit, but it will also contain a strong content of regional and global agendas. 5 years ago that would not have been the case. We are seeing the continuing emergence of China as a global nation.
The UK has a new role with China in developing a global agenda. The recent visit to Beijing of foreign secretary Hammond will have shown this new vista.