Daily Briefing: CHINA STRATEGICALLY PIVOTS TO THE MIDDLE EAST (September 24,2020)


Xi Jinping: General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, President of the People’s Republic of China, Chairman of the Central Military Commission
(Source: Wikipedia)

Table of Contents:

China’s Emerging Middle Eastern Kingdom:  Michael Doran and Peter Rough, Tablet, Aug. 2, 2020
China Looks to Build Espionage Hub in Iran Under 25-Year Deal:  Simon Watkins, OilPrice.com, Sept. 7, 2020
After the China-Iran Deal, Why is Israel Still Working with Beijing?:  Yaakov Katz, Jerusalem Post, July 16, 2020
‘China Has a Grand, Strategic Plan. We Don’t’: How Djibouti Became a Microcosm of Beijing’s Growing Foothold in AfricaSouth China Morning Post, Dec. 31, 2019

______________________________________________________

 

 

 

China’s Emerging Middle Eastern Kingdom
Michael Doran and Peter Rough
Tablet, Aug. 2, 2020

American policymakers have long assumed that Chinese and American goals in the Middle East are largely complementary. Beijing, so the prevailing wisdom holds, is fixated on commerce, with a special emphasis on oil and gas. “China’s strategy in the Middle East is driven by its economic interests,” a former senior official in the Obama administration testified last year before Congress. “China … does not appear interested in substantially deepening its diplomatic or security activities there.” According to this reigning view, China adopts a position of neutrality toward political and military conflicts, because taking sides would make enemies who might then restrict China’s access to markets.

This oft-repeated shibboleth ignores clear signs that China is very actively engaged in a hard-power contest with the United States—a contest that the Chinese occasionally acknowledge and are capable of winning. In 2016, Xi Jinping toured the Middle East for the first time in his capacity as president of the People’s Republic of China, visiting Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Iran. Chinese propaganda hailed the trip as a milestone. The Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a white paper on its Arab policy, the first of its kind. “We will deepen China-Arab military cooperation and exchange,” the paper read. “We will … deepen cooperation on weapons, equipment and various specialized technologies, and carry out joint military exercises.”

The following year, in 2017, the Chinese navy opened a naval base in Djibouti, the first overseas base it has ever established—a tacit renunciation of the traditional Chinese credo of noninterventionism. Djibouti sits on the southern end of the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, which guards the passage to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal from the Gulf of Aden. On the northern end, only 18 miles away, lies Yemen.

China is advancing on the Middle East with ruthless determination, because the region is of more vital interest to China than any other, aside from the Western Pacific. Indeed, China is actively working to oust the United States from the Middle East—a reality that the American strategic community would overwhelmingly prefer not to recognize, but one that is nonetheless becoming glaringly obvious.

Don’t believe us? Ask the Uighurs, the brutalized people of Xinjiang province, which the Chinese government is actively colonizing by moving in millions of ethnic Han Chinese. The lucky among the Uighurs, who number some 11 million in total, are trapped in an inescapable web of surveillance and oppression. The unlucky ones, numbering perhaps 1 million, are interned in ideological indoctrination camps where they are exploited as slave labor, tortured, and, according to recent reports, subjected to forced sterilizations.

What motive can China have for its ongoing torment of a small ethnic minority, which brings Beijing an ongoing avalanche of negative publicity in the West? Xi’s policy flows, the experts tell us, from Beijing’s fear of terrorist and separatist movements among the Uighurs, who are a Turkic Muslim people with ethnic and religious ties to their neighbors and to Turkey. Whatever the validity of this analysis, it misses the strategic vector, which again points directly to the Middle East. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK– Ed.]
______________________________________________________

China Looks to Build Espionage Hub in Iran Under 25-Year Deal
Simon Watkins
OilPrice.com, Sept. 7, 2020

The next phase of the 25-year deal between China and Iran will focus on a large-scale roll-out of electronic espionage and warfare capabilities focussed around the port of Chabahar and extending for a nearly 5,000 kilometer (3,000 mile) radius, and the concomitant build-out of mass surveillance and monitoring of the Iranian population, in line with the standard operating procedure across China, senior sources close to the Iranian government told OilPrice.com last week. Both of these elements dovetail into Beijing’s strategic vision for Iran as a fully-functioning client state of China by the end of the 25-year period. By that time, Iran will be an irreplaceable geographical and geopolitical foundation stone in Beijing’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ project, as well as providing a large pool of young, well-educated, relatively cheap labor for Chinese industry.

The mass surveillance, monitoring, and control systems to cover Iran’s population is to begin its full roll-out as from the second week of November, after the final agreement on event sequencing has been reached in the third week of October at a meeting between Iran’s most senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and intelligence services figures and their Chinese counterparts. Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, already agreed on the broad plans in July, according to the Iran sources.

“The plan is for nearly 10 million extra CCTV [closed-circuit television] cameras to be placed in Iran’s seven most populous cities, to begin with, plus another five million or so pinhole surveillance cameras to be placed at the same time in another 21 cities, with all of these being directly linked in to China’s main state surveillance and monitoring systems,” said an Iran source. “This will enable the full integration of Iran into the next generation of China’s algorithmic surveillance system that allows for the targeting of behavior down to the level of the individual by combining these inputs with already-stored local, national, and regional records on each citizen, together with their virtual data footprints,” he said. “At the same time as this, China will start to trial its own heavily-censored version of the internet via the Great Firewall of China [that prohibits foreign internet sites], in Iran, and to begin the broad roll-out of Mandarin as a key foreign language to be learned in school, initially alongside English, but then to replace English,” one of the Iran sources added. “By the end of this process, these seven cities in Iran will be among the top 25 most surveilled cities in the world,” he underlined. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
______________________________________________________

After the China-Iran Deal, Why is Israel Still Working with Beijing?
Yaakov Katz
Jerusalem Post, July 16, 2020

In six weeks, at the end of August, a number of international construction groups will submit their offers for an estimated NIS 15 billion tender to construct the Tel Aviv Light Rail’s Green and Purple lines.

This is one of the largest infrastructure projects in Israeli history, meant to connect portions of Gush Dan with the middle of Tel Aviv. What makes the tender noteworthy is that out of the six groups pre-approved to submit proposals, three of them include a Chinese partner. In addition, all three of the Chinese companies are owned by the state.

Why is this important? Because this past week, The New York Times revealed that China and Iran had quietly drafted an economic and security partnership that will see billions of Chinese dollars be invested in Iranian infrastructure projects. The investments are reportedly going to be spread out over 25 years, and will reach a whopping $400 billion.

In other words, while China does business with Israel’s #1 enemy, Israel is doing business with China. One could say that while Israel is reportedly waging a covert battle against Iran’s nuclear program with one hand (think about the series of recent explosions across the country), with the other hand it is giving China billions of dollars that could then make their way to Iran.

One of the groups competing for the tender includes CRRC, a state-owned Chinese company that a couple of years ago won the tender to supply rail cars for the Red Line for a hefty NIS 1.2 billion. CRRC already works in Iran. A few years ago, it signed massive contracts to provide the Iranians with subway cars.

Another group includes CREC, China’s largest construction company. A third group has teamed up with China Harbor Engineering, which participated in the construction of the Ashdod Port. Just a few weeks ago, China Harbor Engineering won a NIS 1.9 billion tender together with an Israeli partner to purchase the Alon Tavor power plant, the first of five Israel Electric Corporation power stations to be privatized. Both of these companies are also in Iran. CREC, for example, is in the middle of building the Tehran-Isfahan railroad project.

And just this past week, Israeli construction companies learned that the NTA Metropolitan Mass Transit System (in charge of the design and construction of Tel Aviv’s infrastructure system) had awarded a contract to a Chinese corporation to construct a bridge in the center of Tel Aviv, a project that could have been carried out by an Israeli construction company but was instead given to China. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
______________________________________________________

‘China Has a Grand, Strategic Plan. We Don’t’: How Djibouti Became a Microcosm of Beijing’s Growing Foothold in Africa
South China Morning Post, Dec. 31, 2019

Above ground in the tiny but strategically located country of Djibouti, signs of China’s presence are everywhere.

Chinese entities have financed and built Africa’s biggest port, a railway to Ethiopia and the country’s first overseas naval base here. Under the sea, they are building a cable that will send data across a region, from Kenya to Yemen. The cable will connect to an internet hub housing servers mostly run by China’s state-owned telecommunications companies.

Beijing’s extensive investments in Djibouti are a microcosm of how China has rapidly gained a strategic foothold across the continent. Western countries, including Africa’s former colonisers, for decades have used hefty aid packages to leverage trade and security deals, but Chinese-financed projects have brought huge infrastructural development in less than a generation.

The construction is fuelled mostly by lending from China’s state-run banks. Spindles of Chinese paved roads have unfurled across the continent, along with huge bridges, airports, dams and power plants as part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s 152-country Belt and Road Initiative.

Overall, Chinese companies invested twice as much money between 2014 and 2018 in African countries as American companies, spending US$72.2 billion, according to Ernst & Young.

“The Chinese are thinking far into the long-term in Djibouti and Africa in general,” said David Shinn, a former US ambassador to Ethiopia who was also the State Department’s desk officer for Djibouti as far back as the late 1960s.

“Djibouti is one node in an economic chain that stretches across the northern rim of the Indian Ocean, from ports in Cambodia to Sri Lanka to Pakistan. They have a grand, strategic plan. We don’t.”

In Djibouti, that strategic plan is all the more evident because of the country’s location at the entrance to the Red Sea, where about 10 per cent of oil exports and 20 per cent of commercial goods pass through the narrow strait right off Djibouti’s coast on their way to and from the Suez Canal.

That location has made it a crucial waypoint for undersea cables, which send data between continents. China’s investment in internet infrastructure here comes as the region surrounding Djibouti is just starting to come online, including some places that are entirely reliant on Djibouti as a transit point for data transmission.

Opening the door to a small room with three servers, Habib Daoud Omar, an engineer who manages the site said: “You are looking at all of Somaliland’s internet,” referring to the autonomous region of northern Somalia. In another room, all of Yemen’s internet. Ninety per cent of powerful but landlocked Ethiopia’s internet passes through the main chamber.

The transformative presence of China on so many fronts has loosened many African countries’ dependence on Western governments for development. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
 ______________________________________________________

For Further Reference:

Is China Pivoting To The Middle East?:   Paul Wolfowitz, The Hoover Institution, Sept. 1, 2020 — From the beginning, the “Pivot to Asia,” announced with some fanfare in late 2011 by President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton, was more about politics than strategy.

‘Negative Peace’? China’s Approach to the Middle East:  Guy Burton:  War on the Rocks, Sept. 11, 2020 – What is China up to in the Middle East? What are its intentions, and do they constitute a threat to the predominant U.S. order there?

Podcast: Michael Doran on China’s Drive for Middle Eastern Supremacy Michael Doran, Tikvah, Aug. 5, 2020 — Last year, a former Obama-era Defense Department official testified before Congress about Chinese strategy in the Middle East, saying “China’s strategy in the Middle East is driven by its economic interests…China…does not appear interested in substantially deepening its diplomatic or security activities there.” This view certainly sums up conventional foreign-policy wisdom, but, write the Hudson Institute scholars Michael Doran and Peter Rough, it couldn’t be more wrong.

Pakistan Hands Management of Strategic Gwadar Port to China South Sea Morning Post, Sept. 2020 — China took over management on Monday of Pakistan’s Gwadar port, en route to key Hormuz Straits oil shipping lanes, in a move which has prompted nerves in India about its fellow Asian giant’s growing strategic clout.

Erin O’Toole: As Prime Minister, I Will Stand Up to China: Erin O’Toole,  National Post, Sept. 1, 2020 — When campaigning to become the prime minister in 2015, Justin Trudeau was asked what country he most admired. The people in attendance at the event looked on in disbelief when he stated that he most admired China. His reason? Trudeau believed China’s “basic dictatorship” allowed its government to move swiftly to implement its agenda.