China in the Middle East: Expanding Political Clout and Maritime Space

Despite being a relatively new entrant in the Middle East, China, with its ambitious leadership and ever-expanding range of interests, (not least amongst which remains the security of its energy supplies from the region), has now begun to pay consistent attention to this transcontinental area.

This attention is currently being represented through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and is being sold heavily as a mutually beneficial arrangement under which China supports infrastructure development in the Middle East and contributes to anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, while sourcing a large volume of its energy supplies from the region in return. However, China’s involvement in this part of the world is considerably more complex than the numbers from such economic engagements let on.

This essay focuses on two key aspects of Chinese activity in the Middle East — the political, and the maritime, and also occasionally touches upon the intersection between these two domains. From a political point of view, China’s objective is to undermine or dilute the US influence by offering itself as an alternative fulcrum around which the regimes of the region can gather. At the same time, China has enough resources and diplomatic skill to ensure that the countries of the region toe the line on a number of issues that Beijing deems sensitive. Meanwhile, it also appears that many of China’s political and economic investments in the Middle East are strongly correlated to its maritime objectives of extended access and control.

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This article was originally published as Jabin T. Jacob, ‘China in the Middle East: Expanding Political Clout and Maritime Space’, National Maritime Foundation, 10 May 2019.

 

China and National Security – the BJP’s 2019 Election Manifesto

For a party that claims to be the best defender of India’s national security interests, it is strange that the Bharatiya Janata Party does not have a separate dedicated document on the subject of national security like the Congress does.

The BJP’s election manifesto, ‘Sankalp Patra’, mentions China all of once – while referring to the Russia-India-China trilateral framework for multilateral cooperation in the same breath as the Japan-America-India trilateral.[1]

China, does, however, appear by implication in a number of instances Continue reading

Listing Masood Azhar as Global Terrorist: China Helps India to a Pyrrhic Victory

In an age of extremes, of hyperbole, and of tall promises, a headline announcing that getting Pakistani terrorist Masood Azhar sanctioned by the UN’s 1267 Committee is a ‘big’ diplomatic win for India[1] should not be surprising. It would however, be worrying if Government of India officials or responsible political leaders were to also parrot this line.

India’s Permanent Representative to the UN was calm in his tweet declaring that Azhar had been designated a terrorist.[2] Finance Minister Arun Jaitely, however, at a press conference on behalf of the ruling BJP could not resist taking potshots at the opposition Congress, criticizing it for asking, “what is the big deal?” and went on to call the listing ‘badi kootnitik vijay’ (big diplomatic victory).[3] Continue reading

China and National Security – the Congress’ 2019 Election Manifesto

National security, like other issues of national importance, is seldom determined by the actions of any one government administration alone. Both failures and successes trace their roots to strategies and policies developed and actions implemented over time by successive governments.

While national security deserves a place in the electoral discourse, in the present elections it has been reduced to simplistic binaries and an unhealthy focus on Pakistan. China has undoubtedly been a major beneficiary of this proclivity of Indian politicians and people to get carried away by emotion and prejudice.

It is only the Indian National Congress so far that has come out with a full-fledged ‘Plan on National Security’. Continue reading

The Second BRI Forum: Signaling Change?

China hosted the 2nd Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing from 25 to 27 April 2019 with a few dozen heads of state/government and of international organizations in attendance. Seen as a key event of the Chinese diplomatic calendar, international participation at the BRI Forum is seen by Beijing as some sort of validation of its attempts at regional and global leadership using the mantra of economic growth through infrastructure development.

This infrastructure development provided by Chinese enterprises around the world has come under increasing scrutiny since the launch of the BRI in 2013 and the Chinese appear to have used the 2nd Forum both as a sort of reality check for themselves as well as a fresh attempt to convince countries hosting BRI projects and those not yet on board that there is still much on offer.

Problems with Chinese Infrastructure Continue reading