„Ilan Berman, senior vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council, spoke to participants in a September 4 Middle East Forum webinar (video) about significant shifts in China’s foreign policy towards the Middle East and their implications for the United States.
Until recently, China’s interest in the Middle East focused on two areas – importing oil and exporting arms.
That changed when President Xi Jinping came to power in 2013. Whereas the late Deng Xiaoping advocated adopting a low profile in foreign affairs so as not to „make waves“ on the international stage, Xi reoriented Chinese foreign policy in a „more confrontational direction,“ Berman said, „in terms of the unfolding great power competition between China and the United States.“ This included a drive „to supplant the United States as the dominant strategic power in the Middle East.“
Central to this new assertiveness is the Belt and Road Initiative, „essentially a full-court press by China diplomatically, politically, [and] economically to expand its influence.“ It accomplishes this with „infrastructure projects, [and] greater business development and loans“ to governments seeking foreign assistance. This strategy has enabled China to engage with countries in the Middle East, as well as central Asia, Europe, North Africa, and Latin America.“ (…)