China Pivots: Chasing the dragon in the Middle East and beyond
China’s stated goal is to be number one in the world. As ‘President-for-Life’ Xi Jinping promised in his 2017 speech to the 19th CCP Congress, China will become
“A global leader in terms of composite national strength and international influence. China will build a stable international order where China’s national rejuvenation will be realized.”
The year Xi mentioned for these achievements to be realized is 2049. One generation from now.
As China grows so does its need for resources. Oil, gas, uranium, timber, and minerals are priorities for the Chinese government’s resource procurement programs. China seeks preferential access to locations that will supply these resources and offers investment and loans to countries, especially developing countries, in exchange for their companies building infrastructure, controlling transportation routes as well as supply.
China exerts leverage economically, politically, and even militarily on producer countries it considers integral to its continual plans for expansion.
China’s focus is clear
While there are vacillating policies and leadership in the United States regarding the Middle East and Central Asia, China’s focus is clear. China’s ambition is to create a global network of partnerships centered on China. They want to replace and disrupt the U.S. system of political, military, and economic alliances.
China is financing massive transportation infrastructure projects to ports and inland as part of the “Silk Road Economic Belt “and their “21st Century Maritime Silk Road”. Their Belt Road Initiative (BRI) reach is extensive.
“BRI is now a truly global endeavor: thirty-nine countries in sub-Saharan Africa have joined the initiative, as well as thirty-four in Europe and Central Asia, twenty-five in East Asia and the Pacific, eighteen in Latin America and the Caribbean, seventeen in the Middle East and North Africa, and six in South Asia. These 139 members of BRI, including China, account for 40 percent of global GDP. Sixty-three percent of the world’s population lives within the borders of BRI countries.”
China’s Maritime Silk Road plans to incorporate their current strategy of using US Naval strength to patrol sea lanes without contributing to security costs. This is known as the “Free Rider issue”. China is benefitting from American protection of oil shipping lanes from the Persian Gulf.
China has maintained a public profile of “non-interference” in MENA (Middle East and North Africa) politics and conflicts. Even as the Gulf States continue their alliances with the United States for the security of their petroleum industry and export transport.
Other countries benefit from the U.S. military presence on land and in the sea lanes.
China is happy not to share in any costs or to be seen as taking sides or promoting any leader, whether this is in Syria, Iraq, or Iran.
Their official policy is to ‘promote stability in the region’ the same stated policy of the United States and the United Kingdom over many decades.
China’s current push concentrates on building its own unique relationships in the petroleum-rich countries of the Middle East and Northern Africa while diminishing the United States’ influence in the region. The so-called “20 Billion-Plus Club” includes countries that have Chinese investment or construction projects which exceed that number in U.S. dollars.
The members with the greatest investments are Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, and Algeria. China has been investing in Israel for a number of years.
All these countries can supply China with the fuel and products it needs.
China’s Top Providers of Imported Crude Oil
Below are the top 15 countries that supplied 90.1% of the crude oil imported into China during 2019. (accurate figures for 2020 are not yet available)
Saudi Arabia: US$40.1 billion (16.8% of China’s total imported crude oil)
Russia: $36.5 billion (15.3%)
Iraq: $23.7 billion (9.9%)
Angola: $22.7 billion (9.5%)
Brazil: $18.5 billion (7.8%)
Oman: $16.4 billion (6.9%)
Kuwait: $10.8 billion (4.5%)
United Arab Emirates: $7.3 billion (3.1%)
Iran: $7.1 billion (3%)
United Kingdom: $6.3 (2.7%)
Congo: $5.54 billion (2.3%)
Malaysia: $5.5 billion (2.3%)
Colombia: $5.4 billion (2.3%)
Libya: $4.8 billion (2%)
Venezuela: $4.4 billion (1.9%)
Together, five of China’s leading crude petroleum suppliers (Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iraq, Angola plus Brazil) generated well over half (59.3%) of the overall Chinese crude oil imports for 2019. China’s top 10 crude petroleum providers supply approximately four-fifths (79.3%) of its imported crude oil.
Meanwhile, the current Biden-Harris administration is implementing controls and disincentives for maintaining and/or developing the U.S. petroleum industry.
The Biden administration immediately shut down the Keystone Pipeline.
Further imposing a moratorium on future oil and gas drilling permits. They also implemented a ban on fracking on federal lands, restrictive methane emissions levels, ceased further offshore exploration and drilling and over-regulated the coal industry. These were just a few of the executive orders and edicts signed in the first 100 days of this new administration.
Meanwhile, China has been pumping up its fossil fuel suppliers. China invited Saudi Arabia’s Mohammad bin Salman to visit in February 2019. China welcomed bin Salman as their “good friend and partner”.
Several multimillion-dollar deals between China and the Saudis were signed. Exact details were not released to the public. Reports of cooperation between the two countries to search and mine uranium are congruent with Saudi Arabia’s public declaration concerning a program to construct sixteen civilian nuclear reactors over the next twenty years at a cost of more than $80 billion.
The fact that domestic sources of uranium could be used and converted into weapons programs was raised by former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The presence of Chinese geologists in Saudi deserts sets off alarm bells for many China observers but apparently not for the current President or Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Both men have had ties with Chinese government energy “companies” since their close association as colleagues during the Obama years.
Joe Biden, Blinken, Ms. Avril Haines (Director of National Intelligence), and Press Secretary Jen Psaki have all worked with WestExec Advisors – a company founded by Antony Blinken.
“Founded in 2017, WestExec boasted of deploying its deep government connections on behalf of its clients, pledging to bring “the situation room to the board room,” and promised first-hand knowledge and government access to clients. The firm has dabbled in an array of consulting work, some of which involves U.S. adversaries such as China and Russia.”
Blinken is WestExec cofounder, the former Pentagon official Michèle Flournoy, was a potential secretary of defense. The intelligence chief, Avril Haines, and press secretary Jen Psaki have also done work for the firm.
Moreover, China maintains investments in the energy sector in Iran, Egypt, and Israel. China likes to promote its policies as “energy cooperation”. The cooperation also refers to military cooperation. China seeks to replace the U.S. as the most important security partner/player in the MENA region.
The “China Arab Policy Paper” outline presented during the 2018 China-Arab States Cooperation Forum hosted by Beijing, stipulates billions of dollars will be invested in ports in the Gulf States such as the Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi, and the Jebel Ali Port in Dubai.
China invested billions of dollars to build an industrial zone in the smaller port city of Duqm, Oman. Qatar Petroleum announced a partnership with Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding Group of China, and Qatari Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) is in high demand in China and other Asian countries, including South Korea and Japan.
China channels money via loans offered through the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) launched by China as an alternative to the World Bank. China’s communications companies including Huawei are embraced by many of the MENA countries. China’s Huawei is the cheaper alternative to communications but also the conduit for data harvesting to run China’s nefarious “social credit system”.
Chinatowns in North Africa
“Among other North African countries, Algeria is notable for its robust Chinese presence. Chinese companies have funded or built major projects like the Algiers Opera House, a gift from the Chinese government. China built the Great Mosque of Algiers and a major east-west highway. China even financed a Sheraton Hotel.
At one point, Algeria hosted some ﬁfty thousand Chinese workers. Now a “Chinatown” has emerged in an Algiers suburb.
In Morocco, Chinese companies are investing in a new technology-free zone, and Chinese auto manufacturers have joined their European counterparts in setting up shops in the North African state to build cars for European and African markets.
Most of North Africa’s export proﬁle, [at present] remains far more closely tied to Europe than to China.”
China envisions a shift in the next twenty years. The CCP is counting on the support of leaders in the new U.S. administration to assist them in their “cooperative” partnerships. The Biden administration lost no time in lifting sanctions President Trump so prudently and diligently applied.
China is moving fast to be the center of influence in the world. It seems no other nation at present, is willing to stop the dragon.
About the Author:
Joanne Patti Munisteri lives a ‘different’ life that has taken her around the world. She has lived and worked in Armenia, Ukraine, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Russia, Turkey, Qatar, Malaysia, Ascension Island, Italy, Northern Ireland, England, New Zealand, Egypt, Israel, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Afghanistan, Kurdistan, Iraq, China, and is now working in remote Alaska. She works in the fields of education, health, monitoring and evaluation, research, and training. Joanne is a certified Combat Analyst and Social Scientist. Joanne was also part of the Human Terrain System (HTS) with the US Army, training at Ft. Leavenworth.
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