NASER ALMESHARI WRITES – China’s success in brokering the Saudi Arabia-Iran peace treaty signifies the possibility of its expanding role in the Middle East. Beijing’s initiative in mediating the discussion between the two conflicting countries marks its first significant attempt at establishing a prominent position in the region. China successfully performed the task that the US failed to deliver in spite of its prolonged political and economic alliance with Saudi Arabia. Will China eventually replace the US’ dominating presence in the Middle East?
One contributing factor to success is its relationship with Saudi Arabia and Iran – something the US lacks, in the case of Iran. This allowed President Xi Jinping to establish effective and intensive communication with the leaders of both countries. The Director of China programs at the Asia Research Institute of Nottingham University, Jonathan Sullivan, argues that China began to realize its capacity to put diplomacy and economic prowess beyond rhetoric, signaling China’s growing desire to take a more active role in maintaining global peace.
What China achieved through the mediation may mark a shift in the global political system, particularly the Middle East. Consider this: China managed to conclude peace negotiations between Saudi Arabia and Iran that began back in 2001. China has now established itself as a “reliable mediator”, it would not be surprising to find that it replicates its brokering between other conflicting pairs. Still, we must not jump to conclusions as to its readiness to get involved in, for example, Israel and Palestine or Russia and the Ukraine.
Most of China’s policy and practice initiatives are aimed at maintaining balance in the Middle East by establishing and maintaining positive economic and political relationships with all countries in the region—Saudi Arabia and Iran included. It also seeks to resolve every conflict among countries in the region that may affect its attempt to build a prominent presence in the region. It is still too early to conclude how China’s success may shape the Middle Eastern geopolitical scene, but at least we can expect to see a shift from US-centric to China-centric in the near future. Is this good or bad? Probably it depends on your political point of view.