China’s rise as an economic giant, combined with its military modernization raises the question of how the country’s power will be used in the future, particularly here in the Middle East.
A hint of what may be in store for this region came this week in the form of an essay penned by China’s former special envoy to the Middle East, Sun Bigan. Writing in the Asia and Africa Review, Sun argued that there is a risk of deeping rifts between China and the United States over influence and oil in the region, saying: “Bilateral quarrels and clashes are unavoidable. We cannot lower vigilance against hostility in the Middle East over energy interests and security.”
Sun’s remarks are disheartening for people of this region, whose territories have long been viewed by outside powers as an arena for power struggles. For many foreign states, the Middle East, despite all of its rich society, history and culture, is little more than an oversized oil well or a contested piece of religious real estate.