Karl Schroeder Policy Update: China-Persian Gulf China's biggest issue in the Middle East is securing the oil and gas that they will need with their continued economic growth. China has attempted to cultivate domestic oil production, but their demand for oil has continued to increase exponentially and it is clear that China will continue to need more and more Middle Eastern oil. China has made a number of big moves to help secure oil in the future. In September of 2004 China signed an agreement with Kazakhstan to establish an oil pipeline worth 3. 5 billion dollars.
Then in November of 2004 China signed a mega-gas deal with Iran that is worth 100 billion dollars, which could increase by up to another 100 billion. This deal entails the annual export of 10 million tons of Iranian liquefied natural gas for a 25 year period. The deal also gives China's state oil company participation in projects such as exploration, drilling and pipeline services. The export of liquefied natural gas requires special cargo ships and Iran is currently adding to its small fleet with continued expansion in the future.
Many thought that China's pipeline deal with Kazakhstan would user in a new era of Chinese foreign policy and help give China a big economic push, it is clear that this agreement was only the beginning for China's economic expansion in the world. It is difficult to comprehend or predict the economic, political and strategic importance of this deal. It is clear that this deal was a major blow to Bush's economic sanctions on Iran. China's cooperation with Iran has extended to political issues as well. After the natural gas deal China said that they would be unwilling to refer the issue of Iran's nuclear program to the Security Council.
This cooperation has been beneficial for both states, China was able to secure oil and gas for the future, Iran gets political support of a major power. China also began cooperating with Saudi Arabia in the 1990 s; in 1999 they signed a strategic oil cooperation agreement opening both states to future economic cooperation. Oil is China's greatest interest in the Middle East, the Middle East benefits from economically by providing China with oil, but many of the Middle Eastern states also want to purchase arms from China. China has moved more and more into arms sales as they have attempted to modernize their military and utilize their military build up. China's arms sales have been the biggest problem for the US-Sino relations. While China's arms sales are a drop in the bucket internationally and their military technology isn't comparable to Western powers, China's continued wiliness to provide Middle Eastern states with arms is a cause for American concern.
The Bush administration hopes to transform the Middle East and China supplying Middle Eastern states with arms could be detrimental to this policy. While China's arms sales maybe contrary to American interests, since 911 support for the war on terror has been the biggest issue in dealing with the US. America needs broad international support for the international war on terror as it expands in its scope. Chinese support for the war on terrorism allows China a little more leeway in their foreign policy. Some believe that China's support of the war on terrorism is an excuse for the Chinese to deal with there own problematic Islamic population.
China continues to further oppress the 7. 2 million Uighurs, (a Muslim population concentrated in Xinjiang) who have preserved a distinct, non Chinese ethnic identity. China was quick to try to link the terrorist attacks to its own ethnic problem. China has attempted to lump these Muslim separatists with international terrorism, and China pushed to have the US view the separatists as terrorists. Soon after 911 China intensified its "strike hard" program against the Uighurs, which includes curtailing religious freedom, and arresting and executing Muslim extremists.
This persecution has earned Xinjiang the nickname as the death penalty capital of the world. In December 2002 the State Department agreed to put an obscure Uighur separatist group on a list of global terrorist organizations. This designation has been catastrophic for the Uighur population, as the Chinese government interpretation of the designation was applicable to all Uighur nationalists. Many experts believe that the Uighurs have no ties to Osama bin Laden and some are not convinced that the group that the US put on the terrorist list (the East Turkestan Islamic Movement) even exists. China can not crack down too hard on the Uighurs or they will risk jeopardizing their Middle Eastern relations. Some in the Saudi government have raised this issue although China has been able to avoid controversy.
Financial and military deals seem to have been deemed more important than the plight of Chinese Muslims. In conclusion China's greatest interest in the Middle East is to secure the oil and gas that they will need as they continue to develop economically. China has cultivated good relationships with Middle Eastern nations and has signed economic deals to assure a continued supply of oil and gas. This cooperation will be beneficial to both parties economically and politically. China also hopes that their continued cooperation with Middle Eastern nations will give them more power internationally and help balance against American dominance. China still fears that the US dominance internationally and continued cooperation with the Middle East could help put China in a greater position of power when dealing with the US.
America has showed concern over China's arms sales to Middle Eastern nations. Chinese support of the war on terrorism (even if it is purely superficial) has eliminated some of this pressure. China's foreign policy continues to evolve and become more proactive. China will continue to pursue its interests in the Middle East and the relationship will continue to develop in the future. Sino-Middle East cooperation will have financial and political ramifications that are difficult to predict. Sources: - web.