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Unraveling The Agenda Of China In The Middle East

"China enjoys traditional and solid friendship and cooperation in various fields will all countries in the Middle East." - Wang Shijie.
by Edward Lanfranco
Beijing (UPI) Apr 03, 2006
China's newly appointed special envoy to the Middle East Sun Bigan begins work Saturday with few analysts expecting any immediate change in PRC regional policy. The People's Republic of China goals in the Middle East are driven by one dominant concern: access to energy supplies.

It pursues this policy with moves that are a masterful combination of subtlety and stealth falling off most radar screens.

"I think China's strategic interests in the Middle East are clear to all," said Wang Shijie, the man stepping down after three and a half years in the post.

"China is now pushing forward its reform and opening up policy and trying to develop its economy therefore what we need is a peaceful international environment...peace in the Middle East has a direct impact on this, he added."

The departing envoy stated: "Our strategic interest is for peace and stability in the Middle East." He did not explicitly mention energy security, however little else aside from accessing crude oil and natural gas resources, making arms sales to the region plus obtaining technology transfers with military applications from Israel is of direct concern to PRC policy planners, according to most analysts.

Wang noted, "China enjoys traditional and solid friendship and cooperation in various fields will all countries in the Middle East." He said pushing forward such goals "with countries in that region is where our strategic interests lie."

This week was a classic example of China making noise of little consequence sitting on the fence concerning high profile intractable issues such as the Israeli-Palestinian and conflict in Iraq while continuing to offer quiet stalwart support to energy resource rich rogue regimes in Sudan and Iran.

The Chinese response to the role it sees for itself in the Arab-Israeli dispute and stance on Hamas illustrates this point. The outgoing envoy fielded the questions rather than the letting new official taking up the post say where the PRC position was headed.

Wang began saying: "As to China's role, we are a permanent member of the Security Council" followed by "we shoulder our due responsibility in international peace and stability.

"China has actively participated in all actions that go in line with the U.N. Charter and is aimed at promoting peace in the Middle East region. We also support all international plans or platforms that are conducive to the settlement of this question," he added.

"During my three and a half year term as special envoy, I have made extensive exchanges with many leaders of the countries concerned with them expressing the hope and expectation for a more active role for China to play on this question." Wang said.

He promised China "will continue to make its efforts and work with parties concerned and the international community to promote peace in this region."

On Hamas, Wang said it was a "simple question" with the Chinese government's policy and position being consistent: "we respect the choice of the peoples in the region.

"We are of the view that Hamas' victory in the legislative council indicates public opinion in Palestine and the international community should recognize and respect that." Wang stated.

His hope that "Palestine and Israel can follow relevant resolutions of the United Nations and principle of land for peace while working on the basis of agreements already reached between those parties and stay committed to political negotiation for a peaceful settlement of the Middle East question" was a masterpiece of diplomatic artifice.

Asked to comment on the recent Hamas delegation trip to Moscow and if the Chinese side has had any contact with Hamas or plans to invite a delegation to Beijing elicited a response from the PRC's new man in charge of Middle Eastern affairs.

Sun Bigan's said: "The Hamas delegation visit to Russia was their business. We hope that any actions, including visits, can be conducive to peace in the Middle East."

Saying he was a newly appointed point man Sun stated, "I'm still considering when and what condition for visits involving this region; there is not yet any arrangements as you have mentioned just now."

"But I can tell you two things" he said. "First, in issuing invitations we will respect the practices of a host country; second, I will give positive consideration to any suggestions or arrangements that will be conducive to peace in the region."

Meanwhile other events this week involving Sudan and Iran call into question China's commitment to peace elsewhere in the Middle East.

For now at least, China, a country that once called itself the "Middle Kingdom" enjoys the luxury of sitting on the fence, taking a middle road position in the world's most complex region. Some day, sooner rather than later, it will have to clarify its stance ton the Middle East.

Source: United Press International

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