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Beijing is striving to project its economic and military might on a global scale through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which envisions an economic and infrastructure network through three branches. One that would divide Central Asia in two, through Russia to Eastern Europe and through Central Asia and southern Russia to the Black Sea and the Mediterranean; the other branch would be the maritime one, through Africa and the Middle East extending to Europe and projecting to the Atlantic. To guarantee this maritime route, Beijing is advancing its African imperial project and is pursuing military hegemony over Southeast Asia, projecting towards the whole of the Indo-Pacific.
To secure Central Asia, China is counting on Moscow, but to secure its position in the Middle East it needs a long-term policy toward the Arab world. Beijing is getting more and more Muslim politicians to turn a blind eye to the Uyghur genocide and to strengthen ties with China. Beijing’s quick alliance with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, after the disaster caused by the hasty withdrawal of American forces, was a sign of the efficiency of Chinese realpolitik in the Muslim world.
While China moves forward, Biden squanders the Trump administration’s achievements in the Middle East and resumes Obama’s failed policy by aiming to negotiate a renewed nuclear deal with Iran backed by Moscow.
A sign of what Beijing is achieving is that the Council of Foreign Ministers of The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) recently invited Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to its meeting on March 22-23 this year. The OIC has 57 member states, making it the second-largest multinational organization on the planet. In his address to the OIC Wang stated that:
“China will continue to stand firmly on the side of the Palestinian people and support the early convening of a more authoritative and representative international peace conference on the basis of the two-state solution so as to promote a comprehensive and just settlement of the Palestinian issue” (…) “China is ready to work with Islamic countries to promote a multi-polar world, democracy in international relations and diversity of human civilizations, and make unremitting efforts to build a community with a shared future for mankind.”
MENRI TV notes that at the ICO the Chinese held talks on the de-dollarization of international trade, including talks with Saudi Arabia on the use of the Yuan in Sino-Saudi trade.
“In an article, chairman of the Lahore-based think tank Jinnah Rafi Foundation and noted Pakistani writer Imtiaz Rafi Butt discussed the implications of OIC foreign ministers meeting, especially how Pakistan’s role has become critical in bringing the Islamic world closer to China. Imtiaz Rafi Butt’s article is conspicuous for its total silence on China’s persecution of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang province.”
Beijing is increasing its influence and improving its image in the Muslim world. That Pakistan is now almost a Chinese satellite has proved one of its best tools to achieve this. But more importantly, as reported by Pakistan’s The Express Tribune, Beijing is already investing more than $400 billion in nearly 600 projects in the Muslim world with the BRI. This is how Beijing managed to ensure that no one at the OIC pointed out to Wang the Chinese genocide of Uyghur Muslims.
BRI’s investments in the Muslim world are a key part of the long-term strategic effort to improve Beijing’s position. It is within that stable long-term strategic framework that China’s intense diplomatic activity in the Middle East seeks to capitalize in the short term on growing Arab dissatisfaction with the Biden administration’s misguided policies.
Guillermo Rodríguez is a professor of Political Economy in the extension area of the Faculty of Economic and Administrative Sciences at Universidad Monteávila, in Caracas. A researcher at the Juan de Mariana Center and author of several books // Guillermo es profesor de Economía Política en el área de extensión de la Facultad de Ciencias Económicas y Administrativas de la Universidad Monteávila, en Caracas, investigador en el Centro Juan de Mariana y autor de varios libros