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A new Middle East, Party training for Arab leaders, slapping Biden, and isolating Israel
Discourse Power | July 18, 2023
Greetings from Jerusalem,
For the first time since Covid-19 hit, the 4th China-Arab States Political Parties Dialogue was held on July 13th in Yinchuan, the capital city of northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.
Political leaders from 19 Arab countries and from 67 political parties and organizations attended the event, which was co-hosted by the CPC Central Committee's Foreign Liaison Department (CPC-ILD), the Central Party School, and the Party Committee of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, with speeches given by their respective heads.
The goal of the dialogue, according to Liu Jianchao, the head of the CPC-ILD, was to fully implement the significant agreements reached by General Secretary Xi Jinping and Arab leaders at the first China-Arab Summit last December in Riyadh.
The key highlights were discussions on implementing the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), as well as the Global Development Initiative (GDI), the Global Security Initiative (GSI), and the Global Civilization Initiative (GCI) in the Middle East. Notably, Liu stated that going forward the Party would invite 200 leaders of Arab political parties, think tanks, and media to visit China each year.
The following are translated excerpts from Liu's speech as well as that of the Central Party School's vice president, Professor Xie Chuntao. I've added two more insightful translations from Middle East specialists, Ambassador Liu Baolai and SIIS Professor Li Weijian.
Lastly, Taiwan-based journalist Jordyn Haime and I published today an article for the China Media Project on the prevalence of Jewish conspiracy theories on Chinese social media and among the intellectual elite. Read it here.
Thank you for reading,
“We should reject those who wish to categorize civilizations…and impose their own culture and social system upon others”
In a dialogue with representatives of Arab political parties, Liu Jianchao, head of the Chinese Communist Party's International Liaison Department (CPC-ILD), says the CPC and the Arab world should do this more often. Much more often.
Excerpts from Liu’s speech, given on July 13, 2023, at the 4th China-Arab States Political Parties Dialogue:
“In March, General Secretary Xi Jinping proposed the Global Civilization Initiative (GCI) at the High-level Meeting between the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the World Political Parties.
“Its main focus is the Four Shared Proposals 四个共同倡导 that advocate for the:
respect for the diversity of the world's civilizations;
the promotion of the common values of all mankind;
the importance of civilizational heritage and innovation;
strengthening international exchange and cooperation in the humanities.
“China and the Arab world share a lot of common language in terms of civilization exchanges, which is primarily reflected in four aspects:
“A rich and ancient civilizational heritage - Chinese and Arab civilizations have produced brilliant civilizational achievements throughout history, with classic works such as The Book of Songs, The Analects of Confucius, and One Thousand and One Nights.
”We've also witnessed great inventions like papermaking, the printing press, and Arabic algebra, as well as magnificent architectural structures including the Great Wall, the Great Pyramids of Giza, and the Grand Mosque of Mecca.
”Together, we have penned a magnificent epic about the rise of Chinese and Arab civilizations. Because of our ancient and profound civilizations, both China and the Arab world have distinct and far-reaching value systems and philosophies that have made significant contributions to the advancement of human civilization.
“A long history of cultural exchanges - Relations between China and the Arab world date back more than 2,000 years. Since then, the Silk Roads on land have been teeming with merchants and travelers, and the Spice Roads on the high seas have been bustling with white sails. Both routes have become important arteries for the meeting of Eastern and Western civilizations.
”Suleiman's Journey to the East was written by Sulaimn at-Tjir, an Arab merchant who came to China during the Tang Dynasty [in the 9th century]. He described China as "beautiful and fascinating" and the Chinese as “the most skilled in painting, craftsmanship, and all other handicrafts."
“Wang Dayuan (fl. 1311-1350), a Yuan Dynasty Chinese navigator, traveled as far as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, among other Arab countries. He depicted the Islamic holy city of Mecca in his book Daoyi Zhilüe [岛夷志略, which can be translated as A Brief History of the Barbarian Islanders], where "the landscapes are blended with the spring of the four seasons, and the fields are fertile with rice, and the inhabitants are happy with their work."
”Throughout their long history of interaction, China and the Arab world have always been open and tolerant of one another, establishing a model of peaceful coexistence between countries with different social systems, beliefs, and cultural traditions.
“Eastern values that are harmonious and shared - Both Chinese and Arab civilizations share common concepts and pursuits accumulated through human development and progress. We both value peace. In China, there have long been slogans such as "peace is precious," "exchange your weapons for jade and silk 化干戈为玉帛," and "even if a country is big, belligerence will surely lead to its demise 国虽大，好战必亡." The Koran contains over a hundred references to peace, and the Arabic greeting salam (peace) has become a daily greeting. We all advocate for benevolence and compassion 仁爱.
“There is an old saying in Confucius' Analects, "Respect the elderly in the same way that you would your own aging relatives, and treat the children of others as if they were your own 老吾老以及人之老，幼吾幼以及人之幼." Islam also promotes loving others as oneself, giving alms to the poor, assisting those in need, and being kind to others. We all appreciate the pursuit of knowledge.
"If three walk together, one shall be my teacher," said the sage Confucius, and, similarly, the Prophet Muhammad's hadith, "Seek knowledge, even if it is far away in China," has been passed down to this day. We all value people who are balanced and honest 中正. There is a hadith in Islam that says, "The most beautiful thing is that which is right," and the Way of the Mean has been practiced in China since ancient times.
”Such Eastern values of amity and commonality have allowed China and the Arab world to communicate and live side by side in harmony. They have withstood the test of time and serve as the spiritual foundation of China-Arab relations today.
“Tolerance, open-mindedness, and mutual understanding. Both China and the Arab world advocate for global respect for the diversity of civilizations. We agree that differences should not be feared, but rather arrogance, prejudice, and hatred. We should reject those who wish to categorize civilizations into three, six, nine, or nine classes, and impose their own culture and social system upon others, and denigrate their religious beliefs, values, and cultural traditions in other countries under the banner of freedom of expression.
”In the future, we will collaborate with the Arab world to advocate for civilizational exchanges that transcend civilizational barriers, mutual understanding that transcends civilizational clashes, and civilizational coexistence that transcends civilizational supremacy, and oppose all forms of "Islamophobia" and "China threat theory."
"We should all work together to oppose double standards on issues of democracy and human rights, as well as shouting human rights slogans while ignoring the suffering of the people of Palestine, Syria, and Yemen”
“At the moment, the world, times, and history are changing in unprecedented ways, and the Middle East is also undergoing historic changes. The call of regional countries for peace rather than conflict, development rather than turmoil, and cooperation rather than confrontation has never been stronger. The tide of regional reconciliation continues to advance, as does the momentum of Arab solidarity and self-improvement. Regional countries are eager to see what role China will play in the Middle East, and the international community is paying close attention as well.
“I'd like to reemphasize that China's policy toward the Middle East is consistent and clear. We adhere to the principles of non-interference in internal affairs and zero engagement in spheres of influence. We are committed to promoting peace and mediation, and to mutually beneficial cooperation based on the merits of the situation and the fundamental interests of the Middle Eastern people.
“We ardently believe that the Middle East, a rich land with a long civilization, should not be forever labeled as a land of war, conflict, and turmoil. A new Middle East marked by peace and stability, development and prosperity, inclusiveness and harmony is not only the aspiration of the region but also in the interests of the international community, including China.
“We should join hands to implement the Global Security Initiative (GSI) and promote the creation of a secure and stable new Middle East. The CPC is open to working with the Arab side to advocate for a common, comprehensive, cooperative, and sustainable security concept, to actively build platforms for dialogue, and to continue to play a constructive role in the development of a [new] security architecture for the Gulf for resolving regional hotspots, and promoting intra-regional reconciliation.
“When the shadow cast by hegemony recedes, the dawn of peace grows brighter 当霸权投下的阴影变小了，和平的曙光就变大了. We call on the major powers of the world to play a constructive role in achieving peace, stability, and development in the Middle East. They must oppose inciting confrontation between Middle Eastern camps, treating the Middle East as a geopolitical chessboard, considering the region's countries as pawns, and forcing its countries to choose sides.
“At the moment, we are concerned about the plight of the Palestinian people, as do our Arab friends sitting here. ‘Silence on a just cause is tantamount to crying out for an unjust cause,’ 对正义事业保持沉默，等于为非正义事业呼喊 as the Arab proverb goes. We reiterate that the Palestinian issue is at the core of the Middle East problem, and that true peace in the Middle East will not be realized until the Palestinian issue is resolved.
“General Secretary Xi Jinping has recently put forward a Three-Point Proposal for resolving the Palestine issue, emphasizing once again that the fundamental way forward is the establishment of a fully sovereign and independent State of Palestine on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Furthermore, he proposed that the needs of the Palestinian economy and people's livelihoods be protected and that we must stay on track with the peace talks. China will continue to strongly support the just cause of the Palestinian people and will make unrelenting efforts to promote an early, comprehensive, just, and long-term solution to the Palestinian question.
“We should work together to implement the Global Development Initiative (GDI) and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), as well as to promote the development and prosperity of the new Middle East. It is the universal right of all countries to achieve development, not the exclusive right of a few, and it is not our responsibility to tear down bridges and put obstacles in the way of other countries' modernization when we are moving in that direction. The GDI and the BRI are both public goods offered by China to the international community, as well as open platforms for achieving common development and prosperity.
“The CPC is willing to collaborate with the Arab League to promote the GDI and BRI, tap into the potential of cooperation platforms such as "political parties+regions" 政党+地方, "political parties+enterprises" 政党+企业, and "political parties+think tanks" 政党+智库. Furthermore, at an appropriate time, we shall organize a high-level meeting on the exchange mechanism of Chinese and Arab political parties, in order to build political consensus for high-quality development of the BRI. The Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region has a wide range of opportunities for collaboration with Arab countries in fields such as new energy, new materials, and big data.
“We should work together to implement the Global Civilization Initiative (GCI) and promote the creation of a more inclusive and harmonious Middle East. The CPC is willing to collaborate with the Arab side to implement the GCI’s Four Shared Proposals and the "eight major cooperation initiatives" of the first China-Arab Summit [in December]. The goal is to strengthen political and civilizational dialogue on democracy and human rights and to deepen exchanges of governance experiences on the road to modernization.
“Every year, the CPC will invite 200 leaders of Arab political parties, think tanks, and media to visit China. We will continue to collaborate with the Arab world to organize multilateral activities such as the China-Arab Political Parties Dialogue and the China-Arab Young Politicians Forum to promote exchanges and mutual understanding between Chinese and Arab civilizations.
“We should all work together to oppose double standards on issues of democracy and human rights, as well as shouting human rights slogans while ignoring the suffering of the people of Palestine, Syria, and Yemen.” (CPC-ILD's Weibo)
"We want to increase the number of political party cadres and civil servants from Arab countries coming to the Party School for training"
Professor Xie Chuntao, Vice President of the Chinese Communist Party's Central Party School, wants Chinese and Arab politicians to align their policies more closely.
Excerpts from Xie’s speech at the Fourth China-Arab States Political Parties Dialogue on July 13, 2023:
"For the sake of our common future, Chinese and Arab political parties and think tanks must work together to pragmatically implement the important consensus reached by Chinese and Arab leaders.
“The Central Party School (CPS) is the Communist Party of China's (CPC) highest academic institution and an important high-end think tank for the Party and the State. At the 90th anniversary celebration of the founding of the CPC Central Party School, General Secretary Xi Jinping emphasized that the school's unchanging original intention is to educate talents for the Party and offer advice to the Party.
“Over the years, we have vigorously promoted the school's opening, as well as talent and academic exchanges with Arab countries. We have organized training courses for civil servants from Arab countries and exchanges with a number of Arab think tanks. In addition, we have brought in faculty members who are fluent in Arabic and deeply engaged in the study of the Middle East region.
“We would like to use this meeting to broaden the scope of exchanges, create opportunities for collaboration, and make efforts in the three following areas:
“First, cultural exchanges and mutual understanding between civilizations must be strengthened. The treasures of human civilization are the two civilizations of China and the Arab world, each with its own system and characteristics. We will actively engage in multilateral and bilateral dialogues, academic exchanges, and cultural exchanges in order to promote Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics in the New Era and tell the story of China well in the New Era.
“We shall hold in-depth discussions on topics of common interest, and draw wisdom from Arab civilization in order to promote in-depth dialogues among civilizations. We will accelerate the development of web-based exchange and cooperation platforms, improve the quality of "cloud exchanges," and continue to enrich and improve long-term cooperation mechanisms.
“Second, we will share governance experience and capacity building. We will increase our efforts to "go out and welcome in 走出去、请进来"; We want to increase the number of political party cadres and civil servants from Arab countries coming to the Party School for training.
“We are willing to establish regular channels with the Arab side for the training and education of political cadres, research and development of external courses, and the exchange of experience in governance. We would particularly like to share China's experience in development and poverty reduction, health and hygiene, risk prevention and mitigation, and support for Arab countries' modernization.
“Finally, we will expand theoretical research to support scientific decision-making. Prior to the first China-Arab Summit last December, high-level think tanks from both sides engaged in intensive discussions.
“The CPC Central Party School is eager to fully realize its role as a think tank, to take a problem-solving approach, and to focus on the risks and challenges faced by China and Arab countries in the development of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
“We will jointly conduct additional research on regional hotspots and governance issues, as well as provide decision-making advice and references for policy coordination 对接 and formulation.
“To continuously promote practical cooperation on the BRI, we will strengthen cooperation among think tanks, conduct joint scientific research in areas such as country and regional studies, and refine multilateral and bilateral cooperation programs.” (CPC-ILD's Weibo)
“America’s supposed role as a ‘security guarantor’ is being viewed with growing skepticism by Middle Eastern states, and its regional influence is waning”
With cautious optimism, Ambassador Liu Baolai summarizes the region's developments so far in 2023.
Liu is a former vice president of the Chinese People's Institute of Foreign Affairs (CPIFA), a front organization for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He is also a senior researcher at the China Foundation for International Studies (CFIS) and a former PRC ambassador to the UAE and Jordan.
Excerpts from Liu's article, published in the Shanghai International Studies University's (SISU) Middle East Studies Institute (MESI) portal on July 11th, 2023:
“The [Chinese-mediated] reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Iran has greatly boosted the positive energy of regional peace. Significant progress has been made...it has spawned a new "wave of reconciliation" in the region.
“Now Iran wants to form a Gulf naval alliance...Analysts noted that, regardless of whether Iran's proposal to jointly build a naval alliance becomes a reality, it reflects the increasingly obvious geopolitical situation in the Middle East: First, it shows that regional countries have a strong sense of national unity, and their desire for self-improvement is growing, as is their conviction that their future and destiny must be firmly held in their own hands. Second, America’s supposed role as a "security guarantor" is being viewed with growing skepticism by Middle Eastern states, and its regional influence is waning.
“Return of Syria to the Arab League - A humiliating defeat for the US...The Arab League’s decision was a ringing slap in the face for Biden 一记响亮的耳光.
“Palestine is currently in a difficult situation, marked by both internal and external challenges. Internally, although the conflict between Fatah and Hamas has eased somewhat, there are significant differences in their respective approaches to Israel, and they are unable to reach an agreement. With so many dissenting voices, it is difficult to unite Palestinians and speak with a single voice against Israel.
“As for Israel, the establishment of the most far-right government in its history, with its hardline stance toward Palestinians, opposing them at every turn, has resulted in the conflict escalating. The resumption of peace talks is now even less likely.
“In terms of the US, while the Biden administration has expressed its support for a two-state solution to the Palestinian issue, it remains biased in favor of Israel and has taken no practical action, which frustrates the Palestinians.
“The ongoing implementation of the Abraham Accords and normalization of relations with Israel have weakened the Arab countries' ability to band together against Israel.
“Furthermore, the international community's focus on the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, as well as the energy and food supply crises, has reduced the number of people discussing the Palestinian issue, further marginalizing it.
“The US's ability to control regional affairs is eroding, but it will not abandon the Middle East - With the US's strategic withdrawal from the Middle East, as well as its reduced investment and policy blunders, the region has entered a ‘post-American era.’
“This is especially true in the case of the Saudi-Iranian détente and subsequent "wave of reconciliation," as well as Syria's return to the Arab League, all of which have left the US with mixed feelings and a sense of loss 有失落之感.
“China's regional influence has clearly increased.” (MESI)
“The US has been acting in its own self-interest in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict...China, on the other hand, is more impartial”
SIIS veteran Middle East professor Li Weijian predicts increased international pressure on Israel.
Prof. Li is the executive director of the Chinese Association for Middle East Studies (CAMES) and a senior fellow at the influential and state-affiliated Shanghai Institutes for International Studies (SIIS).
Excerpts from Li Weijian’s interview with Hong Kong China News Agency 香港中通社, published on June 26th, 2023:
According to Li Weijian, Abbas's visit to China is significant in two ways. For starters, it will encourage the further development of bilateral relations between China and Palestine, including economic assistance, while also addressing Palestine's current practical difficulties.
Second, Abbas traveled to China with the expectation that "China would play a constructive role in the Israeli-Palestinian issue," says Li, adding that China will demonstrate its willingness to continue to provide Chinese wisdom and Chinese solutions to the peace process while also listening to Palestinian ideas.
Will Abbas' invitation result in a new platform for Israel-Palestine peace talks? Li emphasized that the two sides have yet to form a mechanism, and the conditions for resuming negotiations in the short term are not ripe, so it is premature to predict the formation of a new platform.
In contrast, China has been contributing to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process for many years, such as with [Xi Jinping's] four-point proposals [in 2013 & 2017], and the Chinese side may continue to maintain diplomatic contacts with the Israeli side.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has always been the key 关键点 to Middle Eastern peace. Palestinian-Israeli peace talks have stalled since 2014, and more conflicts have erupted in recent years, with relations between the two countries at an all-time low.
However, the Middle East's current geopolitical landscape has shifted, and there is a "wave of reconciliation" in the region [since China brokered normalization between Iran and Saudi Arabia in March]. If Israel continues to refuse to negotiate, it will find itself increasingly isolated in the Middle East.
Will the Palestinian president's visit to China provide an important opportunity to discuss the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? According to Li Weijian, the Middle East is experiencing a wave of reconciliation, and countries are focusing on their own development.
Moreover, in the past, the US hyped the Iranian issue, focusing the international community's attention on Iran. Now that diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran have been restored, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has returned to the international stage, putting pressure on Israel.
“In comparison to the tense situation in the Middle East in the past, when the region was caught up in geopolitical games, the improvement of the regional political environment will undoubtedly be more conducive to the resumption of negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis.
But unlike Saudi Arabia and Iran, Israel and Palestine face different challenges, and even if talks are held, Israel's extreme right-wing government may prevent it from making concessions.
During his recent visit to Saudi Arabia, Secretary of State Blinken also reaffirmed US support for ending to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on a two-state solution. But at the same time, he also recognized that the prospect of such an outcome "may be very distant". Earlier this year, Blinken went on a "cooling the fever tour" 降火之旅 has not had a substantial impact.
Li Weijian believes that the US has been acting in its own self-interest in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, siding with Israel and helping it in kicking the Palestinians around 拉偏架. The US has made a number of [peace] proposals, but they all involve asking the Palestinians to make concessions [Both sides are asked to make difficult concessions.]
China, on the other hand, is more impartial; China's policy is to ensure Israel's security while also considering Palestine's interests [China has done nothing but demonstrate that Israel's security is the least of its concerns. Beijing never misses a chance to vote against Israel or to single it out on the international stage, and has failed to denounce Palestinian (and Iranian) terrorism against it, to say nothing of Chinese state-owned banks assisting Hamas, PIJ, and IRGC in laundering their money].
Will the US strategic interests in the Middle East region be served if Palestine and Israel take the path of reconciliation? If not, will the US take action to thwart the peace negotiations?
According to Li Weijian, numerous US presidents have attempted to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but only succeeded in escalating the conflict. As a result, many Middle Eastern nations have little faith in the US. Although China has no desire to take over the US role in the Middle East, Americans have voiced concerns about China's rapid rise and influence. Washington won’t easily relinquish its dominance in the Middle East, nor will it watch from the sidelines on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
How much longer do we have to wait for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to be resolved? “The first priority,” according to Li Weijian, “should be to stop the marginalization of the Palestinian issue and, one step at a time, improve the immediate environment. The two sides could also agree to a peace treaty and then gradually enter into negotiations; however, I anticipate that this will also be a protracted process.” (HKCNA)
Playing in the Background
Discourse Power is written by Tuvia Gering, a researcher at the Diane and Guilford Glazer Foundation Israel-China Policy Center at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), a non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Global China Hub, and a Tikvah Fund’s Krauthammer Fellow. Any views expressed in this newsletter, as well as any errors, are solely those of the author. Follow Tuvia on Twitter @GeringTuvia