Discourse Power | January 14, 2023
Are you not entertained, equal partners, winning the race, and 'cause we've ended as lovers
Belated happy new year from Washington DC,
Welcome to our new subscribers, and please accept my apologies for missing the last few weeks. I have been preoccupied with other writing commitments and will be busy in the District until the end of next week, but I hope to resume regular publishing on the following.
First, I’d like to recommend an article by my senior colleague Brigadier general (Res.) Assaf Orion, Director of The Diane & Guilford Glazer Israel-China Policy Center. He discusses Sino-Israeli relations in light of Benjamin Netanyahu's reappointment as prime minister. Bibi was the one who personally steered Israel's foreign policy in Beijing's direction, but mounting American pressure and changes in China have many wondering what the future holds.
Second, following Xi Jinping's December visit to Saudi Arabia and the joint declaration for China and the Gulf that resulted in the summoning of the Chinese ambassador to Tehran, several commentators asserted that China is changing its policy towards Iran. In my most recent piece for Asia Times, I make the case that China's balanced diplomacy between the competing factions of the Middle East remains intact. Also, check Dr. Jacopo Scita's response and his December article on the topic:
Finally, there are two additional analyses on Xi's trip to Saudi Arabia that you might want to read, one by Dr. Andrea Ghiselli and the other by Ryan Hass of Brookings.
If you enjoy reading Discourse Power, please take a moment to forward it to your learned friends and colleagues to show your support. If you're reluctant to do so because you worry that once I reach a certain number of subscribers, I'll firewall it, know that I have no plans to do so now or anytime soon. This is what they call a “passion project,” so share away.
Thank you for reading,
"The US-led West is to blame for the 'hijab storm' that is rapidly brewing in Iran. Through their hegemonic control of public opinion, the US in particular is stoking the fires to spark a color revolution"
Professor Qiu Wenping of SASS muses on China's balanced diplomacy in the Middle East and Israel’s new right-wing government.
Qiu is the director of the Religious Studies Office at the Religion Research Institute, Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS), and a Visiting Fellow at Zhang Weiwei's China Institute at Fudan University. He specializes in Islam in China and abroad and religious extremism.
Excerpts from his interview with Guancha (The Observer):
Observer: “Speaking of Israel, since Netanyahu's return to power in the November 2022 Israeli elections, threats and intimidating rhetoric have followed, on occasion calling to stop Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons and on other occasions threatening to launch military action against Iran.
“With Iranian conservatives and the Israeli far-right targeting each other, what are the likely changes in the regional landscape? How will Iran’s government respond?
Qiu: “The two sides have been verbally blasting each other for decades and will continue to do so in the future. Israel's biggest fear of Iran is that it will develop nuclear weapons, which is unacceptable to Israel. Because once Iran has nuclear weapons, the possibility of actually dropping them on Israel's head is real.
“With Israel's far-right in power, the possibility of resorting to force in the Middle East is increasing due to the divisions and chaos in the Muslim world. But Iran and Israel do not share a border, and the biggest [regional] tussle at this stage remains the undeclared war that is ongoing in Syria. Subsequent developments will largely depend on changes in US Middle East policy.”
[Back to Iran and the popular protests:]
Qiu: "Iran is in a difficult position both internally and externally, and its dream of becoming an independent and self-determined country cannot be realized without a cost. The 25-year agreement Iran has with China and its cordial relations with Russia are the kind of breakthroughs they are seeking.”
Observer: "Iranian officials have recently voiced their discontent with the joint statement China and the GCC released [in December] regarding their territorial disputes [with the UAE]. How should China strike a balance in its interactions with the Middle East, which, sadly, frequently involves shifting attitudes and objectives within the Muslim world?"
Qiu: "China has consistently pushed for the concept of a "community of shared future for mankind," and for the Middle East, where conflicts never end, this beautiful vision 美好的愿景 is accepted by all, even though it is very challenging to put into practice.
“This is because the Middle East has long followed the Law of the Jungle 丛林社会状态, in which the weak prey on the strong 弱肉强食. But as China's influence and power expand, Middle Eastern nations are starting to give China’s Five Principles for Peaceful Coexistence some serious thought.
“Everyone is aware of Iran's response to the Chinese statement. However, we should also take a look at Iran's [positive] response to China's suggestion to "support the GCC countries in improving relations with Iran" at the "Gulf Security Summit" last year.
“The Middle East has long been a colosseum for the great powers, and achieving peace has never been an easy task. Since China has good relations with all parties and has never harbored ill will toward them, it can act as a mediator to resolve many of its disputes more effectively." (Guancha)
"The Middle East is no longer the US backyard...Middle Eastern countries have collectively shifted from 'looking to the East' to 'marching toward the East'"
Professor Sun Degang, director of Fudan University’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies, does a year in review for Chin-MENA relations.
Excerpts (China Daily translation edited for clarity):
"Middle Eastern countries have maintained their strategic autonomy in the face of major power competition, adhering to the principles of strategic hedging and power restructuring and rebalancing.
"The Middle Eastern countries are of great significance to China's global diplomacy and China-Middle East cooperation has reached new heights...The Middle East has been elevated to the status of a strategic region, with major powers vying for influence.
"Middle Eastern countries have evolved from "little brothers" seeking major powers' support to "equal partners" courted by the major powers. In general, they have maintained strategic hedging characterized by global political multi-polarization and economic diversification.
“The Middle East is no longer America's backyard, and US allies in the region have stopped following Washington's every instruction — all have significantly increased their strategic autonomy, with greater confidence that the Middle Eastern peoples are masters of their land.
“In 2022, China's diplomacy in the Middle East yielded a bountiful harvest...China and the Middle Eastern countries have always supported and assisted one another, sharing good fortune and jointly implementing the Global Development Initiative (GDI) and the Global Security Initiative (GSI). Middle Eastern countries have collectively shifted from ‘looking to the East’ to ‘marching toward the East.’” (China Daily)
"As the global arms race heats up, the US campaign against China has entered a new phase, whether in the UN, the G20, or other international governance bodies"
Professor Zhao Minghao examines America’s trade-off between responding to Russia's war in Ukraine and investing in strategic competition with China.
Zhao is with the Institute of International Studies, Fudan University, an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Charhar Institute in Beijing, and a China Forum Expert at Tsinghua.
"The US is using European countries' insecurity and suspicion of Beijing to strengthen and expand the US-European "united front" against China. This includes drawing them closer to America’s Taiwan policy.
"Cooperation on the Trade and Technology Council (TTC) between the US and Europe is also intensifying. The US is promoting the application of the sanctions regime through Russia to gain "experience" going up against China.
"The Ukraine crisis is also being used by the US to promote "club-like" economic globalization. It is not that the US wants globalization to end. Likewise, many of its adjustments against China do not simply seek to "decouple" or "delink".
"Rather, it hopes to modernize and improve the US-led international economic, trade, and technology rules through smaller, more manageable, and mutually dependable institutional arrangements.
"By reshaping supply chains, the US hopes to weaken China's influence in the global economy. Furthermore, it wants to develop an "economic warfare" system against China and other "strategic rivals" over time.
"US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has publicly proposed to create a "new Bretton Woods system." The Biden administration hopes that by 2023, the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) will have reached a concrete agreement.
"Additionally, the US supports the Global Partnership for Infrastructure and Investment (PGII), the American Partnership for Economic Prosperity (APEP), and other mechanisms.
"Increased investment in the field of digital economy and technologies is another prominent feature of the US international economic strategy. The Ukraine crisis has demonstrated that the world's armies have entered a new phase of intelligentized warfare, with military needs in various areas becoming more closely linked to chips.
"In early October 2022, the Biden administration issued an unprecedentedly strict chip ban, with the goal of making it difficult for China to obtain high-end chips needed for AI, supercomputing, hypersonic missiles, and other applications.
"As the crisis in Ukraine deepens, the US is making greater adjustments to strengthen the development and deployment of tactical nuclear weapons and promote its "extended deterrence."
"Efforts to develop global security governance rules for issues such as artificial intelligence weaponization and space security have thus become more difficult. The new round of the global arms race is concerning, and the difficulty for all parties in managing the risk of conflict is increasing.
“In light of this, we must consider the implications of the changing international security landscape, the Sino-US strategic competition, and other issues that will affect China's ability to lead global governance reform. We must avoid being drawn into a vicious arms race, as well as the challenges that will entail and how to deal with them.
“It is evident that the US is becoming more and more determined to win the race, and China needs to be ready to withstand increased pressure." (Aisixiang)
"Today, in the historic city of Bandar Abbas, we witness another watershed moment in Sino-Iranian relations"
China's ambassador to Tehran, Chang Hua, opened his country's first general consulate in Iran against the backdrop of the earlier this month joint Chinese-GCC declaration, which infuriated Iran and led to his summoning for clarification.
Excerpts from the ambassador’s speech:
"Vice Premier Hu Chunhua recently returned from a fruitful visit to Iran. China views Sino-Iranian relations from a strategic standpoint and will not waver in its determination to develop its Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with Iran.
"China strongly supports Iran in opposing external interference and defending national sovereignty, territorial integrity, and national dignity. China is willing to collaborate with Iran to implement the important consensus reached by the two heads of state, to make joint efforts to promote the implementation of the [25-year] Sino-Iranian Comprehensive Cooperation Program, and to push for new breakthroughs in practical cooperation between the two countries.
“We walk hand in hand on a mutual road as the love between old friends grows 旧友增新情，携手更同行. The opening of the Chinese Consulate General in Bandar Abbas will plant new and vibrant seeds of friendship in southern Iran, yielding more fruits for Sino-Iranian friendship...Since ancient times, the peoples of China and Iran have had frequent contact.
“The development of southern Iran has tremendous potential. In recent years, an increasing number of Chinese enterprises have come here for investment and business, boosting local economic development and employment.
“I believe that new developments in China, with the support of Iranian friends from all walks of life, will provide more opportunities for southern Iran, including Bandar Abbas, through the Consulate General.
"Today, in the historic city of Bandar Abbas, we witness another watershed moment in Sino-Iranian relations. The Chinese Embassy and Consulate General in Iran are eager to collaborate with our Iranian counterparts to take advantage of this historic opportunity to implement the two heads of state's important consensus, actively implement the [25-year] Comprehensive Cooperation Program, jointly enhance BRI cooperation, create more cooperation achievements, and jointly write a new and brighter chapter in Sino-Iranian relations." (Embassy of the PRC in Iran)
Playing in the Background
Rest in peace, Jeff Beck, a humble master of his craft whose feel inspired generations of musicians:
Discourse Power is written by Tuvia Gering, a researcher at the 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’s Krauthammer Fellow, specializing in Chinese security and foreign policy, and emergency and disaster management. Any views expressed in this newsletter, as well as any errors, are solely those of the author. Follow Tuvia on Twitter @GeringTuvia