China: Erudite, Suave, and Clever
It is an interesting study. On the one hand is Barack Hussein Obama, a man elected to the American presidency owing to his vast experience and proven diplomatic ability, who in spite of apologizing to the entire world for the United States of America, its history, and its people, managed to fall flat on his face during the so-called Arab Spring movement, which was entirely his and Hillary Rodham Clinton’s own creation. Yes, of course, this is the same HRC who wanted to replace Obama and continue his disastrous (for America) legacy. And then on the other hand, there is a growing Chinese influence in the area of the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) that is anything but Obama-Clintonesque. Let’s take a look …
One may recall that the Arab Spring had its beginning in 2010 when a Tunisian set himself on fire after being harassed by a city official. It thoroughly shook the Middle East for two solid years and may not be over with yet. In this time, three regional dictators met their end because of the Arab Spring, but we are not yet entirely sure this was necessarily a good thing. It takes years to record a history.
Nevertheless, in the wake of the successful civil disturbances in Tunisia and Egypt, the threat that these instabilities would spread was in fact real —and worrisome to everyone except the American left. There was no need to worry about that 3 a.m. phone call —because no one was answering the phone. Demonstrations occurred in Algeria, Bahrain, Iran, Jordan, Syria, and Yemen. A major civil uprising engulfed Libya. While some countries placated the people with moderate reforms, other nations responded with a heavy hand. John McCain-funded Al Qaeda terrorists were quick to seize hold of the uprisings in Libya and Syria, where violence within the religion of peace continues. In Saudi Arabia, everyone received a raise in pay.
How did the American left respond to the crisis they created? Essentially, the USA implemented two strategies. First, the Obama administration pissed all over itself, and then in phase two, it managed to get four American heroes killed. It was the least complicated foreign policy in the entire world.
China, on the other hand, has been nothing if not consistent in its MENA policies and programs. What motivates China is a desire for energy security, an increase of overseas markets, and foreign investment opportunities. China consistently opposes military intervention; its MENA policy pragmatic and realistic. In order to achieve energy security and economic opportunity, China prefers a stable international environment —although I suspect this is only true the farther one moves away from China. In China, there are three focuses: find ways to cooperate, be clever in negotiation, and manage conflict in a way that benefits Chinese economic policy. Stable governments provide more in the way of personal security and economic opportunity. For these reasons, China opposes US military intervention.
Conservative Americans tend to look at things through different lenses. It may be true that conflict does little to stabilize government —but surely this is only true for as long as it takes Army Rangers to choke the living crap out of people who are desperately asking for it. Once that’s done, then we can begin efforts to stabilize the new government … with everyone involved in the winning side living happily ever after. Doing this, however, forces China to place its long-range economic plans on hold, or re-starting very complex negotiations, neither of which benefits China.
Note: Our concerns should not be what benefits China, but rather, what benefits ourselves.
MENA countries have long been a strategic focus of the US, Russia, and the European Union. For China, the area is not as important as its Pacific neighbors, so China’s Middle East behavior hinges on its understanding of western strategies. This means that US policy in the Middle East should be simple, stable, and straight-forward. In this regard, the Obama administration did the United States (or its people) no favors —and it left Chinese diplomats scratching their heads and sucking air through their teeth.
I believe that China wants to avoid actions that will place it in a direct confrontation with the United States; I think this is what is driving Sino-MENA policies. Realizing as it did how predictable the United States was under the incompetent leadership of Bush I—Clinton—Bush II—Obama, China appears to be the real winner in the Middle East. Certainly, no one in the Middle East views China as a threat and this will no doubt continue for as long as China regards American foreign policy as comical.
Working behind the scenes, China is being extraordinarily knowledgeable, exceedingly smooth, and astonishingly clever. I hope Trump can do better than his predecessors.