After the United States killed Iranian military leader Soleimani, the response from China, another key player in the Middle East, has been quite muted. The Chinese regime called for “dialogue, not escalation.” But an expert says that China’s footprint in the Middle East is not as innocent as its sentiment.
China expert and former Defense Department staff Joseph Bosco said that China wants to use Iran to distract President Trump from focusing on his Indo-Pacific strategies and tackling the threat from the Chinese regime.
He said that China’s support might be a big factor in Iran’s recent provocations.
“The more crisis the United States has to deal with elsewhere in the world, the better it is for China’s strategic interest as they see them,” the former China Country Director of the Office of the Secretary of Defense told NTD.
The Chinese regime has close trade and diplomatic ties with Iran. It has also been found undermining United States sanctions on Iran.
Days before Soleimani’s killing, China, Russia, and Iran hosted a joint military exercise. It’s the first time Iran has joined a military exercise of this scale since its 1979 Islamic Revolution.
On Dec. 31, 2019, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif visited Beijing to meet with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi for the fourth time within a year.
This September, the United States imposed sanctions on several Chinese entities and individuals for transferring oil from Iran.
In 2018, the United States charged the CFO of China’s tech giant Huawei, Meng Wanzhou, for allegedly trading with Iran.
Iran’s defense imports come mainly from Russia and China.
“They (the Chinese regime) want to present the image of being a responsible stakeholder, [an] international player that tones down conflicts rather than stirring them up,” Bosco said, “But behind the scenes, they really are stirring up trouble in a lot of places.”
“They want to have political influence there,” said State Secretary Mike Pompeo of China’s footprint in the Middle East.
“We brook no ill towards them if they’re trying to have economic engagement. We want the Chinese economy to be successful,” Pompeo said during his speech on Monday at Stanford University, “But I’ve been pretty clear about the risks that come when there’s not a straight-up transparent deal with the Chinese.”
The Middle East may learn from its predecessors in terms of accepting Chinese money.
Pompeo said countries in Southeast Asia and Africa now recognize that some of their transactions with the Chinese regime have proven to be “debt traps,” which “put these countries in the political thrall of the Chinese communist party.”
“They didn’t anticipate it. They don’t want it. And now they are coming to the United States to help figure out a path back,” he said.
Pompeo said the Middle Eastern countries are in a different dynamic since these are wealthy countries that aren’t in need of Chinese money. But the United States is making sure that they are aware of the risks.
After 9/11, the United States shifted its focus from keeping Beijing in check to cracking down on terrorism in the Middle East. Some experts have argued that China has become the de-facto beneficiary of the tragedy. Since 2001, the Chinese Communist regime has seen extensive growth and expansion.