The first priority of an emerging empire is to expand, and subsequently to enlarge itself continuously until it fades.
In the case of present China, this is translated in terms of Global Access.
The Chinese are Masters of the Go game, the aim of which is to surround more territory than the opponent.
The Chinese being adherents of the long planning Strategy did that in stages.
The current way for an empire to expand is through trade, finance, and diplomacy using the minimum force necessary.
The end of Globalization as we know it means for China that it must solidly establish itself in all Countries it wishes as customers/clients.
Thus, the Chinese expansion Strategy aims to ensure access to most, if not all, Countries.
All Chinese trade so far is based on shipping goods to distant ports and returning with raw materials and most of all fossil fuels to keep their Economy functioning.
Pakistan, Iran, the Gulf States, and Egypt were the first stepping stones of the Chinese Maritime expansion.
There is a triple Chinese interest in this direction.
Access to Iran and the Gulf States which is already established ensures primarily the supply of Hydrocarbons, without which the Chinese Economy would stop and collapse. There is also a significant trade in goods with those Countries.
Access to Africa where the Chinese are now the dominant partner Country is ensured by the same stepping stones.
Access finally through the same route is ensured to the most lucrative trade, which is the one with Europe.
China now is establishing itself as a major player in the Med.
The establishment of China in the Middle East and the Med is continuously increasing and expanding with dynamic efforts with ruthless determination because, after the Pacific, this region is vital to the geostrategic planning of China, the emerging global Empire.
This expansion had started in Libya.
When Hilary Clinton decided in 2011 to get rid of Colonel Gadhafi, 75,000 Chinese, installed in Libya and doing Business there, left. That was an American collateral benefit.
Libya is of minor interest to the Chinese now.
China didn’t take sides in the Libyan Civil War. It has stayed outside the conflict and kept all options open. Chinese interest now is mainly focused on reconstruction projects, to be paid by Hydrocarbons.
The masterstroke of the Chinese entry Policy in the Med is the establishment of strong, common interest relations with Israel, challenging America’s economic and political influence in the Middle East at its heart.
The still powerful ex Mossad boss Yossi Cohen, said publicly: “China is not opposed to us and is not our enemy”.
“We are your perfect junior partner, “Netanyahu told Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2017”. “I believe this is a marriage made in heaven”.
Chinese investors acquired and/or invested in some 463 Israeli companies between 2002 and December 2020. Most Israeli Academic Institutions have partnerships with Chinese Academic and research establishments.
Chinese firms built or are operating some $4 billion of Israeli infrastructure, including Tel Aviv’s light rail, the Ashdod port, and the Carmel tunnels. China’s state-owned Shanghai International Port Group is set to begin operating a terminal at Israel’s Haifa port this year, which could render it unusable for U.S. Navy vessels.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is positive for increased relations with China.
Essentially, following the American withdrawal from the Middle East, Israel is hedging its bets because, further to the economic benefits, China has a strong influence on Iran.
The latest stroke for Chinese Diplomacy is to offer to Israelis and Palestinians mediation for their peace talks inviting both parties in Beijing, which up to now was only an American prerogative.
Parallel with the development of the Chinese-Israeli relationship, China develops its relations with the other paragons in the region, Turkey Iraq and Syria.
Syria is a Strategic target in the Chinese geopolitical assessment.
This is due primarily to the geographic position of Syria, at the end of the land Silk Road (BRI). This is also why China, after modernizing the Iranian railroad network, is preparing to do the same with Syria to the tune of many billions of dollars.
China entered carefully in the Syrian Civil War by providing military medical personnel and logistics assistance.
China further plans to invest in the ports of Latakia and Tartus so as, together with the port of Haifa, where China is already established, to fully exploit those connections to Europe and North Africa.
The access of China to these ports combined with a rail and road network that goes from Shanghai to the Med through Pakistan Iran and Syria allows China to bypass the Suez Canal and annul the geostrategic advantage of the 5th US fleet.
Turkey is the most challenging but also the most rewarding Country for China’s Geostrategy in the area as a regional center to ensure Chinese dominance in the Middle East and the Med.
Relations between Turkey and China have gone through hostility to “friendship”.
Initially, the friction was due to the Uighurs. Both Turks and Uighurs speak a Turkic language and share a significant ethnic and cultural affinity. Uighurs have had a right to asylum in Turkey since 1952. Turkey, to the wrath of China, was the Uighurs World vocal Champion.
The fact that Kashgar, the Capital of the Uighurs is astride the Silk Road was aggravated by the creation of the China-Pakistan Economic corridor from the port of Gwadar in Pakistan to Xinjiang, the Uighur country.
But the Chinese are patient.
They continuously increased bilateral trade with Turkey. They did significant FDI and recently they have been a great help to the ailing Turkish lira through swaps.
In return, pressed by the dire economic straits of his Economy, Erdogan abandoned the support of the Uighurs and started muzzling the Uighurs activists in Turkey.
Turkey depends more and more on successful economic, and hence political, relations with China.
As the notable analyst, Selcuk Colacoglu wrote, China’s increasing global leadership and challenging of the current international order makes China attractive to Turkey whose perception of self is as an emerging, independent Strategic Regional Power, free from its previous binding obligations to the West.
The Turkish dynamic business presence with other neighboring Countries of Turkic origin such as Azerbaijan makes it a choice partner for China.
The crossroads of the geographic position of Turkey make it an ideal launchpad for the expansion of the BRI and political influence in the region and further in the Balkans and Eastern Europe.
Egypt established diplomatic relations with China in 1956, the first Arab/African Country to do so.
Relations have been continuously improving since and reached their apex under President Sisi.
The reasons are that positively the Suez Canal is a vital part of BRI, and negatively the estrangement of the Egyptian ruling elite with its Western Partners whom they consider unreliable following the behavior of the US towards President Mubarak, their loyal ally and the ambivalent position of the West on the Egyptian interests in Libya.
The strong and growing Economic relations between the two Countries are cementing Political cooperation.
In the period 2019-2020 Egyptian exports to China almost tripled and in the same period, China lent almost $4 billion to Egypt.
The evolution of the relations under Sisi is impressive.
In 2014, on President Al-Sisi’s first visit to China, a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP)was signed. President Sisi since visits China once a year and has signed 25 bilateral agreements.
For as long as Cyprus sticks to the dogma of only one China, the Chinese will abide by the UN resolutions for the unification of the Island.
The commercial relations are good but China will not alienate Turkey by dynamically siding with the Republic of Cyprus.
Greece’s relations with China are consistently excellent even when those of the rest of the West was not.
China gives great value to the Greek Ancient Civilization and Culture as it considers that nations with a long history of Civilization and Culture, like its own, are superior.
Greece deepened its economic ties with Beijing in the wake of the financial crisis. Investments from China represent a very significant source of business generation and income for Greece.
Many Chinese investments are continuing in Greece in real estate, Trade, Energy, and others but the greatest is the acquisition of the Port of Piraeus by the Chinese corporation COSCO.
As China’s ambassador in Greece stated, the COSCO Piraeus project is a “dragon head”, meaning something of paramount importance in the region, and the perfect embodiment of the “five pillars of the Belt and Road Initiative.
As it is obvious from the image below, China is about to conquer by trade the rest of Europe remaining.
The scenes from the airport of Kabul are reminders of similar scenes in Saigon that are reverberating in all Middle East and the Med States. It reminded all in the Middle East and East Med areas also of the abandonment of Kurds by the Americans only a few years ago.
It is clearly understood by all that the geostrategic parameters of those areas have been radically changed. The Yankees are going home.
The void left by the US decision to withdraw from these areas has pushed all States to revise their Geostrategy. The Chinese penetrated the area slowly but consistently.
China is the new strong factor in the area although it has chosen to avoid making this fact more obvious than necessary.
Now, that the instability in the whole area has reached a critical state, China, Russia, Turkey, and Iran consider that this is the golden opportunity to push the US permanently out and play their own game.
Of the above, only China has the competence, ability, and will to achieve it and force the rest to comply.
China’s approach is “as the selective application of economic incentives and punishments designed to augment Beijing’s diplomacy” (Reilly, 2013, p. 4).
China will become the new arbiter in the tumultuous region from North Africa and the Balkans to the Red Sea, the Gulf, and Iran.
Some will remember with nostalgia the cry “Yankees go home”.
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