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Detachment no longer serves Chinese interests in Middle East

By Aron Shai (Global Times)

08:12, August 03, 2012

Recently, within Chinese and Israeli intellectual circles, there has been a somewhat concealed debate as to whether China should be more involved diplomatically and even strategically in the Middle East conflict.

The US and Europe have been historically engaged in the region. China, despite its ever increased role in the international arena, is only mildly and moderately involved in this critical region, though the next global conflict might emerge from the Middle East.

For China, it is not enough to concentrate on the economic-commercial sphere. International trade and global interests relating to energy security cannot dwell separately from active diplomacy and at times even from interference of a kind in crucial regions.

It emerges that by the same token Israel too should give a more serious thought to the option of periodically reassessing its familiar China policy. The traditional line of mere "maintaining" or "servicing" Jerusalem's relations with Beijing should be crossed, and a more assertive China policy should be adopted.

Israel might do well to encourage Beijing's deeper involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as in the strong tensions between Jerusalem, Damascus and Tehran.

It can be argued that Sino-Israeli relations, or for that matter China-Middle East relations are not, as far as global international relations are concerned, so significant. US-China bilateral relations, the China-India-US triangle, or even Beijing's dynamic role in the UN Security Council are by far more noteworthy. Nonetheless, the Middle East scene is most important, especially considering Israel's military-strategic role and position in the Middle East equation.

It seems that there are signs that Beijing is getting gradually more interested in being fully involved in the peace process. Chinese envoys' visits in Egypt, Jordan, Palestinian National Authority, Lebanon, Syria and Israel signal that a moderate change is taking place in Beijing's approach to the Middle East.

September 2000 saw the outbreak of the second intifada. Like most of the world, the Chinese government has been and still is highly conscious of the threat of global terrorism.

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