After announcing airstrikes against militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in northern Iraq, U.S. President Barack Obama said in an interview with the New York Times that China benefits substantially from Iraq. Obama expressed the view that as the biggest economic beneficiary of the Iraq War, China needs to shoulder more international responsibility, especially in coping with the turmoil in Iraq.
After the Iraq War, China invested enormous resources in Iraq for trade and reconstruction. China also became Iraq's biggest trade partner, exceeding America in 2011. There are more than 100 Chinese enterprises in Iraq, with millions of employees. China imports 1.5 million barrels of crude oil from Iraq every year, taking up over half Iraq's output.
Taking advantage of stability in Iraq and the Middle East as a whole, China makes substantial profits from the petroleum trade, which further promote the healthy development of relationships between China and Iraq.
There is nothing wrong with any of this, and the U.S. and other western countries can still participate.
Firstly, it is vital for reconstruction in Iraq. Iraq was in urgent need of foreign capital and technological and construction personnel after the devastating war in 2003. China's help and support were timely. It was especially important for Iraq to trade with China when the U.S. and other western countries were stuck by the severe financial crisis of 2008.
Secondly, it significantly reduces the burden on the U.S. As the U.S. gradually withdrew from Iraq, Iraq started to look for foreign investment. Many countries including the U.S., coveted Iraq's abundant oild deposits, but they showed little interest in infrastructure, hydropower construction, agriculture, manufacturing, or services. However, those industries were essential to stabilize the situation in Iraq and for its social recovery. China offered comprehensive support in these areas, providing convenience to other countries.
Thirdly, in general, it is good for U.S. policy in Iraq. Responding to Obama's announcement of airstrikes against extremists in Iraq, a spokesperson from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Beijing "has an open mind towards any actions that help to ensure security and stability in Iraq, on the precondition of respecting Iraq's sovereignty".
The Chinese side supports efforts made by Iraq in safeguarding sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity as well as combating terrorism, the office said. Beijing "hopes that Iraq returns to stability and normal order at an early date".
Finally, it is a requirement of the international and domestic situation. China has maintained a defensive foreign policy for a long period of time. China took advantage of the opportunity to reform and open up, develop the economy, and improve standards of living. Now China urgently needs to prevent any proliferation of terrorism and religious extremism in the country.
The U.S. is the biggest developed country in the world, while China is the largest developing one. In the current international order, China has taken on its role and contributed whatever it could on the Iraq issue.
China hopes that the U.S. will make a further contribution to Iraq's reconstruction and development, and deal rationally with China's contributions to Iraq in trade, investments and infrastructure.
As China's political and economic interests sharply expand in the world, it is increasingly necessary for U.S. to cooperate with China when it comes to vital global issues. In view of this changing situation, even if Obama does not request China's participation, China will pay close attention to international affairs, including Iraq. China hopes to relieve and solve disputes constructively and fairly and assert national interests.
The article is edited and translated from《中国在伊拉克问题上“搭便车”有错吗？》, source: China.com.cn, author: Zhang Yaowu, Associate Researcher, Chinese Association for International Understanding