Middle East welcomes China's role as peace builder, rejects US determinism
Published: Apr 06, 2023 09:03 PM
Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Saudi Arabia and Iran meeting again in Beijing shows that China is a peace builder and China's policies are more in line with the interests of Middle Eastern countries. 

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and his Saudi Counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud met in Beijing On Thursday. This meeting marks the first official meeting between the most senior diplomats of the two countries in over seven years.

The decision of both countries to hold talks in Beijing once again is a continuation of the agreement reached in Beijing on March 10 to re-establish diplomatic ties and reopen embassies. It is a positive signal that the two countries are moving toward a further reconciliation of a relationship that has already broken the ice.

Liu Zhongmin, a professor at the Middle East Studies Institute of Shanghai International Studies University, told the Global Times that the meeting in Beijing also sends a signal that China will continue to play a pivotal role in fostering peace in the Middle East in the future. The building of trust between Saudi Arabia and Iran will not happen overnight. In this process, China, as a third party that could contribute significantly to the resumption of diplomatic ties between the two countries, may need to continue playing a role of a mediator and facilitator.

"Saudi Arabia and Iran are willing to trust China primarily because of China's positive image in the international community, including in the Middle East. For example, China's policies are more in line with the interests of Middle Eastern countries, while the US tends to promote unilateralism and hegemony, imposing its own values on the region," said Tian Wenlin, a research fellow at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

Both Saudi Arabia and Iran are aware, from their long-term engagement with the US, that Washington is unreliable. Washington is good at using conflicts and disputes in the Middle East, especially the one between Saudi Arabia and Iran, to create regional chaos and showcase its influence in the region. 

Hence, the US' stirring up troubles, creating conflicts, and causing historical harm to the diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran make it impossible for the two countries to trust the US.

In comparison, China's foreign policies toward Saudi Arabia, Iran and the Middle East as a whole adopt a fair and objective stance and always strive to ease disputes and promote reconciliation among countries in the region. 

China is willing to act as a coordinator in resolving conflicts in the Middle East. China's balanced, fair, and objective stance, as well as its previous engagement with Saudi Arabia and Iran, have created a profound trust between China and the two countries. This is different from the way the US handles related issues.

The US' actions and disdainful attitude have made more Middle Eastern countries see the true colors of the US. Saudi Arabia used to be a reliable security partner for the US, but in recent years, the Saudi-US relationship has become increasingly tense. According to Wall Street Journal's report recently, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told associates late last year that he was no longer interested in pleasing the US.

In recent years, the relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia has quietly undergone changes. Saudi Arabia's autonomy is further increasing, and it is adopting an economic strategy without dependence on the US. It is also no longer politically obedient to the US. Naturally, Saudi Arabia is now increasing its investment in China and is seeking China's mediation in the Saudi-Iran relations. OPEC+ recently announced surprise oil output cuts, which is inconsistent with what the US expects, noted Tian. 

The mood of resentment toward the US in the Middle East is pervasive, not just in Saudi Arabia, as the US involvement in the region is seen as primarily driven by a desire to seize oil resources. For the US, whom to align with and whom to alienate from should be framed by the US' defined strategic interests instead of one's own interests, which is clear to everyone. No one wants to be the US' pawn forever.

The US' attempts to control the global energy landscape, especially against the backdrop of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, have angered many countries, as Washington constantly demands that some Middle Eastern countries sacrifice their own interests to suppress Russia. 

Moreover, Washington wants to turn the region into a battlefield for great power geopolitical competition, which most Middle Eastern countries resist. Washington needs to understand that the regional affairs should be, and will be decided by relevant countries in the Middle East.

The US is still living under the illusion of American hegemony and determinism. However, as everyone knows, the world has moved on.