FM spokesman Kong Quan stated September 17 that seasoned diplomat Wang Shijie was appointed special envoy to the Mid-east by the Chinese government. This was the first ever special envoy the Chinese government had sent to the Mid-east, indicating that China has come to make a change of its foreign policy towards the Mid-east and strengthen its participation in the Mid-east issue. Not only was the decision made within the context of the international situation, especially changes in the Middle East region, but also chosen by the fact that China has enhanced national strength, improved status as a big power, and promoted its influence on regional affairs.
Keeping Aloof After the Cold War
After the Cold War terminated, China has long carried out an independent diplomatic strategy. Its foreign policy towards the Mid-east is embodied in these major considerations: Maintain relations with Mid-east nations in fields of economic trade, labor, science and technology as well as of security; stick to a fair and just stance on the Mid-east issue and advocate settlement of specific problems according to related UN resolutions; take proactive precautions against Taiwan developing diplomatic relations with Mid-east nations. And the most conspicuous one is to consistently pursue the aloof policy. That is not to directly get involved in mediating some specific problems.
Lying far away from the Mid-east region, China has no direct conflict of interests with any party of the Arab-Israeli conflicts. Regarding the deep-rooted and intricate Palestine-Israeli conflicts, if China directly mediated the conflicts, it couldn't help inviting criticism, noting that the United States has dominated the region since the conclusion of the Cold War. To be confronted with the US neither matches China's national strength, nor does it conform to the principle of "hiding the capacities and biding the time".
However, the recent years have witnessed distinct improvement of China's influence on regional affairs along with a rapidly developing economy and steadily building up of national strength. Hence, China's diplomacy begins to emerge as global rather than regional. Especially after the US 911 incident, it is essentially important for China to "stride out".
The Mid-east Nations Vigorously Invite China's Involvement
After the military attack on Afghanistan, the US intends to "remake" the Mid-east in the name of "anti-terrorist war", directly targeting at Iraq, its deadly enemy. Now the US armed attack on Iraq has reached the point of no return. Meanwhile, the Palestine-Israeli conflicts have escalated, the violence-for-violence of the two parties has formed a vicious circle. Seeing the constant mediation has borne no little fruit, the US has to introduce the "new Mid-east peace plan", forcing the Palestinian Liberation Authority led by Arafat to undertake reform, so as to stabilize the Palestine-Israeli situation and pave the way for its military attack on Iraq.
And the United Nations, EU and big countries such as Russia all actively embark on the Mid-east affairs, sending special envoys to the region with an eye to taking a piece of cake under the "anti-terrorist" circumstances
By contrast, China has a rather thin voice. This July's "Four Parties Summit" excluded China, which was led off by the US and attended by the EU, the United Nations and Russia. And in September, China was once again rejected out of the "Four Parties Summit". As one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, China should stop dissociating itself from the Mid-east issue, a global hot spot.
Furthermore, as China's traditional friends, the Arab countries appeal to China to play a positive role in the Palestine-Israeli issue one in the wake of the other. Dr Moustapha Saphariny, Palestinian ambassador to China, repeatedly expressed the view that China takes a most just stand on the Mideast issue and held that China has the qualification and also the commitment to participate in the settlement of the issue. And the Jordan ambassador to China even directly called on China to send special envoys to the Mideast.
And Israel, party of the Arab-Israeli conflicts, not only attaches importance to its relationship with China and China's international status as a big country, but also sets great store on China's attitude towards the Mid-east issue. Israel expects China to apply its influence to persuading the Arab countries. And its Prime Minister Shimon Peres noted not long ago that "Israel values China's voice". Thus, it is duty bound for China to respond to the Mideast nations' call.
To Puncture "East Turkistan" and Oppose Containment -- Own Needs of China's Security
As a mater of fact, China's concern for and participation in the Mid-east issue is closely linked to China's self-security.
After the US 911 incident, Islamic extreme forces and national splittism, such as "East Turkistan" regained ground in China's Xinjiang region. Since last year, "East Turkistan" terrorist forces frequently launch political activities in Europe, such as holding meetings, attempting to counteract Xinjiang. The supreme headquarters of "East Turkistan" Terrorist Forces and Islamic extreme forces are both located at the Mid-east. Therefore, the situation development of the region, especially the Palestine-Israeli conflicts and the US military attack on Iraq, is not only related to the region's future but also to the stability of China's western border. In this sense, China's involvement in the Mid-east issue is no more irrelevant but of essential significance.
The strategic intention behind the anti-terrorist war is increasingly clear. Looking at the geographic strategy, not only can the US march into Central Asia through the Afghanistan warfare, but also strengthen its hegemonic status in the region by taking military actions against Iraq. So increasing its participation in the Mid-east issue is also a way for China to contain the US hegemonism.
In addition, making friends and jointly opposing hegemonism are China's consistent policy towards the third world including the Mid-east. And at the moment that the US anti-terrorist war begins to encroach on the Mid-east and the Arab countries all nurse grievances to the double standards employed by the US on the Palestine-Israeli and Iraq issue, there is more need for China to raise its just voice.
The Middle East, the world petroleum resources, is China's irreplaceable energy channel. To participate in the Mid-east affairs not only can win over the affection of the Arab petroleum-producing countries, but also gain a larger share on the Mid-east petroleum market.
(People's Daily September 29, 2002)