THE NEWS LENS - 2017/06/12
Much has been said about U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent visit to the Middle East but it’s worth remembering that only a few weeks earlier a mirror image of Trump’s Middle East tour took place in China. In mid-March, King Salman of Saudi Arabia and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Beijing in the same week. These visits, combined with other diplomatic activities, reflect the fact that China’s engagement with the Middle East has been growing steadily in recent years. The surprise and the sense of unpreparedness China experienced from the Arab Spring (particularly the fall of the Mubarak regime in Egypt and the need to evacuate thousands of Chinese workers from Libya), and the sense of opportunity created by growing frustration with the Obama Administration’s Middle East policy, has led China to gradually adopt a more active approach to the region, still seen as U.S. strategic territory. China has tried to balance its relationships and bypass regional strategic and ideological divides by pursuing ties with Iran and getting closer to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Israel. China, the biggest oil importer in the world, has developed substantial energy trade with both Saudi Arabia and Iran.