Thursday, June 26, 2014

China Seeks Expanded Role in Middle East

At the China-Arab Cooperation Forum, Beijing will step up its involvement in the Middle East. shannon-tiezzi

By Shannon Tiezzi

The Diplomat - June 04, 2014

On June 5, the sixth Ministerial Meeting of the China-Arab Cooperation Forum (CACF) will open in Beijing. This year’s meeting will also celebrate the 10th anniversary of the CACF, which was created in 2004 during then-President Hu Jintao’s visit to the Arab League headquarters in Cairo, Egypt. The CACF provides a formal dialogue mechanism between China and the Arab League, which includes 21 member states from the Middle East and North Africa. Foreign ministers from 19 of these countries plan to be in Beijing for this week’s forum, according to CCTV.
China’s turn toward the Middle East in some ways is the mirror image of the U.S. pivot to Asia. The U.S. pivot comes as Washington turns away from a decades-long fixation on the Middle East and its surrounding regions. China, meanwhile, has a vested interest in the area for the same reason the U.S. does: oil. China is already the largest importer of Persian Gulf oil, and will soon be the largest importer from OPEC as a whole (if it hasn’t already passed the U.S. in that category). China’s vital energy interests in the region have given it reasons to take a larger interest in regional security, especially as the U.S. turns its focus elsewhere.