Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Future of China's Diplomacy in the Middle East

Despite its rising power, China should resist the temptation to become militarily involved in the Middle East.

By Xue Li and Zheng Yuwen

THE DIPLOMAT - July 26, 2016

President Xi Jinping made his first overseas visit in 2016 to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Iran, which implied that China is considering bringing its “One Belt and One Road” strategy (OBOR) to the Middle East and regards this region as a critical area of neighborhood diplomacy. So what kind of diplomacy should China conduct in the Middle East? Is it the time for China to become militarily involved — for example, to send an army to Syria? Also, given that China issued an “Arab Policy Paper” right before the visit, does this mean that China-Arab relations will cover Chinese-Iranian relations as well? To answer those questions, we need to figure out three things: the main characteristic of the Middle East, China’s comparative advantages, and China’s interests in this region.


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Conference: The Middle East at Strategic Crossraods II - JULY 20-21, 2016 - SHANGHAI INSTITUTES FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDIES

上海国际问题研究院 主办
上海国际战略问题研究会 协办

JULY 20-21, 2016

July 20, 2016 (WEDNESDAY)
Participants check in at Ramada Shanghai Caohejing
Address: 509,Caobao Road,Shanghai,China  Post code: 200233 

July 20
18:30 Dinner hosted by Prof. Wu Chunsi and Prof. Li Weijian
Ramada Shanghai Caohejing

July 21 (THURSDAY)
8:40: Participants lodged in Ramada wait in the hotel lobby and leave for SIIS Building
u  9:00—9:10  Opening Remarks
Moderator: Prof. Wu Chunsi
Prof.Yang Jiemian, President Emeritus of SIIS

Session I: The Middle East situation in general
Moderator: Prof. Yang Jiemian
10 minutes for each speaker.
Ø  Amb. Gao Youzhen: Some personal observations on current Middle East political and security situation
Ø  Mr. Liviu Muresan: The agents of changes: China as a co-interested security provider in the MENA region
Ø  Prof. Liu Zhongmin: Three Development Trends  of Islamic Forces in the Middle Eastern Politics
Ø  Dr. Mohsen Shariatinia: Iran's priorities in a changing middle east"
Free discussion

10:30—11:00  Coffee Break
11:00—12:00  Session II The Roles of External Powers in the Region
ModeratorProf. Li Weijian
10 minutes for each speaker.
Ø  Prof. Sun Degang: China’s Even-handedness in the Gulf Security: From the Gulf War to Iran-Saudi Discord
Ø  Prof. Steven Blockmans: The EU and the Middle East: what role for an actor that seems to recoil from geopolitics?
Ø  Ms. Meena Singh RoyIndia and the Gulf Region: Protecting Economic Interests and Building Strategic Partnerships
Ø  Dr. Andrey Baklitsky: Russia in the Middle East: from a backbencher to a trendsetter
Free discussion

12:00—13:30  Working Lunch
13:30—15:00 Session IIIThe Prospects of Middle East Hotspots
Moderator: Prof. Sun Degang
10 minutes for each speaker.
Ø  Prof. Tang Zhichao: The future of Turkey after the military coup
Ø  Prof. Seyed Mohammad Marandi: Wahhabism, Brexit, and Blowback
Ø  Dr. Tugrul Keskin: Pan-Turkism to Localization: Sociological Origins and Political Transformation of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) in Turkey
Ø  Qin Tian: Removing Sanctions on Iran: the process and the obstacles
Ø  Dr. Jin Liangxiang: The nuclear issue and the prospect of Iran’s reintegration into international system

15:00—15:30 Coffee Break
15:30—17:00 Session IV
New Features of Middle East Terrorism and the Challenges
Moderator: Wu Chunsi
10 minutes for each speaker.
Ø  Prof. Wang Jian: New Characteristics of terrorism in the Middle East
Ø  Mr. Mohammed Al-Sudairi: The New Eastern Frontier of the Da'wah
Ø  Prof. Tian Wenlin: The Issue of the Islamic State
Ø  Mr. Sajjad MalikThe Syrian cauldron: Implications of extremists’ involvement in the conflict
Ø  Dr. Bao ChengzhangChanging Tactics and Current Trends of the “Islamic State”
Free Discussion

17:00-1720 Concluding remarksProf. Wu Bingbing

18:00—19:00 Dinner hosted by President Emeritus Yang Jiemian
Ramada Shanghai Caohejing

19:00 Participants Start to leave Shanghai

Participants Name List
International Participants
1.      Andrey Baklitsky , "Russia and Nuclear Nonproliferation" Program Director, PIR Center
2.      Liviu Muresan, Executive President, EURISC Fund, Romania
3.      Meena Singh Roy, Research Fellow & Coordinator West Asia Centre, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses
4.      Mohammed Al-SudairiResearch Fellow, King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies (KFCRIS), Saudi Arabia
5.      Mohsen Shariatinia, Assistant Professor of International Relations, Institute for Regional Studies, Shahid Beheshti University
6.      Prasant Tripathi, Indian Consul, Consulate of India to Shanghai
7.      Sajjad Malik, PHD candidate, National Defense University of Pakistan
8.      Seyed Mohammad MarandiProfessor of Tehran University
9.      Steven Blockmans, Senior Research Fellow & Head of the EU Foreign Policy Unit, Centre for European Policy Studies; Professor of EU External Relations Law and Governance, University of Amsterdam
10.   Tugrul Keskin, Assistant Professor of Political Science and International relations at Maltepe University, Turkey

Participants from Beijing
1.      Gao Youzhen, Former China’s Ambassador to Qatar
2.      Tang Zhichao, Senior Research Fellow, China Academy of Social Sciences
3.      Wu Bingbing, Senior Fellow, Institute for International and Strategic Studies, Peking University; Deputy Dean and Professor, Department of Arabic, Peking University
4.      Tian Wenlin, Senior Fellow with China Institute for Contemporary International Relations
5.      Qin Tian, Research Fellow with China Institute for Contemporary International Relations

Participants from Shanghai
6.      Wang Jian, Senior Fellow, Shang Academy of Social Sciences
7.      Liu Zhongmin, Director and Professor, Institute for Middle East Studies, Shanghai International Studies University (SISU)
8.      Sun Degang, Deputy Director and Professor, Institute for Middle East Studies, Shanghai International Studies University
9.      Bao Chengzhang, Research Fellow, Institute for Middle East Studies, SISU

SIIS Participants
10.   Yang Jiemian, President Emeritus and Senior Fellow of SIIS, and President of Shanghai Institute of International Strategic Studies (SIISS)
11.   Wu Chunsi, Director and Senior Fellow, Institute for International Strategic Studies, SIIS, and Secretary General of Shanghai Institute of International Strategic Studies (SIISS)
12.   Li Weijian, Senior Research Fellow of SIIS
13.   Jin Liangxiang, Research Fellow of SIIS
14.   Liu Xin, Research Fellow of SIIS
15.   Zhang Weiting, Research Fellow of SIIS
16.   Song Qing, Research Fellow of SIIS
17.   Zhou Yiqi, Research Fellow of SIIS

Saturday, July 9, 2016


The “One Belt One Road”(OBOR) policy, announced By President Xi Jinping, in September 2013 during a visit  in  Kazakhstan,  if  successful,  will  change  economic  and  strategic  equilibria  b etween  Asia  and  Europe  and  could have effects also on Africa.  OBOR puts under common Umbrella huge investments on Railways and Maritime infrastructure.  There are challenges and opportunities both for China and Europe, however to be really successful, there is a need of mutual understanding and cooperation between the two sides.  The Conference aims at putting together the Chinese and the European vision. Speakers will discuss on several issues:  How OBOR will affect international relations between countries and regions and how existing conflicts and destabilized areas could put at risk infrastructure investments? What about the economic impact of these investments looking at it from both the European and Asian perspective? How new railways and maritime routes and ports could  change  trade  flaws  and  affect  competiveness  of  countries, regions but also of existing infrastructure? To enrich the discussion think tanks and members of several institutions both from China, Asian and European countries are involved.


‘Belt and Road’ initiative must work on sustainability of projects by Liu Zongyi

From the Global Times 2016-06-26

The "Belt and Road" (B&R) initiative is the top-level design of China's opening-up and economic diplomacy in the new era. In China, it's a domestic development strategy aimed at poverty reduction and the development of central and western regions; but for the rest of the world, it's an open and inclusive initiative, sharing common ideas and a goal with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Infrastructure construction is one of the core contents of the initiative, and also one of UN Sustainable Development Goals and the goals of the G20. When we talk about sustainable infrastructure development, in general we always think of ecological and social sustainability. But in fact, we need more conditions to achieve sustainable infrastructure development. The advancement of the B&R initiative will promote regional economic integration and bring prosperity. But it's evident that it faces instability that includes terrorism and geopolitical suspicion. Thus, for the B&R intiative, sustainable infrastructure development needs sustainable international and regional peace and stability, and sustainable regional economic cooperation. To realize and maintain regional peace and stability, G20 countries should coordinate and cooperate. Meanwhile, China hopes to synergize different countries or regional development plans along the belt and road. G20 countries should promote coordination and cooperation and set up common infrastructure standards to improve infrastructure construction and investment. Countries that receive B&R investment should be politically stable and capable of governing, which is one of the reasons that East Asian countries enjoyed fast economic growth and a large amount of FDI in the past decades. And they should have stable, sustainable and clear development policies that make foreign investors feel at ease. As for ecological and social sustainability, countries along the belt and road can enact laws and regulations according to international norms and their own reality, and ask foreign investors to abide. Ecological and social assessment can be undertaken by a third party. But the country should not break contracts for political reasons, and investors should enjoy the right to defend the safety of investment through international investment dispute settlement mechanisms. Now some international organizations are thwarting B&R infrastructure projects by using so-called ecological and social problems. The G20 should coordinate domestic investment policies of its members and set up a model for other countries. The sustainability of financial support is key. It can be divided into two sides: First, it's necessary to get various and sufficient financial support for infrastructure construction; second, the budget sustainability of the investment receptor, which means FDI should enter countries progressively but not instantly.
But how to get various financial support?
The government should play the leading role, adopting smart financing methods and enhancing public-private cooperation. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and New Development Bank (NDB) can provide finance to B&R projects. All the members of the G20 should accept AIIB and NDB as a part of multilateral development network and stable resources of finance and knowhow similar to the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. Lastly, the sustainability of infrastructure planning and design is also vital. The parties concerned should adopt a hollistic approach to solving bottle-neck infrastructure problems. The planning and design of infrastructure should carry out an integrative design according to local natural characteristics to achieve the construction of low-carbon infrastructure, ecological preservation and transportation links. To seek balance between short-term and long-term economic achievements, we should not only promote the service efficiency and utilization efficiency of infrastructure, but also keep in mind the development of the next decades, reserving spaces for necessary infrastructure upgrading. This requires us to deal with the contradiction between the short-term political tenure and long-term national development goals.

China’s Foreign Policy under President Xi

Yang Jiemian

Jiemian YANG’s Dinner Keynote Speech at the East Asian Partners Dialogue on Latin American Studies Co-Sponsored by the China Academy of Social Sciences, the Shanghai Academy and the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies on June 15, 2016
Mr. Xi Jinping became the CPC Secretary General in November 2012 and the PRC President in March 2013. In the past three years and more, China’s Foreign Policy under President Xi is both a continuity of the past and a change of the present with a view to the future developments. Here I would like to share some of my personal thoughts on the following four points: 1. Internal and External Contexts; 2. Theories and Strategies; 3. Policies and Actions; and 4. Difficulties and Challenges.
1. Internal and External Contexts
President Xi’s Foreign Policy is basically determined by both internal and external contexts. However, different leadership has its different imprints on foreign policy because of different perception, judgment and reaction.
1.1. Internal drivers for China’s foreign policy. Someone said that President Xi knows what China wants. I would put it into three groups of driving forces. Firstly, it is to strive for China’s rejuvenation and modernization. It includes economic development and defense development. Secondly, it is to pursue a better and fairer society. It is more of political and social goals. Thirdly, it is to work at a role consistent with China’s history, population and comprehensive national strength.
1.2. External Drivers. On its own initiative, China’s international positions and roles are greatly increasing. China has a built-in urge for further reform and opening up so as to go with the on-going globalization and information age. Moreover, China is more proactive in participating and promoting global governance and regional cooperation. On the outside pushers, the re-configuration of world powers is in favor of the emerging powers including China. The international community lays greater hope on China’s contribution to the peace and prosperity of the world. The West, especially the United States has heightened its strategic vigilance on China’s rising.
2. Theories and Strategies
President Xi attaches particular importance to diplomatic theory and strategy. He stresses that China’s foreign policy should be guided by the right theory and strategy. Conversely, China’s foreign policy practice should conscientiously be crystallized into theory and strategy.
2.1. Features of President Xi’s Diplomatic Theory. President Xi’s diplomatic theory is based on the basic theory of China’s overall political thinking and foreign relations principles.
Firstly, President Xi emphasizes on diplomatic philosophy that is to learn to summarize the laws and rules of developments by right positions and methodologies, especially historical and dialectical materialism. Therefore, China’s diplomatic theory is characterized with long-term vision and broad thinking of the world. China’s overall framework of the worldview is the general point of departures and arrivals.
Secondly, President Xi learns hard the fine tradition of Chinese history and cultures and adapts them to the present and future realities. Both late Chairman Mao Zedong and President Xi like to quote Chinese ancient sayings. However, Mao’s quotations are often related to political struggles but Xi’s emphasis is more on good governance and friendly neighborhood. That President Xi inherits and carries forward the Chinese culture can basically be summed up as building of fairer and better off Chinese societies, peace loving and peace defending, and orderly human community.
Thirdly, President Xi works out a number of new concepts in line with the new developments, such as right approach between virtue and interests, new type of international relations based on win-win cooperation, new model of major country relations. In a longer run, President Xi also wants to put these pieces of concepts into more systematic theories. Furthermore, Xi’s theoretic concepts are more constructive and converging to the rest of the world.
2.2. Features of President Xi’s diplomatic strategies. Strategy is a frequent reference in President Xi’s speeches and statements. Under him, more strategic elements have been added to the domestic, regional and global dimensions of China’s diplomacy.
First of all, President Xi is a man of strategy, partly attributable to his family and personal backgrounds of long evolving in China’s politics and militaries, but more because of China being at a historical turning point. Upon approaching to the center-stage of the world, China needs more strategic thinking, top-level planning and bottom-line clarity. President Xi also put forth a number of strategies of global, regional and bilateral affairs such as Belt and Road Initiative and China-Latin America and the Caribbean relations.
Secondly, President Xi’s strategy is characterized by holistic and dialectic thinking. President Xi puts all the major events and issues under broader framework of thinking, if not globally at least regionally. He also likes to deal with these events and issues in an integrated way. In the past three years, China has already convened two important national conferences on foreign strategies and policies. One is working conference on neighborhood diplomacy in October 2013. The other is Central Working Conference on Foreign Affairs in November 2014. Both of them are of great strategic significance on China’s foreign policy. As a matter of fact, they set the tone and guide the general direction of China’s diplomacy at least for the first term.
Thirdly, President Xi’s strategies are made up by both thematic diplomacy and country/regional one. China used to focus on diplomatic work towards countries and region. They are still the foci. China’s respective diplomacy is now more of global and multilateral, regional and interregional contents. In January 2015, President Xi Jinping attended in Beijing the opening ceremony of the first ministerial meeting of the Forum of China and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), thus giving a final touch to the all-coverage of China’s cooperative mechanisms with all the developing regions. Additionally, China has recently developed thematic strategies in world economy, climate change and new commons. These are the new developments of China’s strategy to global governance and international system.
3. Policies and Actions
Policies are the actual carriers for translating theories and strategies into realities. Foreign policies and actions catch the most attentions of the media and people. Obviously, President Xi’s foreign policies and actions have already made them prominent among the contemporary ones.
3.1. Clear and Determined. Compared with his predecessors, President Xi’s foreign policies and actions are more of a global power’s approaches and styles.
Firstly, they are clear in purposes, visions and missions. President Xi repeatedly stresses that China’s foreign policies should show its major power’s responsibilities. He has made many speeches covering almost all the realms of global affairs and China’s diplomacy. Moreover, he is a man of action. Under his leadership, China initiated the BRICS New Development Bank and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, enhanced its support to the UN Peace-Keeping and other expenditures, and offered substantive assistance to the developing countries, especially the least developed countries (LDCs).
Secondly, they are firm and determined. Once President Xi and his colleagues have made the decisions, they will relentlessly promote and advance them. China is firm for a relation with the United States on the equal footing. China is determined to safeguard its rights in the South China Sea. China goes all out for maintaining stability. All are very much indicative of these features.
Thirdly, they are more predictable. President Xi is a straightforward person and he calls a spade a spade. According to his Selected Works and public speeches, one is not difficult to conclude what he wants to do and what he opposes to. For instance, President Xi’s attendance of UN Summits and Paris Conference on Climate Change in September 2015 show clearly what China want to shoulder the responsibilities in global governance and international system.
3.2. Pragmatic and Economic-Oriented. China is still a developing country and its strength mainly lies in the field of economics. However, China has greatly enhanced its economic clouts and upgraded its economic ladders. Therefore, China tries to effectively use the economic leverage to promote its foreign policy. For instance, China’s relations with the Latin American countries are mostly in the economic field. Another instance is China’s four partnerships with Europe for reform, growth, peace and civilization. Mostly they are of economic nature again.
3.3. Low-Politics and Public Diplomacy. China has attached greater importance to the low politics and public diplomacy. President Xi stresses people-to-people exchanges and calls for greater roles of think tanks.
4. Difficulties and Challenges
Foreign policy goes beyond one’s own country and is affected by both domestic and international factors. President Xi’s foreign policy is also confronted with many difficulties and challenges, some of them are profound ones. Particularly the following four merit our special attention.
4.1. The first is the limits. There is still a big gap between China’s goals and capabilities in foreign policy. Firstly, it is the hard power. In terms of domestic strength, China is about 75th place in the world according to per capita in 2015. In terms of comprehensive national strength, China is still lag behind in many fields such as science, technology and military. In many cases China ranks high in the production volume but low in the qualitative terms. Secondly, it is the intellectual and cultural power. In Chinese we say Mao Zedong lifted China out of a weak position being beaten, Deng Xiaoping the poor position being starvation, and it is still expected that Xi Jinping out of the position being scolded.  Thirdly, it is the institutions and mechanisms. China is a late and new comer at the institution and mechanism building of the international community. It is inexperienced and lacks accumulation of theories, talents and practices. The most obvious example is that China hosts no substantive Asian organizations of the United Nations, although China is the most important Asian country.
4.2. The second is priorities. For an administration that is expected to serve for two terms, President Xi has put forward a long list of domestic and foreign agendas for the years between 2013 and 2020. Some are long term and grandiose ones such as China Dream, Two Centennials and Belt and Road Initiative. Some are tough ones such as China-U.S. relations and South China Sea disputes. Therefore, these agendas and goals should be prioritized and focus on those that are doable and reachable ones.
4.3. The third is capacities. On the one hand, it is important to make full use of the existing and potential capacities. China needs to further modernize its foreign policy institutions and mechanisms so as to change the ad hoc capacities to institutional ones. On the other hand, China should proceed with its future capacity building, especially on global governance, international system and order, civil society and new science and technologies.
4.4. The fourth is publicities. Publicities here mean the following three dimensions. Firstly, China needs to make its own house in good order. Domestic strength is the basis of any country’s diplomacy. China needs to maintain its economic dynamism and social vitalities. Secondly, China needs to work harder and more effectively on the rights of discourses. Chinese narratives should be more understandable to the outside world and Chinese ways of thinking should be more accommodating with the whole world. Last but not least, China needs to adapt itself with the advancing of the times. Only holding the leadership in economics, science and technologies, political thinking and strategic leadership, can China succeed in garnering the global acceptance and support for its diplomacy.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Why China's role is not very visible in the Middle East By Jin Liangxiang, July 6, 2016

China's policy toward the Middle East is always discussed on different occasions. Though China has contributed many efforts to the resolution of major regional conflicts, it seems that China's role has never been sufficiently recognized. While American scholars would like to describe China as a free rider, analysts in the region would regard China as a business seeker. The reasons are actually very complicated.
The last 15 years have witnessed China playing a new constructive role in the Middle East within the new regional context. In September 2002, China appointed Ambassador Wang Shijie, a senior diplomat, as its first special envoy of Middle Eastern affairs. Since then, China has regularized its appointments of special envoys in the region. Until now, China has appointed four Middle East special envoys. The other three are Ambassador Sun Bigan, Ambassador Wu Sike and Ambassador Gong Xiaosheng.
In addition to envoys of Middle Eastern affairs in general, China also appointed special envoys for specific Middle Eastern issues. For instance, in 2007, 2014 and 2016, China appointed Ambassador Liu Guijin (& Ambassador Zhong Jianhua), Ambassador Sun Yuxi and Ambassador Xie Xiaoyan as special envoys respectively for the Darfur issue, Afghanistan issue and Syrian issue.
The above-mentioned appointments themselves indicate that China does attach great importance to regional issues, and does play significant roles in various regional issues though the effects might be different in different cases. In the Palestine-Israel conflict, China's role might be modest, but it does represent strong political support for the peace process. And China's mediating efforts in the Darfur issue paved the way for the soft landing of the crisis. China's special envoy on the Afghanistan issue also played a significant role in promoting relevant dialogue and reconciliation processes.
What's more, China also contributed to the Middle East economically as China has become a major economic partner of the region. China also provided military and security resources for the region in the form of UN missions.
So, why were China's efforts not sufficiently recognized? Or to put it another way, why is China's role not visible enough? The first reason should be the Western media's selective coverage of China's role in the region. Western media, particularly those of the United States, play leading roles in shaping global public opinion and even have strong influence in academic circles. Though they might be working for peace and stability in the region, their coverage remains biased.
They would like to cover more about the actions and behaviors of Western countries rather than those of non-Western countries, although it is not necessarily all positive. They have strong interest in covering the military actions of the West in the region while having little interest in reporting China's soft presence in the region despite the fact that China's economic contribution and mediating efforts do contribute to regional stability. What is even worse is that Western governments unfairly blame China for its reluctance to participate in military actions.
China's low level of visibility in the region can also be attributed to its unintentional and intentional low profile policies. Low profile policies have always been part of China's political culture. And the most famous motto in this regard should be the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping's warning in the early 1990s that China should be modest and prudent, keep a low profile and never seek hegemony.
It has already been a quarter century since Deng issued this warning, but it is still one of the major principles guiding China's overall policies, and China's policy toward the Middle East should be no exception. Though some scholars argue that China should take a more proactive policy as a result of its power increase, very few argue that China should give up its low profile policy in the Middle East.
To keep a low profile might also be China's policy option under the framework of the new type of relations among major countries. The new type of relations among major countries proposed by President Xi Jinping stands for non-confrontation among major countries at a strategic level, particularly between China and the United States.
China could be very easily regarded as an assertive or aggressive player by the United States in the Middle East if it keeps a high profile, despite the fact that the U.S. would always like to label China as a free rider. By the way, it is always difficult to please a leading power. It can easily find trouble with you whether you keep a low profile or high profile. A high profile can be regarded as a challenge while a low profile can be blamed for lacking initiative.
Though China will have to face up with blame and accusations no matter what it is doing in the region, Beijing might reasonably regard it as a cheap price to pay to keep a low profile. A higher price will always be waiting if someone is regarded as a potential challenge.
All in all, China's low visibility in the region is actually because of various complicated reasons. However, despite its low visibility, its contributions should not be neglected for any reason.
Dr. Jin Liangxiang is a columnist with

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Muslim Sanzijing: Shifts and Continuities in the Definition of Islam in China

Roberta Tontini, University of Heidelberg

Brill 2017