Diarytimes Media Network, Shimla Published by : Kumud Sharma, Updated April 19, 2023 by Diary Times
China’s shift from its traditionally subtle diplomatic practices to broker a high-profile detente between Saudi Arabia and Iran portends a new era of international influence in Beijing’s favor.
In this the Communist Party looks to build its clout as a good-faith international dealmaker directly at the expense of the West. The agreement announced last week a flashy deal orchestrated in secret that defies one of the worlds most grudging rivalries and restarts diplomatic relations between the two Middle East powers appears to have caught much of the world by surprise.
China as a potential Mediator
It served as an act of diplomacy on which China can now capitalize. Beijing has previously defined its foreign practices through subtler means. Western leaders for years have roundly rejected its Belt and Road initiative as little more than a scheme to seize power in less-developed countries by offering cheap infrastructure investments now in exchange for influence later. China has made quiet investments in the military infrastructure of its neighbors, such as Afghanistan and Cambodia, while also building relations with regional powers through weapons sales.
By not taking sides in the Saudi-Iranian conflict, China has emerged as a player than can resolve disputes rather than merely sell weapons to the conflicting parties, Trita Parsi with the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, who advocates for greater engagement between the governments of the U. S. and Iran. Unfortunately, the United States has adopted an approach to the region that has disabled it from becoming a credible mediator.
At the Munich Security Conference in February, U. S. allies expressed concern about a peace plan for Ukraine that China had just introduced that in practice heavily favored Russia. According to Bloomberg, European officials feared the proposal despite having little chance of success could attract interest from countries in the Global South that China has courted in recent years. That could, in theory, turn into votes of support at the U. N. But the effort to recast itself as a peace broker and an international partner has fallen victim to unforced errors. Chinas top diplomat recently undertook a week-long tour of European capitals, looking to reinvigorate relationships as China works to emerge from oppressive, self-imposed coronavirus restrictions.
Shift of Global Balance of Power
Still, in the case of Saudi Arabia and Iran, China found unique territory in which to operate. The U. S. on its own boxed itself out of any potential breakthroughs because it does not have any formal diplomatic contact with Iran. The Biden administration has spoken about the importance of regional security dialogues and is presumably supportive of this agreement, at least in general terms, Jon Alterman with the Center for Strategic and International Studies wrote in an analysis note.
If American diplomats do, in fact, understand the details of the latest Chinese overture and the broader ramifications of it they’re not offering any indications as such publicly. We would like to know more about the arrangement, Mark Lambert, the deputy assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs. If the Chinese would like to talk to us about this arrangement, that would be welcomed. Others with deep experience in American foreign policy warn that the Biden administration needs to change its thinking to address what appears to be a fast-moving shift in the global balance of power.