Nabil Amr
Palestinian writer and politician

China at the Center of Tensions and Polarization

Observers of the course of the Chinese policy know that the leaders of this giant country avoid confrontation in any situation, unless it's forced upon them.

That happened when former US President Donald Trump put countering China at the heart of his foreign policy objectives. Nonetheless, the requisites for becoming a superpower safeguarding and developing its interests around the globe have compelled its leaders to establish a political school of their own. It is founded not only on not appearing hostile but also lurking behind conflict areas, seeking to seize opportunities for advancing Chinese interests.

The merits of this policy have been demonstrated during the Russian-Ukrainian war, and its spread around the globe, as China has interests in all six continents. starting from its exports of Qurans and Ramadan lanterns to many Islamic nations, to beyond flooding the global markets with consumer products- though of relatively low quality- but with prices no country in the world can compete.

On the margins of this military conflict, the West’s godfather, the US, is seeking to convince China to take a neutral position by pointing to its disputes with its Russian ally, and the “Rome meeting” was not the last of those attempts. Talks did not end with the seven-hour meeting, while US statements on China supplying arms to Russia and its concern about the Sino-Russian relationship are nothing but attempts to apply pressure that are more akin to attempts to appeal to China than provoke tensions, at least for now.

The US is this war’s godfather from a distance. It might have more reservations in this regard than Europe. It also doesn't exclude China from its analyses and assessments of how to achieve its central goal of ending the war, and ward off the specter of its expansion east or west. Indeed, who is better placed than China to play an effective role in achieving this goal or bringing it closer?

Europe continues to make overtures to China after its attempts to appease the Russian bear had failed to prevent Russia from barging into the continent, igniting a war whose ramifications are being first and foremost affecting exporters of energy and food. The world’s eyes have inevitably turned to the Gulf states, where energy production is highly advanced. These countries have anticipated and prepared for wars, conflicts, and competition through a policy of opening up to all those who, opening up to, had been forbidden during the Cold War because of the polarization created by the Cold War.

These countries will not throw away the ties they have built with China in various fields. Their relations are not a bonus; they are central to the discussion. The Saudi invitation extended to the Chinese President was timed deliberately, as was the interval for making it. If the visit is made after the Holy month of Ramadan, then the initial fog created by the war would have cleared up. Until it is heeded, the invitation sends a message: “You are on our mind.”

All the leading players in the Ukrainian war are seeking a “Chinese bride’s hand" in marriage. All the suitors want to couple with this immense “bride” to advance their agendas, be they compatible or conflicting with those of China. And so far, China has been playing coy, lurking, and monitoring. Its biggest fear is being forced to directly and explicitly pick sides, which would involve taking heavy losses whichever way the decision takes. No one, not even Chinese leaders themselves, knows for sure how long they can continue to avoid picking sides.

Military progress in the war proceeds at a slow pace, no party close to a decisive victory, and China is at the center of this polarization, with all the big players in making the political and economic decisions vying for its support. So long as that is the case, China, which is secretly unsettled by the war and afraid of having to pay some of its cost as its economic stature relative to the rest of the world, including Europe and America, continues to grow, has no choice but to take its traditional choice, which it shares with those in a similar position: mediation.

It may be too early to tell when its position will crystalize, but this is the choice China is most likely to make.