To understand China’s role in the Middle East, consider one recent event, and one recent non-event. In late March, Beijing made headlines by sending warships to rescue hundreds of Chinese and foreign nationals from conflict-torn Yemen. Yet in early April, Chinese President Xi Jinping canceled what was supposed to be his first official trip to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, reportedly as a result of the fighting in Yemen — underscoring that Beijing would rather get out of the kitchen than stand the heat of Middle Eastern politics. Indeed, it is China’s considerable absence, rather than burgeoning influence, that continues to define its role in this turbulent region.
China has good reasons to care about events in the Middle East: Roughly halfof its oil imports come from the Persian Gulf. Moreover, Beijing worries about extremist elements in the region providing training and inspiration to Muslim separatists in western China.
Read the full op-ed at Foreign Policy.