China: Will it now Toss Caution to the Wind?

This is key: In the dawning light of the US deceit over Taiwan, will China now toss caution aside, and recognise that it needs both Russian and Iranian military and strategic depth?

From the outside, one sees a West Asia girding up, and wrenching its stance around, to face eastwards. It is not simply a geographic displacement towards a different compass setting, however.  It is in part, a ‘push-reaction’ to the pall of litigious sanctions, regulation and asset seizures on individuals unconnected, or very loosely connected, to sanctioned states – billowing out from the EU sanctions ‘factory’.

But the real catalyst to this incipient ‘pivot’ rather, is the decisive pull of a comprehensive Vision being dropped onto the playing-board of the Great Game, by Russia. ‘Heartland’ states are both intrigued and attracted. There is a whiff, too, of Bandung II to the affair. The Bandung Conference in 1955, was also launched on the principles self-determination, mutual respect for sovereignty, non-aggression, non-interference in internal affairs – and of equality in participation.

Of course, the original energy behind that initiative dissipated under the impact of a new financialised colonialism, but somehow there is in the air today a tentative renaissance of those early anti-colonial sentiments directed in this instance, at the ‘Rules-Based Order’ imposed, blanket covering.

In quick succession, we have had a ‘full house’ of potentially strategy re-defining summits: The Caspian, the Tehran and Russia-Turkey reset conferences.  All have major strategic significance — and already we see some first ‘buds’ of growth in the plan for President Erdogan to call President Assad.

This, in and of itself, will mitigate regional tensions.  President Putin’s revival of the Adana Agreement (1998), in which Damascus guaranteed the containment of Syria-based Kurdish movements, however, might yet open a path to an ultimate Syria settlement in respect to both the jihadists in the east, on the one hand (with Erdogan’s co-operation), and an ending to the US occupation of north-east Syria, on the other (with Russian facilitation).

This latter is but one example of the new political dynamics beginning to come alive. These openings, nonetheless, are buttressed by solid economic interest – centred around the advent of new trade and economic channels, in ways to mitigate the west’s barrage of sanctions – whilst at the same time, generating new commercial initiatives to lift the Region out from its crisis.

The sinews of this Vision are the massive waterway network, underpinned at the Caspian conference, together with a companion, Heartland pipeline network.  In the West, cheap waterway corridors have been neglected. But here we witness unfolding an extraordinary network, stretching East to the Black Sea (thus potentially linking to the Danube) and (more directly) to the Mediterranean. Northwards, to the Artic northern sea-route: southwards, via the Caspian and the North South Corridor, to Dubai and India; and eastwards, via the BRI, to China. Quicker and less costly corridors than the maritime alternatives.

All of this is to be given a solidity by new payment systems stretching from Africa (Pan-African Payment and Settlement System) that is to dovetail with the alt-SWIFT Mir and Union Pay systems. By a lilly-pad spread of tax-free Special Economic Zones unfolding across the MENA region; and by a railway renaissance criss-crossing the African continent, both laterally and vertically.

Taken together, this represents a strategic move to take commerce, its transportation corridors and all payment systems out of the maws of the Rimland, ‘Great Game’ maritime powers. The West seethes. The Establishment journal The Financial Times already has been firing off warning flares about a too-close realignment between Turkey and Russia. Anonymous EU commentators hint that in the latter event, Turkey may find itself sanctioned by the EU.

Paradoxically, the defining event – that may tie all these Russian initiatives together – took place thousands of miles from the Region: The Pelosi visit to Taiwan that so infuriated Beijing.

It is not the immediate Chinese military reaction, nor  China’s cancellation of a series of bilateral channels of communication with the US, that is the point here; but rather, that the pace and intensity of US-China tension is set to go up — changing that relationship forever.

It would seem that China has come to understand that Biden lied. Three times he said explicitly said that the US would militarily defend Taiwan, in the event of a Chinese forced takeover of the island. Each time these statements were walked back by Biden staffers: ‘Oh, you know, Biden is apt to mis-speak’.  He, Biden, really, truly stands by the One China policy.

That was not true.

Well, the Chinese eyes have been opened. They firstly understand now, that the US intends to do everything possible to ensure that a peaceful reunification never takes place. This insight has touched the still raw nerve of China’s ‘Century of Humiliation’ by western powers, seizing and occupying portions of China.

Secondly, they must understand that it flows from the latter insight that reunification must be forced – by one way, or another – against US wishes.  And thirdly, that the window of opportunity (or at least, the opportunity to do so without starting a major war), will gradually be closed on them.

These two points imply that the US-China relations can never be the same again.  How does this impinge on the Middle East?  It matters in this way (as explained by a Russian military commentator, but below is paraphrased):

It is easy to forget that China has played the part of being a very ‘good boy’ for the US, when it comes to sanctions against Russia. (Jake Sullivan had threatened the Chinese at Ankara, to not by-pass US sanctions – if it valued its US and EU markets.) Yes, China buys Russia’s energy, but so does the USA, who exempted it, together with other strategic resources, from sanctions.  

It took the obvious humiliation of Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, for China to start recognising that maybe there should be more than just buying of energy and some military-technology from Russia, plus verbal support in a strategic partnership. Russia fully supports China and will continue her support; but it is about time China also undertook very substantive steps, not just declarations, towards real alliance and adjustment of China’s economic aspirations to the realities of the Eurasian integration, whose strategic security rests with Russia.  

This is key: In the dawning light of the US deceit over Taiwan, will China now toss caution aside, and recognise that it needs both Russian and Iranian military and strategic depth? And now, in its relations with Russia and Iran, will it throw its unqualified weight behind the various Eurasian integration projects?

If so, it will turbo-charge the Region — just when it needs it the most.

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