This chapter provides a high-level overview of the importance of studying China in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa to understand China as a rising power globally. It then introduces the approach, argument, and structure of the book.
This chapter situates the book in the broader literature examining China as a rising power and defines the terms used throughout the book, including international order. It introduces the methodological approach of the book of exploring the degree to which China competes or cooperates with the United States and how its behavior diverges from or converges with elements of the liberal international order.
This chapter explores China's post–Cold War interests in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa: promoting its domestic economic growth through access to resources and markets, fostering support for it in the international arena, ensuring its domestic stability, advocating for developing country causes, safeguarding its citizens and businesses abroad, and protecting its territorial integrity and sovereignty from the United States. Changes in China's interests over time are discussed. These interests shape the international order China is constructing and how it is building spheres of influence. They also provide insights into why and how China is competing in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa and how it differentiates itself from other great powers.
Cooperation forums (China–Arab States Cooperation Forum- CASCF and Forum on China-Africa Cooperation-FOCAC) are China's primary multilateral mechanisms to coordinate economic, political, and security relations with the Middle East and Africa. China's political behavior is competitive, excluding the United States and encouraging South-South cooperation in opposition to the developed world. China's advocacy for the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence diverges from the Western liberal political order. Economic behavior in the forums is also competitive, excluding the United States and facilitating significant Chinese state support for companies. This behavior diverges from the liberal order's emphasis on free markets and limited state intervention in the economy. China's foreign aid behavior contains elements of competition and divergence. It diverges from the liberal order due to its lack of political conditionality.
China created special envoys for the Middle East, Syria, and Africa to address what it perceives as hot spots and challenges to peace and security in these regions. When it was initially established, China's special envoy for Middle East issues focused on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. In a post-Arab awakening environment, the envoy's scope expanded to include Syria, Iran, Yemen, Libya, and the Belt and Road Initiative. Eventually China set up a separate envoy to address issues in Syria. In Africa, China's envoy initially focused on Darfur, but in recent years it has shifted attention to South Sudan and Sudan, Mali, Africa's Great Lakes region, economic engagement with Africa, a shared colonial history with the continent, and the spread of Ebola. The special envoy for Middle East issues is competitive and norm divergent.
Although China's level of investment in these regions is low compared with other areas of the world, it is heavily involved in trade, services, and aid provision. It uses state support for Chinese companies, free trade agreements, special economic zones, and agricultural demonstration centers to promote economic interactions with the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa. China differentiates itself from the United States and other great powers by providing substantial state support for economic activity, distributing foreign aid without political conditions, sharing its development experience with other developing countries, and supporting broad economic development in these regions. China's economic behavior is competitive with the United States, but sometimes China competes inside the liberal order, and sometimes it competes outside it. This chapter helps readers understand how China is managing its economic relations with these regions and the economic order China is constructing.
The political behavior discussed in this chapter (United Nations Security Council voting and strategic partnerships) is competitive with the United States, but sometimes China is competing inside the liberal international order and sometimes outside it. Through its political behavior, China differentiates itself from the United States and other Western great powers with its emphasis on South-South cooperation, defense of sovereignty against foreign intervention and interference, and focus on aid and sharing its experiences as a developing country. China's UN Security Council voting is competitive with the United States and diverges from the liberal order in its staunch defense of sovereignty through the Five Principle of Peaceful Coexistence. China converges with the liberal order by supporting multilateral mechanisms to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. In contrast, China's strategic partnerships are norm neutral.
This chapter examines China's United Nations peacekeeping operations (UNPKO), conventional arms sales, antipiracy activities, and its military base in Djibouti. Its security behavior in these regions today is mostly cooperative and norm convergent with the liberal order. China stresses the need to use multilateral mechanisms such as the United Nations to address hot spots and threats to peace and security. Its conventional arms sales to these regions is minimal. Although China's base in Djibouti may be competitive, it is norm neutral and in alignment with the practice of great powers establishing military bases to protect their regional interest. All of China's military behavior in these regions today conforms to the rules of the liberal order. In contrast with the Mao era, China is not attempting to create its own military rules.
This chapter examines what the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is and how it relates to China's approach to the Middle East and Africa. It then analyzes specific foreign policy tools encompassed by BRI. Overall, China's behavior through Belt and Road is competitive, but some elements are norm convergent and some norm divergent. China competes inside and outside the economic and political order with various foreign policy tools supporting BRI (e.g., cooperation forums, state support for Chinese companies, aid, free trade agreements, special economic zones, agricultural demonstration centers, strategic partnerships, antipiracy, UN peacekeeping operations, and China's base in Djibouti). Through Belt and Road and the foreign policy tools used to support the initiative, China is building a new order that reflects its values. China portrays itself as a driver of connectivity, development, trade, and globalization as it defends sovereignty and advocates for developing country causes.
This chapter answers the following questions: What are China's interests in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa? How have they changed over time? How is China cooperating or competing with the United States in these regions? How is China's behavior converging with or diverging from liberal international norms? How does China's behavior vary across functional areas and regions? Since the beginning of the Arab awakening, how has China's behavior toward these regions changed? Is increasing competition between the United States and China affecting China's behavior in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa? Is China building an alternate international order in these regions? If yes, what are the characteristics of that order?