On Friday, March 10, Saudi Arabia and Iran announced that they would open up diplomatic relations following a meeting brokered by China. The two regional powers had not carried out diplomacy since they cut ties in 2016. The announcement came suddenly, and unexpectedly, and there is no doubt that U.S. politicians and oil companies feel threatened. This success likely helps the Chinese state and economy have better access to Middle East oil. It also could stabilize regional conflicts and makes China more popular in the region and possibly beyond.
Saudi Arabia and Iran are, aside from the state of Israel, the wealthiest and most powerful states in the region. Oil gives these states huge leverage, and what’s more, they represent the historic power-centers of the two branches of Islam – Shi’ism and Sunnism. Both states use their connections in the surrounding region, such as in Yemen, Syria and Iraq, to extend their control and influence. This puts them in a state of perpetual conflict.
China is able to pose as a mediator in the region, in a way that the U.S. cannot. The U.S. has maintained long-standing hostility to the state of Iran, ever since the Iranian Revolution of 1979. Saudi Arabia has been a key U.S. ally in the region, supplying access to oil, and allowing the U.S. to leverage Saudi influence in the region, while the U.S. supplies Saudi Arabia with an endless arsenal of weapons. China, on the other hand, does not have this history, and can pose as a mediator between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
China is not doing this out of good will. The enormous Chinese economy requires the steady influx of oil to continue functioning. By helping facilitate this agreement, China is working to secure its access. Currently China has 214 billion dollars worth of Middle East investments, mostly in the energy sector. Unlike the U.S. this investment has not come with the added cost of brutal wars and occupations. China’s strategy has been to let the U.S. destabilize the region, and then sweep in and benefit wherever it can.
This deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran, brokered by China, is another sign that China is playing more and more of a role in the world, in competition with the U.S., and this is another sign that their competition is continuing to intensify. Of course, like U.S. military and corporate operations in the world, the role China is playing isn’t for the good of the people of the Middle East or elsewhere. They are simply playing the same game as the U.S. – a dangerous game of global domination in which the majority of the people of the world will continue to be the guaranteed losers. The future of humanity rests on finally putting an end to this dangerous game of competition between states for economic domination, which requires changing the whole system to benefit the majority, not the profits of a few.