China is making a bold play for the Greater Middle East. Sure, they want access to—and control over—the region’s vast oil and mineral wealth. More than that, though, Beijing wants exclusive access to the region’s budding high-tech sector. Presently, the United States has enacted an onerous sanctions regime against most high-tech coming out of the United States and into China.
This has done considerable damage to China’s immensely sophisticated technology sector.
To compensate for this loss, China has integrated itself into Saudi Arabia’s budding tech sector (known as “Silicon Wadi”).
Since 2018, the Saudis have strived to diversify their economy away from being completely tethered to the unstable oil market to becoming a major technology producer. Israel, meanwhile, is a high-tech pioneer that has very close relationships with American technology producers in Silicon Valley.
China Wants to Use the Mideast to Gain Access to Advanced Tech
China is desperate to integrate its own technology firms with the sophisticated—and growing—tech sectors throughout the Middle East. That is the true context behind China’s big move into the region. It is also why Beijing brokered a truce between the Islamic Republic of Iran (their client) and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Beijing is attempting to usurp the United States’ traditional role in the region in order to not only gain access to Iranian oil but to enmesh itself deeper into Saudi Arabia’s budding tech sector.
Which it has.
That Chinese diplomatic move, by the way, was Beijing’s first masterstroke against the West in the Mideast because it stunted the attractiveness of the Trump Administration’s Abraham Accords, which remained attractive to many in the region, even as the Biden Administration did its best to undermine those accords over the last three years.
The very last thing the Chinese could allow for would be the coalescence of the American client, Israel, as a security partner for another nominal American ally in the region, Saudi Arabia, to contain China’s client of Iran.
Of course, preventing this new regional security paradigm from taking shape, which would have ensured the region remained tilted toward the United States rather than China, was a key strategic imperative for Tehran.
Iran’s Grand Strategy at Play
As I explicitly outline in my recent book, The Shadow War: Iran’s Quest for Supremacy, Iran has a grand strategy of displacing the United States as the regional hegemon by undermining and destroying America’s greatest regional partners – namely, Israel and Saudi Arabia. China shares this goal with its Iranian proxy.
The Chinese-brokered truce between Iran and Saudi Arabia was the first strategic move against the Americans in the Mideast. The second one came in the form of Hamas’ recent devastating attacks against Israel. Dubbed “Israel’s 9/11”, Hamas went out of its way to brutalize Israeli women, children, and elderly of the Jewish communities bordering the Gaza Strip.
This was a purposeful tactic designed to provoke the Israeli establishment into a massive military reaction against the 2.5 million Palestinian Arabs who live in Gaza.
In the immediate aftermath of the Hamas pogrom (which is what it was) in neighboring Israel, Riyadh phoned Jerusalem and informed Israeli leaders that Saudi Arabia officially stood by the Palestinians.
All this, not long after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had sojourned to the United Nations to describe the growing regional security alliance between Saudi Arabia and Israel.
The implication of Riyadh’s phone call to Jerusalem was that, if Israel struck hard against suspected terrorist sites in Gaza, the security alliance that Netanyahu has sought would be over. Israel would find herself isolated in the region, with Iran ascendant.
But, of course, the severity of the Hamas attack demands retribution from Israel.
Doing nothing or not doing enough against the terrorists who call Gaza home would both be immoral and politically suicidal for the Netanyahu government, which is already suffering political blowback for having apparently missed the indicators and warnings of Hamas’ attack.
Nevertheless, the Saudi government, ever fearful of the many millions of Islamists in their own population, will do nothing to appear to be siding with the Jewish State of Israel over their own co-religionists and fellow Arabs in the Palestinian Territories.
Thus, the Iranians, through their proxies in Gaza, have achieved their grand strategic ambition of keeping Israel divorced from the wider region and separated from the Saudis, Iran’s other major geostrategic rival in the region.
Beijing Tries to Play Good Cop to Iran’s Bad Cop
Enter Beijing to play the “good cop” to Iran’s “bad cop.” China’s Special Envoy to the Middle East, Zhai Jun, has called for increased aid to Gaza – which is currently being besieged by the Israeli military – and wants to coordinate with Egypt a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
China has now expanded its pull over another traditional U.S. ally, Egypt. The country is mortified at the prospect of refugee flows coming from neighboring Gaza in the wake of an Israeli attack on the area.
China’s ultimate goal is to completely surround tiny Israel and then to push the Americans back far enough so that they can become the only power capable of stopping the genocidal Iranians from taking over the region – and annihilating the Jewish state.
Beijing fantasizes that it can strong-arm the Israelis into granting China’s tech firms access to Israel’s sophisticated tech sector, as a means of circumventing America’s tech bans on China.
The United States must take a much greater role in not only restoring its weakening containment on Iran but also ensuring that Israel and Saudi Arabia complete the marriage that former President Donald Trump attempted to achieve with his Abraham Accords—before China and its Iranian proxy can effectively isolate Israel and force Jerusalem to become dependent on Beijing.
A 19FortyFive Senior Editor and an energy analyst at the The-Pipeline, Brandon J. Weichert is a former Congressional staffer and geopolitical analyst who is a contributor at The Washington Times, as well as at the Asia Times. He is the author of Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower (Republic Book Publishers), Biohacked: China’s Race to Control Life (Encounter Books), and The Shadow War: Iran’s Quest for Supremacy (July 23). Weichert occasionally serves as a Subject Matter Expert for various organizations, including the Department of Defense. He can be followed via Twitter @WeTheBrandon.