Eyes on Iraq: A warning about the “Chinese dragon” and its accelerating influence in the region

Eyes on Iraq: A warning about the “Chinese dragon” and its accelerating influence in the region

2024-05-22 09:10

Eyes on Iraq - A warning about the Chinese dragon and its accelerating influence in the regionShafaq News/ An international report warned that China is rushing to fill the power vacuum in Iraq by improving energy security and its global influence, suggesting that its results will be adverse even if Iraq is the primary beneficiary.

A report by the Hong Kong-based newspaper “South China Morning Post”, and translated by Shafaq News Agency, pointed out China’s neutrality in its policies, but the region is full of long competitions and conflicts, recalling that China recently won the lion’s share in the licensing round for oil and gas exploration in Iraq is part of its effort to get rid of its dependence on gas from Iran.

The report believed that this Chinese step reflects its endeavor to secure energy supplies at a time when it is struggling to deter the slowdown in growth at home in China, adding that China is seizing the opportunities available in the Middle East that have emerged in light of the conflicting ambitions of the West, recalling a statement by the Chinese chief diplomat, Wang Yi. Who recently confirmed the Chinese government’s pro-Palestinian position.

The report stated that American and European companies are afraid to make long-term investments in war-torn countries where corruption is widespread, despite the gas and oil reserves that these countries enjoy. The report continued that these countries are not competing with China for contracts on oil fields, adding that Washington has provided lives, money and time in Iraq, but China is the beneficiary.

However, the report pointed out that the strategy pursued by China in Iraq “may be a game with a negative outcome” on the political and commercial levels and with regard to influence, given the power dynamics in the region.

After the report stated that there are “treacherous dangers facing the arts of governance,” which the United States and Europe are well aware of, it said that China will face challenges in Iraq due to the hostilities that have deepened over the past few centuries.

China’s neutrality

After referring to the Gaza war and the tensions in the region’s societies that their governments cannot address, the report found that China’s neutrality and facilitation of dialogue will not protect it from having to face these difficulties, adding that as its involvement in Iraq becomes deeper and challenges multiply, the efforts of Chinese President Xi Jinping It will be exposed to danger and perhaps rejection. “How can China succeed if it does not side with local actors?” he asked.

The report said that history repeatedly shows that the vacuum of geostrategic power is similar to black holes. He pointed out that countries benefit from various means, such as economic incentives, in order to gain influence when their competitors retreat, whether partially or completely, but sometimes the best strategy is to remain on the sidelines.

The report highlighted what US President Joe Biden said about the increasing Chinese presence in the Middle East in 2022 during his visit to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, where the US President said, “We will not move away and leave a vacuum filled by China, Russia, or Iran.”

In this context, the report indicated that there are estimates of the presence of about 50,000 American soldiers around the region, while the American military base represents the largest in Qatar, while unprecedented security cooperation took place between Washington, Tel Aviv, Riyadh, and Abu Dhabi after Iran targeted Israel with attacks. Missiles and drones last April.

China’s influence

In comparison, the report said, “China’s foothold in the region is not as strong.”

The report continued that last year, China and Iraq celebrated the 65th anniversary of bilateral relations that began after the Iraqi coup in 1958, when General Abdul Karim Qasim overthrew the Hashemite monarchy and Beijing recognized his “revolutionary” government, adding that during Iraq’s war with Iran in the 1980s, it sold China arms for both countries.

The report pointed out that despite these efforts, China’s relations with Iraq were limited until the past two decades. He added that what pushed the two countries closer to each other was Beijing’s increasing need for oil, Iraq’s need for liquidity, and reconstruction after years of wars, and the effects of falling oil prices in addition to the “reducing the size” of American forces in Iraq.

The report noted that the 2009 agreement granted the Chinese National Petroleum Company a 37% stake in the Rumaila oil field, which is the largest oil field in Iraq, and that by 2013, China had a role in more than half of Iraq’s daily oil production. The report continued that in 2010, the Chinese government canceled 80% of Iraq’s debts owed to Beijing. Video clips dating back to 2015 show that the Iraqi army is operating Chinese-made CH-4 drones.

In addition, the report said that the two countries signed an oil-for-reconstruction agreement in 2019, whereby Beijing finances infrastructure projects in exchange for obtaining 100,000 barrels per day. The report added that as of February, Chinese companies supervise two-thirds of Iraqi oil production.

Eye on Iraq

The report stated that Iraq has become the first target for financing the “Belt and Road” initiative in the year 2021, as it received 10.5 billion US dollars for infrastructure projects. He added that the Central Bank of Iraq announced last year that it would settle commercial transactions with China directly in the yuan.

According to the report, such entanglements turn into a “maze,” as goals are lost and difficulties in settling them increase, likening the situation to machines that contain many moving parts that are in constant need of maintenance and repairs in an increasingly difficult manner.

The report added that it is possible to add complications resulting from states of uncertainty, unrest, and unexpected events, such as the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in a raft accident.

Therefore, the report concluded that all of these issues make China face the need to achieve a difficult balancing act, as it must take care of the interests of its partners and, at the same time, distance itself from local active forces, while monitoring the growing economic weaknesses at home.

The report also considered that Beijing may find itself forced to leave Iraq, at a time when the Gulf states, especially Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the UAE, are making large investments in an attempt to mobilize regional power, ensure stability, and isolate Iran.

He pointed out that some Gulf countries are signing agreements with China as part of the “Belt and Road” initiative, but their ambitions will limit the space available for Beijing to act unilaterally, in addition to the issue of regional stability, such as the Houthi attacks on ships in the Red Sea, which also raises concerns. The possibility that China will need to cooperate with the United States, Europe, and the Gulf states to secure the flow of oil and gas and protect its investments, which would add complications to the violent tensions with the West regarding trade.

The report concluded by saying: “As is the case with the West currently, China may increasingly find itself witnessing the progress it has achieved being swept away by hostilities accumulated over centuries,” adding that it may face more burdens than it is able to bear.