By Tang Qi and Li Wenji
The Middle East issue has long been widely regarded as the trickiest international dispute involving many countries’ interests around the world. As China’s ties with Middle Eastern countries are growing over recent years, the 8th Beijing Xiangshan Forum this year put Middle East security on the agenda for the first time.
A seminar was held on the afternoon of October 25, during which military officials, experts and scholars from Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Israel, Tunisia, Malaysia, Hungary and Russia, along with Chinese representatives, held discussions on the topic of “Ways and Means of Addressing the Security Issues in the Middle East”, according to reporters.
We should know the current situation before talking about the way out. Li Shaoxian, director of the China-Arab Research Institute at Ningxia University, believes the situation in the Middle East is very serious. The war in Syria has been going on for more than seven years. And with the United States withdrawing from the Iranian nuclear deal, tensions in the Middle East will likely rise in the future. Moreover, issues of international terrorism in the Middle East are not completely gone.
“Personally, I believe that the biggest security challenge in the Middle East is the collapse of the original regional balance and order, to which the international community should focus its attention.” Li went on to explain that the biggest problem facing the Middle East is the collapse of order and the need to restructure or rebuild the order. The current chaotic situation prevailing in the Middle East is perhaps the worst in a century, Li added.
How will the situation in the Middle East evolve in the future? According to Senior Colonel Chen Jianmin, deputy director of the War Studies College at the Academy of Military Sciences of the Chinese PLA, in the new era of great power competition, the structure of the Middle East is undergoing profound changes, one of which is the clearer trend toward multipolarity, putting the region’s various ethnic groups as the leading actor.
Senior Colonel Chen said there are four major power centers in the Middle East: Israel is still a major pole; Turkey is becoming one of force centers; Saudi Arabia has replaced Egypt as the Arab world leader; Iran, which was offered an opportunity to develop and grow stronger by the two wars launched by the US in the Middle East.
Chen also believes that the political process in the Middle East will be accompanied by social unrest and conflict.
Chen said that political modernization was one of the main demands of the people during the recent upheavals, but that traditional Islamic culture, which remains deeply rooted in society, and the political ecology of the dichotomy between the state and society have made it difficult to avoid the obstacles of Islam. In the gap between the old and new order, the transition of social politics may lead to both the birth of democracy and the prevalence of populism.
Therefore, in the face of the complex situation in the region, many participants in the seminar mentioned the importance of the role of major powers in the Middle East issue.
Speaking at the seminar, Yin Gang, researcher at the Institute of West-Asian and African Studies of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), said that the degree and posture of major powers’ involvement in the Middle East have affected the development of the region for more than a century, especially in the security field. While the involvement of major powers is linked to their national interests, they also have found mutual interests in the Middle East, thus forming a basis for cooperation among major powers.
“The security situation in the Middle East has entered an unprecedented new phase with the expansion of the (extremist group) Islamic State (IS) in northern Iraq and Syria. The defining feature of this new phase is that almost all states, all militaries and political entities in the region are facing a common enemy - IS.” Yin Gang pointed out that because the Islamic State is the public enemy of human society, all of the region’s armed forces have become involved in the international campaign against IS. The international war on terrorism is drawing to a close, but the lessons are precious.
“All countries have their own interests and competition is inevitable, but competition must have limits. Over-ambitions and over-reaction will lead to the deterioration of the conflict and the emergence of new conflicts.” Yin Gang believed that major powers still show some restraint on the whole in the Middle East.
According to Li Shaoxian, there is an urgent need for the international community to work together to restructure and rebalance the Middle East. He believed that the current war in Syria, which has been going on for more than seven years, is now drawing to a close and should be over - and that there are also a number of conditions that will push the war to its conclusion.
Disclaimer: The authors are Tang Qi and Li Wenji. The article is edited and translated from Chinese into English by China Military Online. The information, ideas or opinions appearing in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views of eng.chinamil.com.cn. Chinamil.com.cn does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same. If the article carries photographs or images, we do not vouch for their authenticity.