Arab countries have enjoyed relations with China for centuries. The importance of contemporary relations between the two regions due to oil and the burgeoning influence of China the world over have re-energized diplomatic ties. Perhaps the most significant forum that will shape the future of economic and diplomatic policy between the states is The Chinese-Arab Cooperation Forum (CACF). The CACF proposes formalizing structures of cooperation between the two peoples and the various governments of the Middle East, placing the growing ties in a realm that will allow them to develop further.
The popular view of the west from within Arab states is that bipolar world of the Cold War is long gone, and the USA has squandered its role as the “sole superpower” when the George W. Bush administration decided that being the “sole superpower” sanctioned the country to conduct a mono-polar foreign policy that ultimately did little but attract much of the world’s enmity. America’s unpopular foreign policy maneuvers subsequently opened the door to a resurgent China to make its presence felt on the international stage in a way that it had never done before.
For decades, the US and Saudi Arabia were said to have a “special relationship”, especially since the US was instrumental in discovering and exploiting the Kingdom’s vast reserves of oil. A special relationship was, perhaps, inevitable. But the world’s power structure has changed significantly over the past 50 years and new alliances are now being forged.
That the annual CACF meeting between Chinese officials and 22 Arab leaders has been established as a “Cooperation Forum” indicates that both sides see their growing relationship developing within a structure of give-and-take. China, unlike the USA, appears to have no messianic illusions about its role in the world, passing no ideological judgment on its partners. On the other hand, it has intervened in a low-key manner in countries where the level of dysfunction has gotten out of control. The situation in Darfur, for example, though still untenable, has improved significantly with the input of the Chinese.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, there was much talk the world over about a “new world order.” Ironically, the new world order presently taking shape has resulted in a decrease in the US ability to maintain its international alliances, just as the Chinese appear to be rapidly expanding the scope of their diplomatic and economic cooperation and influence.
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