Peace in the Middle East: A Way to Halt Chinese Aggression?

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October 31, 2020 Topic: Politics Region: Middle East Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: ChinaMiddle East PeaceIsraelAmericaEconomics

Peace in the Middle East: A Way to Halt Chinese Aggression?

The normalization of relations with Israel, coupled with the humanitarian aid and financial investments from the United States and others, will help developing countries become economically independent without CCP assistance.

The White House has steadily helped architect peace deals in the Middle East, titled the Abraham Accords, that traditionally were deemed impossible.

Ranging from the normalization of ties between Israel and Middle Eastern countries, such as Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, to the delisting of Sudan from the state sponsors of terrorism list (and their subsequent normalization with Israel), the fruits of the Trump administration’s investments are becoming more apparent. And Chief of Staff Mark Meadows recently remarked that there are four to five more countries that could follow suit soon.

Israel is a fundamental U.S. partner in the Middle East for a wide array of reasons, but perhaps the clearest reason is that they are a major trading partner that has a thriving economy and democratic governance. By facilitating diplomatic and economic relations between Israel and their neighbors, the United States has helped inject additional stability into the entire region.

That’s important now more than ever because of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) deliberate actions to exploit and prey upon the weakened states of many African and Middle Eastern countries. There is mounting evidence that China’s Belt and Road initiative has led to significant dependencies for many African countries on the CCP that has brought bipartisan criticism from the Left and the Right even during the pandemic. In particular, the CCP has frequently come in—as is the case in Sri Lanka—with short-run financing, but an intent to bully a country into a debt trap that forces them to eventually cede their resources over. Many other examples abound.

And, what’s even worse is that the quality of the CCP investments in Africa has been incredibly low. There are plenty of examples of bridges collapsing and roads falling apart.

While admittedly the progress in the Middle East doesn’t mean we’re home free, it does represent instrumental progress that the mainstream media would have worshipped if it had occurred during the Obama administration. More importantly, the normalization of relations with Israel, coupled with the humanitarian aid and financial investments from the United States and others, will provide the momentum for these developing countries to become economically independent without CCP assistance.

That detail is important. Economic independence is absolutely vital for these countries. A little more foreign assistance here and there doesn’t get at the root cause, which is that many of these developing countries lack the capital to make the investments that are necessary for human flourishing, ranging from physical infrastructure to education.

By providing these countries with funding for these investments, coupled with sustainable trading partners, the private sector in these countries now has a stronger incentive and the resources to bring these ideas to scale. Moreover, as Walter Russell Mead has pointed out, these deals provide a framework that allows Israeli businesses and entrepreneurs to leverage the vast human capital and labor resources—who would otherwise face high unemployment risk—in the Middle East.

Admittedly, much more work remains to be done. Institutions matter. Even if a country has financial capital, it won’t last long if they’re lacking religious freedom and property rights. But, many of these countries, like Sudan, are on the right track and investment will help provide the momentum that they need to promote human flourishing for their citizens.

Christos A. Makridis is an assistant research professor at Arizona State University, a non-resident fellow at Baylor University, a visiting fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and a senior adviser at Gallup. Christos previously served on the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @camakridis.

Image: Reuters