China Strikes Back: Great Power Rivalry Has Come to the Middle East
The great power tech race is a worrisome development for the Middle East’s governments.
While the Netanyahu government had worked for more than a decade to build closer ties with China and attract Chinese investment, the Bennett-Lapid government has taken U.S. concerns more seriously and has begun to look at China as a national security issue. Thus, China warned senior Israeli diplomat Irit Ben Aba in Beijing not to harm the relations between the countries because of American pressure. This is the first time Israel has received such a sharp and direct message from China on the issue of the Israel-U.S.-China trilateral relationship. According to China’s top diplomat, Liu Jinchao, although China understands the special relationship between Israel and the United States, it closely follows Israel’s policy towards China. “We are at a critical test point for the relationship between China and Israel.” China hopes Israel will not align according to the American China policy. We can assume that the unusually harsh and direct Chinese message could result from the intensifying technological rivalry between the two great powers. According to Israeli officials, China had been giving similar messages to all Western countries.
To sum up, the great power tech race is a worrisome development for the Middle East’s governments. However, the growing U.S.-China technological rivalry is challenging the blossoming Sino-Middle East states relationship, with the United States putting its regional allies under increasing pressure. Maintaining a technological edge is critical for the United States to manage the rivalry with China successfully. Thus, U.S.-China competition will become increasingly entwined with rivalries between China and U.S. allies and partners in the Middle East. When managing relations with China, the Biden administration must consider the independent dynamics of those separate rivalries.
Dr. Mordechai Chaziza holds a Ph.D. from Bar-Ilan University and is a senior lecturer at the Department of Politics and Governance and the division of Multidisciplinary Studies in Social Science, at Ashkelon Academic College (Israel). Dr. Chaziza is the author of China and the Persian Gulf: The New Silk Road Strategy and Emerging Partnerships (2019), and China’s Middle East Diplomacy: The Belt and Road Strategic Partnership (2020). His current research focus on China’s foreign policy in the Middle East-North Africa (MENA), and China’s non-intervention policy in intrastate wars.