Israel Must Prepare for a Day When China Dominates the Middle East

May 14, 2019 | Alex Fishman

According to multiple Israeli security officials, the Chinese government will likely take a leading role in funding the reconstruction of war-torn Syria. In recent years Beijing has become increasingly invested in the other parts of the Middle East as well, and Sino-Israeli relations have already caused friction between Jerusalem and Washington. Alex Fishman believes Israeli diplomats and military planners are woefully unprepared for the coming expansion of China’s regional influence:

Back in 2015, Israel allowed a Chinese company to operate parts of the Haifa port for the next 25 years, with an option to extend it for another 25. The decision was made without fully understanding the implications of long-term Chinese involvement in a key strategic infrastructure. The Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Finance were certain they were being sophisticated and everyone would get to enjoy the crumbs of Chinese trillions. But the crumbs come at a price. . . .

The Chinese involvement in Syria could be much more dramatic and complicated. . . . The Russians don’t have the ability to invest in Syria beyond military infrastructure, while Iran (another ally of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime) needs to rehabilitate itself first following the reintroduction of U.S. sanctions on the Islamic Republic. The Americans have no interest in investing there, . . . while the Gulf states and Saudi Arabia would never do anything that could potentially strengthen the Assad regime due to its close relationship with Tehran.

This leaves the Chinese—who have both money and interest, as part of their $900-billion New Silk Route initiative—as the only ones capable to take on a project of this scale. . . . Syria will never be able to pay back the Chinese government, therefore [leading to] a repeat of the investment model Beijing has established in Africa. China is building infrastructure in many African countries; since they are unable to repay the mounting debts, the Chinese companies are taking over these countries’ natural resources and subjugating state policies to accommodate China’s interests. . . . Israel, [for its part], will have to deal with the fact that its border with Syria will be under Chinese jurisdiction.

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