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Won't Sit Idle, Won't Meddle

from:新华网2016-01-22 14:32

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a speech at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo, Egypt, Jan. 21, 2016. [Photo: Xinhua/Pang Xinglei]

By Lin Shaowen

The Chinese president has backed a policy paper delivered last week with a speech to Arab leaders, both outlining China's vision of relations with Arab countries. Also delivered, a Chinese assessment of the Middle East question and proposals on tackling the issues of peace and development.

In his address to the Arab League, President Xi Jinping shared a vision of Sino-Arab strategic partnership to pursue joint development and prosperity through cooperation. He also indicated what China may do, or may not do, in helping solve problems of war and conflict and what the best solution could be.

The speech contains a dual message – on development, there's a lot that China can do to help, with detailed plans proposed in multiple areas; as for security, China will play a constructive and facilitating role, but the country won't meddle by imposing its will merely for its own interests.

The warm applause at the Arab League headquarters is much more than just courtesy. It's also a positive response to ideas proposed, chances offered, and advice given from a rising power willing to share development dividends. It reflects China's willingness to help, but reluctance to call the shots on behalf of nations in the region. Those who either blame China for doing too little in peace mediation, or fear that China might fill any power vacuum in the Middle East, may have mixed feelings.

The assessment, as Xi Jinping puts it, reads "The Middle East is a land of abundance." Yet we are pained to see it still plagued by war and conflict. The people here want less conflict and suffering, more peace and dignity. There is hope in the Middle East, and all parties should look for it by pursuing dialogue and development."

Hence the three "keys" – "The key to addressing differences is to enhance dialogue," "the key to overcoming difficulties is to accelerate development," "the key to choosing a right path is to make sure that it sits the national conditions."

For the development "key," China's policy paper initiated a "1+2+3" cooperation pattern, covering traditional and new energy, infrastructure construction, trade and investment, and high tech sectors – many being new types of cooperation for future-orientated capacity building. To that end, during his current three-nation tour, Xi Jinping has already witnessed the signing of dozens of deals, worth many billions of dollars, with Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and more are expected to be signed when he travels to Iran. What's more, all three countries are founding members of the China-initiated Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, looking for new investment opportunities or infrastructure projects. And all are upbeat about China's initiative to build economic corridors across Eurasia on land and at sea, taking advantage of pivotal locations.

The Middle East also is experiencing conflicts, mixed with terrorist attacks, in a number of countries, especially in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. World and regional powers sharply differ over who the real enemy is, whom to assist and how power should be shared. Some press for regime change.

As China now is the only country among the UN's big-five that isn't involved militarily, and with Xi Jinping in the Middle East on his first diplomatic journey of the new year, touring three regional powers, we have heard both criticism and expectations about China's role in the region, politically and militarily. Xi Jinping, when he addressing the Arab Leaguem, says enhancing dialogue is the answer.

Disappointed? Well, this is what China genuinely believes to be the best way, but it takes time. In past months, Beijing separately hosted representatives of both the Syrian government and the opposition, urging them to talk and find solutions. China has stressed the importance of a political settlement through dialogue and finding a solution acceptable to the Syrian people. As Xi Jinping puts it in his address, "The international community should respect the will and role of those directly involved …… instead of imposing a solution from outside." China expresses the same policy and attitude when dealing with the peace process in Afghanistan. As China rejects outsiders meddling in its own affairs, it won't do the same to interfere in others' business.

The third "key" – "When exploring development paths, one will get nowhere by blindingly copying others" - the development path of a country can only be determined by its people in light of its history, cultural traditions, and levels of economic and social development." Again, the idea is non-interference in others' internal affairs. This also applies to the Middle East and Arab countries, with different models of governance. It's been five years since the Arab Spring movement broke out. Yet many countries in the region are still full of political uncertainties and security threats. The lesson is, don't break it if you can't make it. Otherwise, there will be a power vacuum and chaos, and a possible hotbed for extremism and terrorism.

To do or not to do, to do more or to do less – this is like walking a tightrope. After all, good offices are only determined by good results. So we can expect China to be more active in the Middle East, but in its own way.

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