Nixon’s New China Policy: What It May Mean for the Middle East

President Nixon’s forthcoming trip to Peking signals China’s entry into the game of international summit-politics. The two Superpowers now have become three. One of the immediate effects of this change is that the new role of the Chinese Peoples Republic will influence Middle East developments in numerous, sometimes contradictory ways. One must expect some favorable and some unfavorable changes in the Middle East conflict.

China opposes a political or peaceful solution. Although Israel recognized the Peoples Republic as long ago as Jan. 7, 1950, Peking has never tried to hide its deep hostility towards the Jewish State for well-known ideological and practical considerations. China has supported the Arab positions in the Mideast conflict and intensified its support of the Arabs after the June 1967 war. China actively supports the Palestinian guerrilla movements, trains and assists such organizations as the “Popular Front For The Liberation Of Palestine” and the even more radical “Democratic Popular Front.” Some leaders of these bodies have visited Peking repeatedly. True to its ideological premises, and in order to support the Arab cause, the Peoples Republic officially opposes any political solution and asks for a “military and revolutionary solution” in the Mideast. China maintains diplomatic relations with 11 of the 14 members of the Arab League. Only Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Jordan are not on “speaking terms” with Peking. Even such avowedly anti-Communist states as Kuwait have recognized the Peking rulers. Arab leaders, on the other hand, do not fear the Chinese, who have had little influence in the Mideast, up to now, For one thing. China is distant. For another, almost all Arab Communist parties (which are considered dangerous by the Arab governments) are bitterly anti-Chinese and ardently pro-Soviet. This is especially evident in Sudan, Egypt and Syria.

In practical terms this means that Chinese-Arab relations are limited. China has shown a great deal of enterprise, in recent years, in the Persian Gulf where numerous Chinese experts and agents are active. It is to be expected that Peking will now intensify its activities in this area. One cannot yet estimate how far they will go nor the extent of their indirect influence on the Israeli-Arab conflict. On the other hand, China’s increased international importance will probably have three consequences which are bound to have some favorable repercussions:

The Peoples Republic is now bound to adopt a more responsible international position. Nixon’s projected Peking visit shows that the Chinese leadership has stopped looking at the world in black and white if, indeed, they ever did-and now regard it in a much more graded way in order to forego the possibility of a united Soviet-American front. The main supporter of the Arabs, the Soviet Union, now finds itself outflanked on the East by China and may find it necessary to find a non-violent solution to the Mideastern conflict in which it has played, up to now, a waiting game with the U.S. It has been Washington that pressed Israel to make concessions and made some herself. From now on, one may expect Moscow to chart a similar policy vis-a-vis the Arabs.

Finally, President Nixon’s visit to Peking will in all probability, open an era of relaxation of international tension. For Israel, any international de-escalation can have only beneficial results. For the Middle East as a whole this means that the danger of war will recede. Mideastern tension was always connected with international tensions. Now there is a chance that the Big Powers will be able to do something beneficial for the warring Israelis and Arabs.

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