One of the biggest and most important repercussions of the Russian-Ukrainian war is closing the curtain on a unipolar world and establishing a new multipolar world. Thus, for the first time, we find the Chinese dragon moving from neutrality to positive action in political issues. A few days ago, Beijing was the incubator and platform for announcing the historic agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia to end tension and resume relations, which have been in crisis since the 1970s. Immediately after that, the Chinese president announced his visit to Moscow to launch an initiative to start negotiations between Russia and Ukraine to settle the conflict there, which led to a sharp decline in all economies of the world.
In fact, the Saudi-Iranian agreement came as a surprise to everyone, including the United States of America, which did not expect such a quick step. Therefore, confusion was the master of the situation for the West in dealing with the new Chinese dynamism, as it jumped at rapid steps in issues that were described as being historically within the scope of American hegemony. As usual, diplomacy in the White House dealt with the matter emotionally. Thus, the American decision-maker did not find anything to respond to the Chinese leap into the heart of the American spheres of influence except to raise the issue of sending nuclear submarines to Australia.
This deal, frozen for nearly two years, was essentially a submarine deal contracted by French companies for the Australian military. However, Washington jumped on its ally France and seized the deal directly, which caused an acute crisis between the White House and the Elysee Palace. After that, the deal was placed in the drawers to please Beijing first, and Paris second. Therefore, Washington revived the deal a few days ago, in a quick and urgent response to rein in Chinese diplomacy, which seeks to occupy its role in international crises.
For more than half a century, Beijing has relied on the principle of international neutrality. In fact, Beijing was distancing itself from any conflicts, whether external or even those on its borders. Even the issue of recovering Hong Kong Island from British sovereignty was dealt with too quietly. In the past, the Chinese role was limited to the economic aspect, and it is not surprising that in less than 10 years it has become one of the strongest economies in the world, even in Africa, which was a hotbed for the Americans and Europeans, who woke up after losing more than half of their investments in the brown continent in favor of the Chinese!
Historically, China was not as dynamic as the political one we see today, as it has always been confined to its Asian circle, suffering from the Russian bear sitting above it, and to the east from Japan, its historical enemy. This is in addition to its border dispute with India and its war to recover its stolen islands from the British crown, and to extend its control over the China Sea.
What is certain is that the Chinese decided to get involved globally and become a dominant political, economic, and military force that has a role in drawing the map of the world in the future through a multipolar world created by the Russian-Ukrainian war. But the real crisis that still haunts the Chinese is energy. As much as they possess effective technology, water sources, basic raw materials, and a labor force that is still relatively cheap, they do not actually have the main engine to operate all of that system. China almost depends on more than 70% of Gulf oil, and this percentage fluctuates up and down in parallel with the size of its share of Russian oil, which will certainly depend on the changing relations between Beijing and Moscow. This is especially when they move from the stage of conformity corresponding to the current occurrence to the stage of compatibility and also disagreement in the future when the multipolar system stabilizes.
This matter greatly weakens the expected Chinese role, and always makes it vulnerable to those who have the upper hand in the warm waters region (the Persian Gulf). This is the reason why it led to the reconciliation between the two largest poles and the largest oil and gas producers in the Gulf – Saudi Arabia and Iran – to ensure the continuity of gas and oil supplies to it.
Indeed, what remains depends on China’s ability to resist the coming wave from America and the West, which aims to confine it again within its borders and curb it politically, while acknowledging its effective economic role globally. Therefore, we will see desperate attempts to put pressure on Beijing, starting with reviving the submarine deal with Australia, igniting border conflicts with India, granting unprecedented military aid to Taiwan, and ending with Washington’s military attempts in the China Sea… Will the Chinese dragon stand up to its competitors?
Dr. Hatem Sadek: Professor at Helwan University