There is no reason for China to join Western countries in the “war” against the Islamic State group no matter what the Western media say, because it has a far smaller stake than the West in the Middle East. The Western media say China should join the United States and its European allies to take on the IS, which is wreaking havoc in the Middle East, because it has a lot of interests in the region’s oil exporters. They claim that since China is the biggest importer of oil from Iraq and other countries, it will suffer serious losses if it does not join Western efforts to restore normalcy in the Middle East.
But the fact is that, Western countries have far greater interest in the region than China in terms of politics, economics and culture. China could politically support the action against the IS, and offer logistics and even intelligence help, but it should not send its armed forces to fight against the Islamic militants.
War enthusiasts argue that the oil supply to China will suffer and oil prices will shoot up because of the turmoil. But the potential threat can become reality only if the IS captures the oil fields and sabotage their production. Also, the oil supply in the global market has to suffer a severe setback for China’s imports to be sabotaged.
The reality, however, is exactly the opposite. The global economy is slowing down, particularly in the emerging markets. China’s economy is undergoing a transformation, characterized by a rising service industry and declining energy consumption industries. And the shrinking oil subsidy has further impaired the momentum of oil demand.
When it comes to other economic fields, China’s presence in the Middle East is mainly in commodity trade and construction projects with limited investment. Negotiations between China and the Gulf Cooperation Council started only in 2004 and were suspended in 2009. In contrast, Western countries’ trade interests in the region date back hundreds of years, while they have been investing directly in the region for more than a century. Besides, countries along the Persian Gulf have been major players in the US and European investment markets since the 1970s.
Even in terms of the anti-terrorism campaign, Western countries have far a larger stake than China in the region. Though the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region of China has been included in the future “Islamic nation” by the IS, Xinjiang is only a small territory compared with the other regions the militant organization plans to “capture”, including the Iberian Peninsula, the Caucasus, the Balkans, the Crimea and Hungary.
As far as size is concerned, the number of separatist “East Turkistan Islamic” forces is only a few hundred, and thus miniscule compared with the Muslim population in the US and European countries, which is roughly 40 to 50 million. “Extreme Islamism” has become the fastest growing cult in the US, especially after the Sept 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Extremists who have penetrated into the US military have caused a lot of bloodshed from within, including the indiscriminate shooting by an officer at the military base in Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009.
All this is to say that since China does not have high stakes in the war against the IS, it should not join it, because it could possibly become a drain on its resources and strategic strength. Instead, it should focus on the crackdown on homegrown terrorists who pose an immediate threat to the country’s security and prosperity.
Moreover, high oil prices in the past have not only stimulated large-scale development of the oil industry and new investment, but also spurred the development of new sources of energy such as natural gas, hydro-electricity, coal, solar energy and nuclear power. Also, the US’ withdrawal of quantitative easing will ease the tight credit in the global financial market. Thanks to all these changes, the supply of oil, once problematic, has become abundant since 2012.
Also, the IS is yet to gain control of the main oil fields in Iraq. Even if it did, it will not kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. In fact, it could likely boost production and sell the oil in the black market in exchange for money to support its “holy war”. For examples we can turn to the once anti-government Libyan and Kurdish forces that controlled some oil fields. Today, the oil price mechanism is influenced more by speculation and petroleum cartels such as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. It is the manipulation in the production quota by the oil exporters that has pushed up oil prices.
By MEI XINYU October 8, 2014 in China Daily