EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The Middle East has a knack for sucking external powers into its conflicts. China’s ventures into the region have shown how difficult it is to maintain its principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other states.
Beijing’s abandonment of non-interference has been vividly illustrated by its (largely ineffective) efforts to mediate conflicts in South Sudan, Syria and Afghanistan as well as between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and even between Saudi Arabia and Iran. It is even more evident in Beijing’s trashing of its vow not to establish foreign military bases, which became apparent when it established a naval base in Djibouti and when reports surfaced that it intends to use Pakistan’s deep sea port of Gwadar as a military facility.
This contradiction between China’s policy on the ground and its long-standing non-interventionist foreign policy principles means that Beijing often struggles to meet the expectations of Middle Eastern states. It also means that China risks tying itself up in political knots in countries such as Pakistan, which is home to the crown jewel of its Belt and Road Initiative — the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).