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Beijing, Washington and the Policy of Neutrality

Beijing, Washington and the Policy of Neutrality

Wednesday, 5 June, 2019 - 06:45
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad.
The dispute over the Huawei communications network is just one battle in a major dispute between China and the US that did not begin yesterday. There is also the issue of Taiwan, the dispute over China’s maritime borders, and the security of Washington’s allies in the region.

There is no doubt that China is an amazing country in its ability to rise as a modern force that is moving forward under an ambitious and quiet program, and expanding throughout the globe and world markets, militarily, technically and economically.

It is clear that we are leaving behind the American unipolar world, which emerged after the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. An open multipolar conflict may begin unless the major powers succeed in containing and organizing it.

Later on, this conflict will reach our region, the Middle East, dividing it in the same way it was divided for decades by the Soviet-American conflict. In the meantime, China has smoothly crept into Asia and Africa and under the watchful eyes of Western institutions, which doubt its ultimate goals, and speculate that China is concealing a major project to dominate sources and markets.

It is not new to say that the technological revolution caused the conflict and that a new Cold War is coming. The last Cold War lasted for decades following the invention of nuclear weapons; and, although the fear of mass destruction led to the cessation of major wars, it ignited small wars instead. The dispute over Huawei is mostly about security, although the economic aspect is no less important. China’s dominance in the field of telecommunications networks worries the US, as it could pose a threat to its military capabilities.

Most of its strategic weapons — including flights, nuclear weapons and submarines — are operated and controlled by telecommunications. Otherwise, had it been merely an economic competition, the Americans would have struck a partnership deal with the Chinese for access to their markets; as is usually the case in the division of business interests.

So far, China seems to have no desire to play a political role on the international stage, especially in our region. However, the American-Chinese confrontation may leave no room for choice, and we will have no option but to return to the world of axes, where every government has to position itself in one camp, against the other.

The controversy over Huawei’s right to deploy its fifth generation network opens up differences at a time when it was assumed that cooperation and coexistence could prevail in a world governed by norms and bodies. The likes of the World Trade Organization have heralded an economic globalization that brought countries and peoples closer to a vast global market.

What was the Cold War for those who do not know or remember it? It was a collection of wars fought with conventional weapons in places such as the Congo, Southeast Asia and Indonesia, where the two superpowers were not directly involved. The Middle East was the broadest theater of smaller wars, and the conflicts of the superpowers in this area are likely to become worse later. The Russian-American conflict in Ukraine and the Crimea was one reason for Russia’s intervention in Syria, as well as the ongoing war between Moscow and Washington there.

What about avoiding alliances? Well, those who believe that there is a place for neutrality in this world are wrong. Founded during the Cold War, the Non-Aligned Movement, which has a membership has that reached 120 states, not only had no influence whatsoever, but member states were still willingly or unwillingly aligned to one of the superpowers at the time.

In the years of building up its global position, we have known China as a neutral country that has avoided confrontation and succeeded in not getting involved in wars, despite appeals and attempts to seek its help. But who knows what might happen after the “battle of Huawei” and whether Beijing would be willing to continue with its old policy of neutrality or if it will adopt explicit positions in conflicts and behave accordingly?

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