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tv   Atlantic Council Discussion on Chinas Role in the Middle East  CSPAN  June 14, 2019 11:12am-12:43pm EDT

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obama. explore the life events that shaped our leaders, the challenged they faced, and the legacies they left behind. "the presidents" is available as hard cover or ebook today wherever books are sold. >> up next, a discussion on the role china plays in the middle east as well as the potential for cooperation between the u.s. and china hosted by the atlantic counsel. this is about an hour 20 minutes. >> hello everyone. thank you very much for taking the time to come here to the atlantic counsel today. we're very happy to host a quite informative discussion we anticipate on a very critical question right now, a timely question, and also going to be an even more important question as the decades are to come on china's role in the middle east.
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thank you also to the folks from c-span who are watching and the folks that are streaming this live over the atlantic council's website. my name is william wechsler. i read the atlantic council's work in the middle east. i'm the director for the center that is your host this afternoon. this question was a question that would not really have been asked only a decade ago. china does not have deep historical ties in the region. china has its economic connections were modest not that long ago. but now it's a question that many people in the region are asking more and more. many people in the u.s. economic, diplomatic,
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intelligence and military apparatus are asking more and more. many people in china are asking more and more about how they approach this region as part of their wider belt and road initiative, as part of their wider diplomatic initiatives, as part of their need for energy resources. what we see right now is the economic relationship between china and the middle east is deep and deepening. the political diplomatic relationship has grown from -- as we're going to hear -- from a relatively modest place quite powerfully over the last decade or so with a number of agreements and relationships met. even the military presence of china which is embryonic at this stage with base in is likely to
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grow over time. and their strategic role in the region is something we have to take in consideration now, not least withstanding the news we saw from cnn yesterday about the allegation that there is intelligence that china helped saudi arabia build up its missile technology in a way that is contrary to long-standing u.s. policy in the region. this is -- these open up lots more questions for us. one question that i think is still very much open is as we look ahead for the next couple of decades, how will the u.s./china relationship in the middle east be defined? you know, i think it's fair to say that in many other parts of the world, in northeast asia and southeast asia, it's a good prediction that the united states and china are going to be in a era of great power
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competition, hopefully not confrontation, but that that will basically define the relationship. the story hasn't been written yet on the middle east. there are a number of places where u.s. and china's interests align and there are a number of places where u.s. and china's interests do not. which will be the dominant story? we don't know yet. to help answer these questions and look ahead, we have a very important and useful set of commentaries that we're going to hear. it's going to be led by our keynote speaker, dr. victoria coates who is deputy assistant to the president and senior assistant to the middle. she was an adviser to ted cruz, donald rumsfeld, and rick perry as well. she has a phd from college.
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she'll be starting off our discussion today with a talk describing the trump administration's views on this. then we'll come up for a panel discussion which will be led off by a brief conversation by dr. jonathan fulton who is an assistant professor of xiad in abu dhabi and is the author of this book available on our website. the link is live. i hope everyone takes the time to read this. he's also author of the book "china's relationship with gulf monarchy" published in 2018. he has his phd in international relations from the university of lester, two masters degrees from stafford university, and queensland. he's also taught in south korea as well. and then finally, we are joined by dr. degang sun from china who
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will give us the chinese perspective on these questions. he right now a visiting scholar at harvard university. he is deputy director of the institute of shanghai studies. and islamic and middle eastern stud dis. he's taught at oxford, denver, and hong kong universitys. his latest articles are china's development in the middle east and coauthor of china in the belt road in the middle east. i ask everyone for a nice round of applause as we welcome dr. coates to the podium. [ applause ] >> thank you, will and everyone for attending this very important event today. i'm quite struck by the fact that we're here at the atlantic
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council on the 75th yes, sanniv of d-day. all those years ago my grandfather was preparing to participate in that momentous event. so to be here with atlantic council friends is really terrific. my goal here today is to lay out what we have publicly declared towards china. i'm pleased to have a chinese colleague here that ecowiwe can discuss this with and then look at how it affects our activities in the middle east. we have three main buckets i'll be talking about. one is israel, one is gcc plus 2, egypt and jordan, and the iran policies. all these things we see as very much interrelated. i wanted to read a little bit from the national security strategy from december of 2017 because i think it holds true
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today and really is the basis of those three policies that we'll discuss. for decades, u.s. policy was rooted in the belief that support for china's rise and for its integration into the post-war international order would liberalize china. contrary to our hopes, china expanded its power at the expense of sovereignty of others. china gathers and exploits data on unrivalled scale and spread fees churs of authoritarian system including the use of surveillance. it is building the well funded military after our own, its nuclear arsenal is growing and diversifying. and part of economic expansion is due to its access to u.s. innovation economy including america's world class universitys such as harvard. and so that is sort of the basis of how we are looking at the relationship now. important to say that president
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trump in no way sees this as a confrontation as we'll put it. he very much values his relationships with his chinese counterparts, and we are hopeful that we will be able to come to a negotiated agreement that will allow this relationship to emerge in the 21st century as a strong and powerful one. so, how does that affect how we approach the middle east? first and foremost, i wanted to start with looking at our relationship with israel. one of the most interesting things about israel has been its increased stature on the international diplomatic stage, something that will be front and center later on this month when the national security advisers of the united states, russia, and israel gather for meeting in jerusalem. that's something i think that could not have happened ten years ago. it is unique and certainly shows you the growing significance of
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israel. and i think that is in no small part due to the policies that president trump has been engaged in for the last 2 1/2 years. it has been a very specific policy to leverage the historic investment the united states has made in israel. and it's something that gives us great hope that the memorandum of understanding that went into effect last october was actually negotiated by the previous administration. so, this is a bipartisan effort to commit to israel over a ten-year period some $3.8 billion a year. congress put that up to 4 so we're dealing with round numbers. so, that's $40 billion over the next ten years. so, an enormous investment from
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the united states and something we feel good about. the u.s. report puts israel at number eight this year. that was in march. so, certainly they are doing a number of things right. and one of the things they're doing extremely well is research and development in the high-tech sector. this is something that the united states has partnered very closely with them on. and so one of our concerns as we see china's expanding role in the middle east is how china interfaces with the israeli tech sector. we know the chinese investment has grown by ten times in 2016 alone and know venture capitalism has increased by 20% over the last year. so, that shows that china is attra attracted to many of the same things in israel that we are, and our goal is something to make sure that investment that
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israel is disproportionately on, foreign investment, continues to develop in a responsible way that is mindful of israel's national security interests. so, when we discuss this topic with the israelis, we're certainly not saying, no, china. we're saying we've developed certain tools that review foreign investment, not china's alone of course, and that we have found these effective means to protect our national security interests while also developing our economy. and one thing -- i read dr. fulton's paper with great interest and i think it's extremely helpful. we'll get to some of the conclusions in a moment. one thing i have a small disagreement with is the assertion that the move of the u.s. embassy from tel aviv to jerusalem had somehow angered
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the region and contributed to u.s. isolation. certainly when the president made that historic announcement in december of 2017, we didn't have a crystal ball. we didn't know how it was going to turn out. the president felt very strongly that it was the right thing to do, that it recognized the reality on the ground in israel, and that he was going to make good on his promise to make the move. the predictions at that point were dire. conventional wisdom said this would undermine israel security. it would force the arab nations to band together against israel and ultimately, as i said, undermine israel's security. that's one reason it had been very difficult to do. what we have found in the intervening 18 months is that the opposite has been the case. we have unprecedentedly close tying between israel and the
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arab world. less than a year after the president made the jerusalem announcement, you had president netanyahu's visit to israel. the security dialogue was a room full of arabs and we were all looking up at the screens wondering what the problem would be. and one of -- i will leave him nameless, but one of the ambassadors to washington came up to me and said, ah, they got there before us. i think as it's turned out, the confidence that israel has gained from these policies, the embassy move is sort of symbolic, but it is a much broader partnership not only between the president and the prime minister, but between ambassador bolten and his counterpart, between me and my counter part that we've really strengthened these ties. and as i've said, this has given israel tremendous confidence.
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so, our goal on that front on the israeli policy is to maintain that historic closeness, to make very clear the tangible benefits both sides reap from this partnership, and that that's something we're going to very aggressively protect. then we have the gcc plus 2. i picked this bucket very carefully because what i want to talk about in these terms is our initiative more mesa, the middle east strategic alliance which was released by the president when he challenged the arab world to develop closer security and economic ties to strengthen the region from within. and mesa is a huge project for us. i don't necessarily disagree with the tag arab nato.
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again, today is a good day to celebrate things like nato. but i think it's so much more than that. if you look at things like regional trade, for example, it's quite anemic. and this can be an enormous source of economic strength for the region. and we feel very strongly that the united states can continue to play a leadership role as we develop this project and that we very much want to be directly involved in its development and implementation. so, that's one of the initiatives that we're working on. one thing along the security lines that i wanted to mention is that i think none of us in the administration would ever apologize for working for a president who does not want another war in the middle east. i don't think anybody in this room wants another war in the middle east. and that is not to say, however, that the president is not very much aware of the need for a strong deterrent in the middle east.
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that's why he's embarked in a historic rebuilding of our military, that he believes very much of the reagan doctrine of peace through strength, that the best way to prevent a war is to be strong. and with that background he has directed us to exploit to the greatest degree possible the economic and diplomatic tools at our disposal. and so that brings us to the always-overarching top uk of iran. the maximum pressure campaign that the president developed to change the regime change in iran was hardly impulsive or not well-informed. when we came into office 2 1/2 years ago -- it's gone awfully quickly -- we were still participant in the jcpoa. and we renewed twice the
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congressional waivers required to remain in the jcpoa the first six months so that we could study the issue and develop our policy, the second six months to give our friends and allies a chance to potentially revise the deal into a condition -- into a state that the president would find acceptable. when that did not happen, he announced his intention to withdraw from the jcpoa which had a six month windown period followed by six months of waiver sells. it's been a long and deliberate process to get to the point where we are now. but rather like the embassy move when he did make the announcement a year ago, the predictions were dire. the united states would be isolated. our unilateral sanctions would not work. our international friends and
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partners would not comply with them. that foreign direct investment particularly on the part of china would flow directly into iran. and this would open up an opportunity for china to expand its regional power. we did not think that would be the case. and i think history has bourn us out that the unilateral sanctions by the united states have been the most effective that we have seen. certainly the reduction in iran's ability to export oil has been first and foremost amongst the statistics. we don't have the main numbers yet, but the open source is 250,000 to 500,000 barrels a day for the month of may which is a historic low. we are very encouraged that a range of nations including china now see iran as a bad bet. it's not a good place to do business these days. it's not profitable, and there's
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much more money to be made elsewhere. we feel it is our job to keep it that way until the iranian regime accepts the president's very sincere offers for dialogue, that we need to get them to a position where they are playing a responsible role on the international stage and not threatening the peace and prosperity the region deserves. so, that's basically where we stand on the iran file. oh, and i just had one other statistic i wanted to mention that dr. fulton's excellent report mentioned that iran supplied 11% of china's energy needs between 2011 and 2016. a major change there is that in 2018 china received 20% of united states exports of petroleum and 15% of our liquid natural gas. that's an extraordinary change, and it's one of the reasons that we feel confident in the
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policies that we're pursuing is that the president's energy policy led by my old boss secretary perry has massively increased united states production and export. and so when we were making the decision on the waivers in may and consulting with friends and allies, it was a totally different context than the conversations that we would have had 15, even 10 years ago. rather than having to be a supp supplycant to other nations, the united states is now a partner in increasing production and able through our own energy industry to be part of replacing the barrels that were being taken off the market from iranian exports. and so we're very encouraged that a number of the countries that had received those waivers are complying with the sanctions
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getting to zero because we are able to amply supply energy needs in a reliable way with a very high-quality product. so, that is very much the kind of international pressure and engagement that the president has directed, that we can har harness that increased ability in the energy sphere to really promote our interests and values and ensure, as i said, an amply-supplied energy market. now, in conclusion, one of the things i very much wanted to concur with in dr. fulton's paper are his recommendations for how we should go forward. we -- he very, i think, accurately described sort of the traditional stove pipings between foreign policy experts in a geographical sense, that you're a middle person.
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you don't deal with china issues. and that you have these very clearly defined boundaries, i guess middle east and north africa, and that you don't stray into these other buckets. we found that extremely misleading into the 21st century. those geographical boundaries no longer hold. and so if i am running a mideast portfolio and i don't pay attention to central asia, to europe, to africa, even to the western hemisphere as well as to asia, i'm going to miss all sorts of opportunities. i'm going to miss all sorts of challenges that will become unpleasant surprises. and so i think one of the really wonderful features of today's event is the ability to look beyond those boundaries to, bring together china experts with middle east experts and look at how the relationship between the united states and china may develop in the middle east which i think can hopefully give us insight into how it will
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develop elsewhere. so, thank you very much. [ applause ] >> thank you very much. thaks for that really fascinating discussion. i really appreciate that you ended because it's been critical as we've been doing this research, that very conclusion that most american middle east experts don't know much at all about china. and most american experts in china don't know much about the middle east. similarly, i think the same kind of stove piping exists in china as well. so, this is one of the low-hanging fruits that we have
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that we can do some work pretty early on to help break down those stove pipes and bring knowledge across those areas of expertise. to those lines, let me start by asking each of the fellow panelists here to give five minutes talk, first jonathan, about your report that you wrote if you could summarize it for folks. and then, sir, talk about the chinese perspective. >> great. well, thanks, will, for putting together a great event and thank you dr. coates for your valuable comments. it's good to hear from the administration what people are thinking. i live in abu dhabi which provides me interesting vantage point to watch this stuff happening. i started working on my phd in 2011 and talked to people in different organizations in the uae. what i wanted to research, you could see people shaking their heads and going oh, you poor guy, there's just nothing there.
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china and the middle east, what are you going to talk about. by the time i finished in 2017 it was clearly a pretty hot topic. by the time my book came out last summer, president xi was visiting abu dhabi that week which was great for me. thank you president xi if you're watching. so, we've seen this really intensify in recent years. it's really becoming a pretty interesting topic. what we see -- the way china is approaching the gulf, in particular, the middle east in general, it's a very stra teete multifaceted approach. it's not a haphazard approach at all. it's not just based on energy or oil. there's a lot of moving parts to this. we can see -- we'll mention these partnerships and i've got charts for this in the report. if you look at the strategic partnerships that china's been
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engaging with in the middle east, except the one in egypt in '99 and uae in 2012, other than those two, they're happening in the past two years. they're just popping up all other the place. it's showing dense in the region. they're targeting states to elevate the highest level and other states keeping at mid level. it shows there's a sophisticated approach here. it's mostly based on economic ties. this isn't a surprise because if they were to go in right out of the gate with security issues or strategic issues, this would cause stress between the china/u.s. relationship or the middle east/u.s. relationship so it's been building ties based on trade and lots and lots of investment and finance as well. we're seeing a lot of things being bought in chinese un in recent years, a lot of talk in petro un and just a much more
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sophisticated financial relationship between the middle east and china. and slowly as these things start to get a little stronger, we're seeing things like policy coordination, especially in a lot of these countries in the middle east that are working on trying to diversify their economies, trying to invest in infrastructure, building all of these new projects. this lines up very nicely with china's belt and road initiative which is essentially the same thing, the chinese to go overseas and build ports, highways, railways. there's a lot of convergence in what the middle east wants and what china has to offer them. we're seeing a very sophisticated approach to the region. you can look at this across a t lo of different regions. it applies in parts of south asia as well. for my purposes, we're seeing this take off in a big way. to will's point about how there's convergence in u.s. interests and china's interests
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in the middle east, it wasn't long ago -- i think 2016 -- president obama gave an interview where he chastised china for being a free rider in the middle east. what we're seeing now is that china is actually building a lot of stuff. if you look in oman, for example, there's a fishing building that has never really had that many people and not much happening and chinese firms have committeding something like $11 billion in pipelines, refineries, residential areas, and schools, the whole kit. this is something the u.s. navy could partake in. it's not necessarily an inherently competitive set of relationships. this is -- there could be some room for the u.s. and china, assuming that tensions in the relationship can kind of cool down a little bit. there could be areas in the
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middle east where this might be a little more cooperative rather than competitive. now, i'm not -- i'm a political scientist. i don't expect that to really happen. but i think it's possible, you know? i don't see any reason why -- as we recommended in this document, if there is a little more dialogue and if both sides start to break out of those silos and understand each others interests and seeing there's opportunities to cooperate on those things, it could create a positive environment to go forward on this. so, i'll stop here. thanks. >> thank you. >> thank you so much. [ applause ] thank you so much for your gracious invitation. actually i'm now talking not on behalf of our government or my home university but on myself because i'm a scholar at harvard. therefore i can talk freely. first of all, congratulations to my friend about this report which is very advantaged because
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dr. fulton knows the middle east, knows choina, also knows america. i was wondering whether or not when we were conducting research on the middle east of u.s./china relations we should have a new thinking from power sharing to burden sharing. that's the new mentality. if we look at the middle east today, there are so many problems. i think the problem is not outside ers competition of rivalry. we can find the u.s. has the capability to take care of the middle east, but it does not have the willingness. russia has the willingness, but not the capability. china has neither the willingness or capability. if you look in the future, there
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will be overwhelming problems. the first one is arms raced. i'm concerned about it because 50% of the arms are going to the middle east. the second is overpopulation. after the arab spring, the middle eastern population has increased by 20%. if you look at egypt, its population has jumped from 80 million to 100 million. it's huge. and the next one the about unemployment rate. the average world unemployment world is 5% while in the middle east, it's 9.8%. very huge as well. and next one is refugees. if you look at the statistics, 60% of the world refugees are from the middle east. syria contributed 5.5 million refugees from south sudan, afghanistan, et cetera. next one is about
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interdependence of the regional countries and the economic aspect. for the middle eastern countries, the economic is only 10% while east asia is 51%. if they don't have shared interest, how can they have shared destiny? and in this aspect, i will say in the future there's one more problem is brain drain. talents from west asia and north africa will flood to europe, to america, and to other parts not inside the middle east. so, i will be very pessimistic saying that the middle east will have more security problems, but the u.s. doesn't care about it. china does not have this willingness of capability. so, what can we do? i'm afraid china and u.s. as responsible powers should make some contribution. china now is the second largest trading partner of 11 middle eastern countries including 10 arab countries and iran.
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china also is the second largest investor in the middle east, next only to european union. and china has 1 million expatriots. in dubai city only we have 200,000 business men. it's very huge. and china has very huge oil and natural gas interest. about 200 million pounds of oil is from the middle east representing 50% of china's imported oil from the middle east. we can say china has substantial geoeconomic interest in the middle east while u.s. has geopolitical interest in the area. u.s. has 67,000 troops in 12 countries in the middle east while china has about 1,800 in
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this area. and also as we have mentioned, china has a logistics space in djibouti with 1,000 troops. i was wondering in the future whether the two sides can cooperate for burden sharing. you may be wondering is that a kind of wishful thinking. i think it's possible. first of all, look at djibouti. china has base, u.s. has base, france and japan have bases as well. they're coexisting quite well in the past several years for antipiracy. the second is about china's partnership as dr. fulton has mentioned in this paper. china's partnership vis-a-vis u.s. allies are quite -- actually they are the same partners. for example, as dr. coates mentioned israel. gcc countries, jordan, morocco,
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and egypt, these are also all u.s. allies and they are also chinese partners. so, china's economic development and for these countries will be also conducive for u.s. interests. so, from this perspective i was wondering can we say there are three different ideas for peace in the middle east. one is peace through strength. we fight wars for regime change. that's what u.s. has done after 9-1-1. u.s. launched a war in afghanistan, iraq, and libya. but it's very costly. u.s. sacrificed a lot, and u.s. has sacrificed much economically and also troops. but so far it's not very, very stable. second argument is peace through democracy. it's possible, but it will take a longer time in the middle east. the third one could be chinese concept of peace through
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development. from the chinese perspective, the middle east development deficit is the cause of instability, terrorism, radicalization. peace through strength and democracy will take a longer time. maybe development from the grass roots level could work in some ways. so, in a word, if you look at the middle east, i think china has provided economic assistance as the hardware. china has built hospitals, roads, and schools, but u.s. has provided nurses, medical facilities, textbooks, and teachers. so, chinese hardwares and u.s. softwares in the future can be compatible. therefore, for the future development, i'm afraid the two sides can cooperate.
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i'm optimistic, and i wish you will all be optimistic as well. thank you so much. [ applause ] >> okay. now is the time we're going to go to questions from the audience. and some microphones that are going around. let me stress a couple of things right at the beginning. first of all, when you do speak please stand up, give your name, give your affiliation so that everybody can know where you're from. secondly, please ask a question, not make a speech. and third, please keep it to one question. not one question, break it into six parts. just one question. and be short. so that we can get -- i imagine we'll have a lot of questions, we want to get through as many as we possibly can in the time that we have allowed. while -- please catch my eye i will call on people, but i will also take the prerogative of the moderator and ask the first question.
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which is -- which cuts on -- touches on a couple of items that have been mentioned but you know one way of looking at it and i think that this way is particularly important to the middle east is that the china also presents an alternative governance model to the united states for many of the countries in the united states. at least amongst the leadership there. and this alternative governance model is appealing to many of them, especially those that are not democracies. that are actually monarchies or other types of authoritarian governance that they feel they can get similar benefits that they can get from the united states without what they perceive as the american traditional haranguing about human rights or democracy. and with an added benefit of giving them advice and even technology on how to better
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control their population that china is specializing in. you know, at home. and in some respects, this could be a -- the first alternative models in say the soviet union in the 1970s that the united states has to deal with. that's appealing. dr. coates, i want to start with asking you, is this something that you perceive in the region? is this something that you're worried about in the region? >> that's a really interesting question, and i think you're absolutely right. they are two very different models of government. and one of the things that we have found enduringly powerful about what the united states represents is that most nations tend to prefer to do business with us, that we tend to build alliances. that is as jonathan points out in his paper a very difficult
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thing to do, to build alliances but those relationships when worked upon create very deep and enduring bonds and nato is a great example of that. because we do play by certain rules. and we do allow our allies a certain degree of autonomy, sovereignty, and so i think that we -- you know, we accept that these are very different models. but are -- i mean, our relationships with our gulf friends and partners it's never been stronger as well as with a democratic ally like israel. and i think that that's a comparison we would be quite comfortable with. >> yeah, this is a really interesting chapter that a fellow at georgetown doha wrote last year and talking about the china model and the applicability in the middle east and it's very attractive because
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they can look at the model of tremendous economic reform without corresponding political reform. of course, that's really great, you know? i think a lot of states in the middle east are like that, but the difference being is that there aren't many states in the middle east that have the state resources, the state capacity to manage this the same way china does. so you know you can look at a place like the emirates or states with pretty substantial resources that can maybe take some of these, you know -- this playbook from the china model and apply it and then you look at other states maybe more authoritarian that just don't have the state capacity to really pull it off very well. so i know that there is a story i got out of my email yesterday morning about how facial recognition software, the two firms bidding for a contract in the emirates, one is from the states, one is from china. my money's on china getting it, because they're really good at it, you know?
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so, yeah. that's my take. >> thank you. >> i think democracy is a good thing. so is development. for the middle east, democratic governance are compatible with each other. if you look at the countries, they promoted the democracy and also they're promoting development. democracy, governance sometimes is you must be cautious. look at algeria and palestine. they have practiced a democracy but democracy has been hijacked by sectarian conflicts. so democratic governance could be a good thing from top to down. but development governance is from the grass roots level. it's risk aversion. i think it will be more efficient in the short term but in the longer run, we still need reform from top to down.
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therefore, my conclusions they are compatible. thank you. >> some questions. way in the back there in the red shirt. yeah. let's wait for the microphone, please. >> thanks for giving us this. and my question is for you, dr. coates. yesterday, the president said there's a chance for military action in iran. my question is, what is that line that could lead to this action and please one more question on -- when you said it's a huge project for us as we know the egyptians are out now. is this idea still viable without the egyptians? thanks. >> sure, i think it's important to take into the full context of what the president said
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yesterday which is that he very much does not want a war in the middle east. that is a unified position across his administration. he's been very clear on that not only through the course of his administration, but in the years before he became president. that he did not -- that he did not want to have military confrontation in the middle east. that said, what he also discussed was the historic rebuilding of the united states military which he sees as a deterrent factor. something that would prevent iran from engaging in an activity that would force a u.s. response. that's very much what we want to avoid. so in a way i would defer your question to tehran. and whether or not they would like to engage in dialogue, which is what we are offering. diplomatic means to resolve our differences or whether they're going to engage in the ongoing 40-year campaign of violence and
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aggression. so for me that's really a choice for them. in terms of mesa, yes, it's a very -- a very large project. but we think vitally important. for some of the reasons my colleagues have mentioned we think that this can enormously increase the prosperity and the security of the region. we would welcome further engagement from egypt. we will continue to keep the government of egypt apprised of our projects and our progress and it would be our hope that they would see mesa as an avenue for prosperity and greater integration regionally. so we're going to remain optimistic on that. >> okay. mark? one question. >> mark -- also non-resident
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here at the atlantic council. there's reference made to you by russia in the region. and my question is to what extent are russia and china partners and to what extent are they competitors? i think to some extent they're both. but if you can give us a sense of how much they are of each and which is more -- which trend is growing, i'd be grateful. thank you. >> anyone want to jump on that? >> i tried to answer this complex question about china and the russian ties in the middle east. if you look at syria, you can't find the cooperating quite intensely. for example, china -- on the security council on the issue for six times i think russia waited for nine times. however, china not russia. china wants to show that it's different from russia. for example, china has no proxies.
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so china is not militarily involved in the middle east. china has dispatched zero troops to the middle east. but russia has a big influence in syria and russia has some interest in libya. what china wants is stability and for the initiative. so the dynamics is geoeconomics. and therefore, they have commonality. in the crisis management. but they have different increased orientations. thank you. >> okay. any other comments? >> i'm from the atlantic council. i want to follow on what will said because i think it's a critical issue. but i recall president lyndon johnson did say he wasn't going
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to send american boys to die for asian boys and it didn't turn out that way so be very, very careful. it seems that china offers a more attractive not governance model but an ease of business model. you're dealing with the americans, you have the foreign corrupt act, you have to deal with cfius and with congress. the poor guy from egypt, poor guy from libya didn't turn out so well, can you really trust the americans where china is taking the long, long view where it doesn't have an ideological position. it's not choosing sides. it is there basically for economic reasons with the belton road. so i'm wondering given the fact that china seems to me presents a longer term attractive position, what should america be doing now to take on that potential challenge which i believe is going to be a very real one. >> well, certainly i agree it's a very real challenge. and that it's something the
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united states has to very actively confront and engage in and i think our great strengths are the ones we're trying to leverage which is actually very significant economic power. i mean, go back to the energy piece. we are poised to become a net energy exporter and china is an importer. that's a strength for us. it's an area where we can really leverage that i think in our favor. i also think that we can play a more attractive leadership role. mesa is precisely that sort of initiative where if you can encourage the region to increase its own resilience and prosperity internally that that would be more attractive to sovereign nations as a model. so this is not a competition that we in any way feel disadvantaged in. we think both countries have their strength but as i said before i think we're pretty confident in the product that we have and our ability to work
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closely with our partners in the region. >> let's go to the back, sir, in the blue striped shirt. >> thank you, jack warner of climate institute. this isn't a climate change question though. there was a brief reference to the eu and i was wondering is china really moving forward in terms of involving the eu more in its work in the middle east and is the eu going to become a significant partner or presence in the middle east? >> any views? >> i can't really speak to european issues with any kind of
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depth. i mean, in terms of -- sorry your question was the eu and the middle east or eu and china? >> well, you mentioned that eu is working with china in the middle east already. >> right. i think -- >> are they going to get more engaged? >> in the middle east, under chinese initiatives? >> yeah. >> yeah, if my colleague were here who is the europe/middle east specialist that would help. but again we're all kind of stovepiped. >> i mean, we work very close with the eu on a range of issues. we have appreciated their cooperation on syria, for example. and i think we would anticipate that cooperation continuing. >> sir? >> hello. abraham joule from the hudson institute. i'm going to pick one question.
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this is for dr. sun. you talked about the hardware/software possibility of cooperation and one may be counterargument well hardware is hard. once that's in place, that's just going to stay there. software, particularly i'm thinking of people on the ground in the middle east coming from either china or the u.s., that's much more malleable and maybe the u.s. would have this conc n concern, well, if we do the hardware/software cooperation we're just going to get pushed out. i guess how would you respond to that? >> that's a very good question. actually, if you look at china and the u.s. cooperation in africa, we do have this kind of cooperation because the terminologies are accepted not only by the chinese side but also by the u.s. diplomats saying if you look at the post-war conflicts in africa,
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china does view a lot of infrastructure and new roads, hospitals and schools. and the u.s. has also a kind of humanitarian assistance in the forms of nurses and facilities, et cetera. it's kind of very a new consent about hardware and software assistance, but on the operational level sometimes it has some problems. for example, china viewed the -- built the hospital and then china said this is a donation from the chinese government. if you dispatch nurses you cannot have one name saying we are from america. so the u.s. side said you have more visibility and presence, but we have offered a lot but we cannot have presence to the local people. so that could be -- could be a source of conflict. but if we have this kind of complementary mentality for power sharing i think is feasible in the strategical
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level. we have some conflicts in the operation, thank you. >> sir, in the white shirt. >> amy friedman, weapons engineer. i have a question for dr. sun. i hope that you have realized that any western logic about the middle east should be thrown out the windows given all the events and developments that took place over the year. you premise -- your premise of peace through investment is highly dubious because we have seen many wars in the middle east in which billions of dollars have been destroyed for a lot of irrational reasons. despite the fact that the people need the infrastructure, need the development and the destruction went counter to the development and the advancement. so why should we believe that your premise would hold in the first place?
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an example, israeli/hezbollah confrontation cost lebanon over $6 billion in infrastructure. so why -- is it really peace through investment or is it really a trojan horse of economics to gain a strategic foot hold on the part of china? in the middle east. >> very good question about the concept of peace through development. i think no, there's no remedy for all of the middle eastern problems including peace through development. even i myself will say can we have peace through development only? i'm doubtful about it. because the middle east issues cannot be solved by only one way. peace through development is a kind of traditional chinese medicine style. peace through force, strength
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and democracy could be western style. trump said that the u.s. has wasted too much in the middle east but peace is still far away. peace through democracy could be possible but it will take a longer time. but what's the other solutions? that's why china put forward the concept of peace through development. but i was wondering whether development is sustainable. it could be effective in one or two years. but can you solve the problems of the middle eastern fragile states? i'm afraid it's very hard. peace through development is based on china's reform and opening up because china has ideology for 20 years. there it is -- it was stagnation and china said let's put aside our ideology, let's have trade.
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let's not have voting. so china has become the second largest economy and they and chinese are wondering if we can have this kind of practice in the middle east. i will say without development and without democracy, peace through development can be only shortened. thank you. >> barbara? >> thanks. barbara slaven, director of the program on iran at the atlantic council. to drs. fulton and sun, how do you think china sees the long term relationship with iran and how is it approaching the trump administration policy on trying to deal with that? and to ms. coates is the only engagement with iran by the trump administration president to president? is there some other channel and if so if you could give us an idea about what that channel would be and whether the u.s. is prepared to make any concessions or offer any sweeteners to
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get -- to get iran to the table as in easing sanctions perhaps. thank you. >> so for iran, i mean, iran's -- there's been a lot of investment from china in iran. it's an important piece of real estate on belton road and they have got -- you know, they herald the civilizational ties. they're ancient civilizations that have worked together and at the same time the volume of trade between china and the u.s. and china and iran always means that the u.s. is going to -- you know, it's going to win in the u.s.'s favor. but looking at the middle east in general, china seems to be working more closely with status quo states. the relationship with iran is a good opportunity for energy as dr. coates pointed out they imported a lot of iranian energy. but i don't think they really get as much out of working with
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iran as they would say with the other side of the gulf. if you work with the emirates and saudi that brings egypt into the -- to the table and the rest of the middle east. so deep ties with iran really doesn't really establish what they're trying to pull off with belton road. it doesn't connect anything else. well, central asia, but even there's not a lot of coordination between iran and the places. there's not as much as. >> if you look at the statistics in 2017, iran was the fourth largest oil supplier of china. but in 2018, iran declined to the seventh largest oil supplier to china. if you look at the figures in november and december of 2018, china has substantially reduced the oil import from iran. and the reason is very apparent. we want to have better relations
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w with usa. we have to make a compromise between the two. and that's china has done. to satisfy america. thank you. >> to follow-up on that, that was a little bit of what i was addressing in my remarks on the increased leverage the united states has because of our status as an energy exporter. and i think we have been working very closely with uae and with saudi to make sure that china's energy needs are met by the proper grades of crude that will be compatible with their refineries. in terms of the administration's engagement with tehran, i think the president is absolutely his own best spokesperson and the person with the credibility to just say that he very much wants to have a diplomatic resolution to the current tensions he
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thinks that's possible. the whole point of the maximum economic pressure campaign is to have greater leverage in those negotiations to get what the president and secretary of state have laid out as just reasonable parameters. i think they have been very clear that no preconditions means no preconditions. that they're not going to reduce pressure in order to get tehran to the table. they think that the iranians should want to negotiate at this point. as i said, the oil export numbers are emblematic of the very difficult situation that the government of iran has put the people of iran in. and we would think it would be only reasonable that they would want to get that reversed. >> ma'am? >> thank you. holly kellen.
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i'm just wondering trump has talked about putting tariffs on more chinese goods. how might that affect the middle east? thank you. >> i would see the president's policies in the trade negotiations with china as completely separate from the middle east. i don't think that they necessarily would affect the middle east. >> i think now there's a huge debate in china also about u.s./china relations on the trade war. i'm not an expert on this aspect but i don't think china is the former soviet union. because china has no challenge to the ideology, china and the u.s. and the world has one global market. but in the past, in the soviet union era, we have parallel markets. and china does not have military block vis-a-vis the western military block. therefore, i think it's only economic trade war, not code
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war. i'm quite optimistic that the u.s. and china can settle their disputes because they don't have structure or contradiction at all. thank you. >> okay, in the back, ma'am. yes. >> hi. this question is for dr. coates. i'm with nhk. so there have been recent reports that saudi arabia is significantly escalating its ballistic missile program with the help of china. so my question is how concerned is the administration that this will further spark a potential arms race in the middle east? thank you. >> that's always a source of significant concern. the truly i think though escalatory activity has been on the part of iran, far more aggressive program to expand its military footprint and taking a
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series of increasingly aggressive actions. certainly the united states would not condone that kind of report that we have seen recently. but we are -- our main concern would be elsewhere. >> sir, you have been very patient. >> thank you. i'm an independent consultant. dr. sun, i appreciate your optimism but i don't know if i go along with it entirely. how do you respond to this concern that seems to be prevalent in say washington, d.c. policy circles now that for example the -- when we talk about the digital connectivity that really it's either going to be as it seems the western countries or else china, which is going to be the one who provides the digital connectivity or the internet of the future and of course that's part of the belton road and specifically the question of 5g. it seems like is huawei going to be the group that brings 5g to
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africa and the middle east? or -- so i don't see how you really have a possibility for this great cooperation here. it seems you'll have a winner and a loser. that seems to be the concern here. also the under sea fiber optic cables, endopacific cables with which are carrying 90% of all the traffic as it is now. how do you respond to that feeling here? >> actually, that's also a debate in china about this one. i think the impact of a huawei or 5g although i'm not an expert on this aspect has been politicized and exaggerated. my understanding is let market determine the business. business is business. politics and politics. otherwise, if we regard it as a part of rivalry between the china and u.s. in the scientific
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or technological aspects it will be exaggerated and then i think two sides will be trapped. i don't think china -- in the digital perspective aspect. there could be some break through but it's based on the western technological advancement in the past. therefore, i'm optic, i don't think u.s./china will surpass the u.s. in the 5g area of digital connected area. i don't think so. thank you. >> any other comments? sir? >> i'm peter humphrey, a former diplomat. i'd be interested in hearing the administration's view about the elephant in the room which is that if the u.s. locked up more than a muslim -- more than a million muslims and tore down a couple hundred mosques and religious facilities,ing we would be -- we would be seeing
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riots throughout the middle east so bad as to constitute a third world war. yet, china gets a pass. and the muslims in the middle east are quiet, silent. is chinese money so awesome that they have successfully bought off every muslim in the middle east except turkey to talk about how their brethren are being treated in china? >> i mean, that situation is of grave concern to the administration i think both the secretary of state and the vice president have had a number of things to say on the topic. and, you know, we don't condone that at all. and i concur that, you know, we would be perhaps held to a different standard. and it's something that i think we will continue to raise. >> can i jump in on this for a second? teaching in the emirates, my
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students don't know anything about check zhou and i think that's in a state that controls the media, those stories don't really filter out too much. when we saw when crown prince mohammed bin salman, he addressed this issue and he said that china has it -- you know, it's got the prerogative to address politicalism, how ever it wants. if the chinese government turns the uighur situation as a response to political islam a lot of ogulf states consider that a threat to regime stability. so you will see a lot of elites in the middle east, a lot of political elites don't really find this as troubling as we would. it seems kind of a -- an acceptable response to challenges to the regime. i'm not saying that's my perspective, but i'm saying talking with people in the gulf that seems to be a common way of looking at it.
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>> sir? >> hi, dan cats from the wilson center. throughout this conversation one thing that's come up is how china reduced the oil imports from iran in compliance with the u.s. sanctions but aside from the oil trade has there been any change in chinese engagement with iran as part of the sanctions? and also, when the sanctions eventually do go away, whether it's this year, next year or ten years from now, do you see china's engagement with iran bouncing back the way it did after the jcopa was signed or will it double down on the status quo states and the gulf states? thank you. >> i would say that the choice of when the sanctions go away is entirely the choice of iran. and that hopefully the sanctions
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would go away under the circumstances of iran in the international economic community. and at which point we would assume that china would be interested in iran the same way that the united states would be interested in iran. there's tremendous potential in that country and we strongly believe that the people of iran deserve the kind of prosperity that their country could naturally support. so, you know, it would be our hope that iran would be open to a range of different investment and some of that would be chinese. >> in 2018, the largest partner of the middle east is saudi arabia, with the bilateral volume of $64 billion. and the next is uae, and iran ranks the third, $37 billion u.s. dollars. i expect that in the future china and iran trade relations will be affected by the u.s.
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policy. because a lot of private enterprises of china will be very, very cautious for business with iran. otherwise, there will be sanctions by u.s. -- the major partner of cooperation. thank you. >> sir? thank you all for being here. i'd like to hear a reaction from our u.s. panelists about hearing that china's attempting to bolster authoritarianism through development in the middle east as a solution to regional problems because -- i think i have got this right, democracy takes too long. thank you. >> our position very much is that we think both economic and political liberalization are in the interest of the region as they need to go together. that said, it will be a process, it will happen differently for,
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you know, for different countries as they engage in different natures of reform. but it is certainly one reason that we have a very easy and well developed relationship with israel, you know, as we are all observing they are a functioning democracy and with all of the challenges that that entails. but we -- you know, we certainly would support both economic and political liberalization as the most successful path to regionalization and stability. >> sir? >> i'm a journalist. today's gulf crisis enters the seventh year. what can be done about it, especially very optimistic and the important goal for the administration. how can we envision states don't talk to each other and become a
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member of the same military coalition? >> i think that's where the nato model can be particularly useful. i mean, if you think back to the summer of 1974 when washington was consumed with something else, we almost had conflict between turkey and greece. both nato members. so, you know, it's not to say that these alliances don't have internal conflicts. but that in the case of nato and i would say in the case of mesa, you're confronting a larger threat and so we were very encouraged to see the prime minister of qatar attend the summits in mecca and i think the highest level contact between the other gulf nations and qatar since the beginning of the rift. so that's a big step. including the meetings in riyadh i believe in april, qataris also participated. they participated in the security pillar meeting here in washington in february. along with the other gcc plus
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two nations. so i think that shows us the beneficial nature -- or role rather that an organization like mesa could play in adjudicating these disputes. the president has been very clear. he wants to get it resolved. he thinks it's in the best interest of all parties to get it resolved so we'll continue to work with both sides to bring this to a -- to a better place. to reduce the tensions and friction so that they can really partner together more effectively. >> ma'am in the back. >> i'm from the library of congress. what i have expressed here is my own opinions. or -- yes. you mentioned about stovepiping, sort of silos, among these different disciplines.
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and i also see a dialogue between the panelists with the audience. but i'm curious after our panelists have expressed their opinions, their own standpoints, have you learned from each other sort of after you have heard from each other's statements, have your view or concept changed at all? and if so, can you share. thanks. >> well, i have been running degang's stuff for years, so nothing has necessarily changed. it's good for me to get an official perspective on these things. i don't know if anything changes that quickly. i mean, the way i work is kind of slow. i have to go back and think about this and put it all together. so certainly any chance to hear from other experts is a great opportunity. i don't know if we see anything changing too quickly though.
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>> thank you so much. actually also i learned a lot and also changed -- i changed a lot. because i noticed democracy and development are the two sides of the coin. they are not contradicting with each other. they're compatible. thank you. >> sir in the pink shirt. >> hello, i'm hassam, i'm a fulbright scholar. my question is we talked about peace in the middle east and we established that issue is about wealth transfer and energy resources. recently, there was a lot of movement in the trump administration to adapt new plans to win europe from russia fuel -- the plan that was established by john kerry before. do you think that establishing that plan which is like one of
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the only plans i think that is sort of continuity from obama and the trump administration will help break a deal with iran? because it's really important also to the region and also russia and the region. thank you. >> well, certainly energy diversification for europe and simply in the united states's best interests and we think in the interest of our european partners so that's an easy one to answer. one thing i would draw your attention to is that we have the egyptians playing a very strong leadership role on the eastern mediterranean gas forum which brings together countries that are stovepiped. but if you get the italians and the greeks and the cypriots and the egyptians and the palestinian authority into the room and they agree on a series of principles you can bet that's a powerful motivator. i think the collective development of the eastern mediterranean energy resources
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is something that is very, very attractive to us, both in terms of ensuring adequate supply. somebody mentioned the expansion of the population of egypt. egypt has a growing energy need, even as they're developing their own assets. being able to ensure the ready flow of energy throughout the mediterranean basin i think is extremely important and something we are very glad to see egypt lead on, israel participate in and the european nations also be involved. i think that's a terrific initiative and precisely the sort of thing we'd support in that arena. >> okay. sir? sorry. right behind. i'll get you next. then two more after that. >> hi, i'm from tbn world, french canadian tv media.
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my question is about saudi arabia. do you think that china in the long run is going to replace saudi arabia -- sorry, is in the long run china going to replace the u.s. as the main international partner due to the nature of the saudi regime and the fact that it's one of the most backward conservative and oppressive regimes in the middle east and maybe in the world. it kills journalists or puts them in prison. doesn't have a lot of women rights. it spreads islamicism through wahhabi ideology it has. many u.s. senators in the democratic party are starting to say we cannot handle such a regime which has got values that are totally against ours. and so do you think that china at one point is going to take the lead and actually become saudi's biggest ally? >> i don't think that china really develops alliances the way that the united states does. so the short answer is no.
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i do think the relationship with saudi arabia is -- has been a very long standing and important one to the united states. the president had a very clear statement on that last november. so no, i think that we will continue to remain closely engaged with saudi arabia. which think -- we think that's the best path forward for our national security interests. >> thank you. sir, you and, sir, two last questions and then i think we'll be out of time there. why don't we ask them both at the same time and then i'll ask everyone to answer them and to give any final comments that we'll have. >> hi. thank you. robert, i'm a resident scholar in washington. the question is mainly for dr. fulton but maybe the other panelists can help address it. in your report you mentioned that the chinese debt trap and
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specifically that arab states with their funds are a bit less vulnerable from falling into the debt trap. my question is what about oman? clearly as you mentioned in your talk is on the bri map but on the other hand it struggles with debt and it doesn't have the same fiscal capacity that the other -- that its other gulf arab neighbors have. >> one last question, then one over here. >> thank you very much. this question is for dr. sun. you mentioned peace through development as a third alternative and i would just really like to hear very briefly what that would look like in places like syria or libya which are you know currently at war and how development would help facilitate an end to those conflicts. thank you. >> okay. why don't we go, you, you, finish here. >> so i'm not really crazy about
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the debt trap diplomacy narrative because this isn't something -- it doesn't really fit what's happening in the places. we saw belton road scenario that china kind of revamped how it was as celling the things that they realized there was an issue with the -- with how people are seeing it. there was a negative narrative coming out mostly through the support in sri lanka and then there was debt and i don't think china's big plan to roll out the biggest initiative in history is to get a port in sri lanka. i think they're learning as they're going, and they're revising it and some places where they're -- like in malaysia, for example, when the prime minister campaigned on let's get rid of the bri let's get china out of here, then he gets elected. okay, let's renegotiate. you know?
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we're seeing that in the elections in pakistan. so i think you look at a lot of states that would sign the deals a little over enthusiastically. not too many are willing to go into pakistan with over $46 billion for infrastructure. it's an opportunity that comes along not too frequently. so they're going to sign up and i don't think the chinese leaders are going to let the whole thing blow up so they can get ports in places like oman. it's an interesting case because such a huge -- the -- i think something like 45% of their trade is with china. like their exports go to china. there's a real dependency there. i think that means the relationship has to be managed pretty carefully. and i think both sides recognize this, they're going to kind of balance this pretty well, i think. >> thank you so much for your question about reconstruction of
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syria and libya. i'm a realist and i believe that if we look at the middle east from the humanitarian assistance perspective, outside powers can regard syria and libya as a way of -- as an arena of cooperation instead of conflicts. if we look at the middle east, the problem is no country has a sense of security. because we have military tribunal and they'll feel insecure even more, so how can we stop the problem? i think we should have collective security instead of collective defense. alliances cannot solve the problems. therefore, i believe syria and libya can be the way -- can be the arena for the outside powers to provide assistance for the people. and let them decide what kind of political system they can choose. it will be easy to talk, but it's very hard to implement. i think humanitarian assistance from the outside powers are
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bound to duty. thank you. >> i would just add to that, i think we can't forget about yemen when talking about syria and libya as also a key theater for in the united states -- and the united states remains proud to be the leading humanitarian donor to those theaters. i agree that that is vitally important work. and, you know, the president has been clear particularly on the syria front that the people of syria should choose what their future government should be. and so that's how we would approach that problem. >> well, with that, let me ask everyone to give a round of applause to our entire group. this was a fascinating conversation. and thank you all for coming. very much appreciate your time. ♪
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well, tonight at clock p.m. eastern, senator bernie sanders appears at george washington university to talk about his
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views on democratic socialism. see that on c-span. on c-span 2 a hearing examining the public risks exposed by deep fake videos. it alters the video and then it's passed off as true or original content. and here on c-span3, a judiciary subcommittee hearing on the impact on online media platforms and witnesses include officials from various news organizations and media trade association groups. that's all tonight on the c-span networks. this weekend american history tv has live two-day coverage of the annual gettysburg college civil war institute starting at 8:30 eastern with a discussion on the unionist cause with katc shively from the university.
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and with patrick breen. the combat experience of civil war soldiers with gettysburg colleges peter carmichael. then a panel discussion on the artifacts of the civil war. moderated by brian luskey. on sunday the live coverage continues at 8:30 eastern with a discussion on preserving the gettysburg national military park with jennifer murray of oklahoma state university. violence in the civil war with aaron sheehan-dean of louisiana state university. and then a look at the civil war and emancipation in the heart of america with ed ayers of the university of richmond. followed by a discussion on seeing the conflict through the eyes of leading historians with gary gallagher, aaron sheehan-dean, ed ayers and ed rear dan. watch the summer conference, live this weekend, on american history tv on c-span3.
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american history tv products are now available at the new c-span online store. go to c-span to see what's new for american history tv and check out all of the c-span products. oh, do i look forward to running against him. >> tuesday, president donald trump holds a rally in orlando, florida. officially launching his run for a second term. watch live at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span2, online at or listen live on the free app. veterans affairs secretary robert wilkie says that the u.s. is still at the early stages of dealing with homeless veterans and he talked about the issue at the national coalition for homeless veterans annual conference here in washington. the government estimates the


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