Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.
The Chinese government has been watching the problems in the Middle East very closely. On the one hand there’s an immediate impact obviously on the price of energy, but the Chinese have a very difficult time in balancing their foreign policy and dealing with this situation and in looking at the potential impacts on their domestic stability.
As we see these revolutions or social uprisings happen throughout the Middle East, obviously there has been an impact on energy prices. This is a big concern for Beijing, which is a major importer. But it’s not only the immediate rise in prices that matters forChina. As they see these long-standing regimes start to shake, start to fall, they become concerned about their natural resource assets throughout the region.
One of the things the Chinese have had as a competitive advantage in gaining access to resources in Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia is their willingness to strike deals with governments that many of the Western firms can’t or won’t for political reasons. This gives the Chinese guaranteed access to mineral resources and guaranteed access to energy resources. It sometimes brings them up against public human rights criticisms, but in the general the Chinese have been able to deal with that. As they watch this spread through North Africa they are concerned that this may have ripple effects throughout the continent and in other places as well. If the Chinese are supporting a regime that, for example, the West is not supporting or is not seen as democratic and they are doing it to gain access to minerals, to gain access to oil, if the regime starts to shake the Chinese in general will come in and try to give support either financially or otherwise.
However, if that regime falls the Chinese run the risk of being too closely linked to the previous leadership and they may have some or all of the deals that they’ve already struck broken away, taken away, given to other individuals and they will lose access to those resources. Some of the places that China may be more concerned about right now is places like Sudan, whether it spreads to places like Algeria, even countries like Zimbabwe orVenezuela, where the Chinese have built a fairly close relationship and been able to leverage their willingness to interact to gain a greater stake in the development of these areas.
As the Chinese look at shaping their image abroad and the way in which they portray these various revolutions abroad, they’re also worried about what’s happening at home. We’ve seen this so-called “Jasmine Revolution” start to happen in China. It’s unclear where it’s going to go or what’s going on with it yet, but this is the type of concern that Beijing has. You have ostensibly a movement that crosses regional boundaries; it crosses socioeconomic boundaries; and the new calls for this coming weekend now cross ethnic boundaries within China. This is the type of potential rising that Beijing would find very, very difficult to manage if it coalesces. For China, this is extremely complex to manage. On the international stage they don’t want to be perceived as a supporter of dictatorial, autocratic regimes that are being overthrown by the popular will of the people. At the same time, at home, they want to make sure that they’re not perceived as a dictatorial regime or an autocratic regime and they want to suppress their own people from being able to rise up and maybe employ the tools they’re seeing being utilized overseas.