WASHINGTON – Newly elected Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi apparently didn’t choose China by accident as his first state visit. According to analysts, the move was meant to send a message, especially to the United States, that Egypt remains a significant influence in the Middle East, according to a report in Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
At the same time, Morsi is offering China a chance to expand its influence in the Middle East, which the Chinese quietly have been attempting to do for some time.
“It is essential at this juncture to forecast what China expects from the New Egypt in particular, and the greater Middle East in general,” according to analyst Brendan O’Reilly in the Asia Times.
With China seeking to extend its influence in the Middle East, it is looking to Egypt – from which U.S. influence is receding – as it concentrates its military forces more in its own backyard in the South China Sea.
As China seeks to give priority to economic assistance to countries in the Middle East because it sees the region as a source of vital energy supplies, China also hopes to cultivate these countries for more energy resources and allies should its relations with the U.S. sour.
For some time, Beijing has sought to extend its influence in Africa through economic development – something sorely needed in Egypt’s economy.
“China is viewed in Egypt as an indispensable source of emergency funding and investment,” O’Reilly said. Indeed, advisers to Morsi say that the purpose of his trip was to attract Chinese investment in Egypt.
Primary investors in Egypt now are Saudi Arabia and the U.S., which provides some $2 billion, but with considerable restrictions. Morsi is looking to China to lessen U.S. influence.
At the same time, China is looking to Egypt as part of its own geostrategic interest in the Middle East through an extension of its political, economic and military influence.
With economic considerations for Egypt being paramount, Morsi appears to be overlooking the major differences he has with Beijing, particularly the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
However, O’Reilly said that Morsi wants a more balanced Egyptian foreign policy, which Beijing sees as helping to lessen Iran’s concern in having its close ally in Syria ousted. Beijing wants the al-Assad regime to survive, even though the West, including Morsi, wants the president removed because of its alliance with Iran.
“Both the Chinese government and Morsi himself are fairly well-positioned to bring relevant regional parties together to try to find a political solution to the crisis while avoiding (or at any rate limiting) outside military intervention,” O’Reilly said.
Morsi recently has made public comments that he wants a “balanced” foreign policy, even with Israel.
“Egypt is now a civilian country, with a democratic, constitutional and modern society,” Morsi recently said in an interview with Reuters. “International relations between all countries are open and they must be based on the concept of balance. We are hostile to no one but we are to defend our interests.”
For the Chinese, geopolitical developments with this emerging relationship with Egypt could have the effect of offering the regional economic opportunity and perhaps some stability but it also allows Beijing to protect countries in the region in which the U.S. seeks regime change.
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