Item Details

Chasing the Rising Red Crescent: Sino-Shi’i Relations in Post-Cold War Era China

Issue: Vol 7 No. 7.1-7.2 (2011) Vol 7, no 1-2 (2011)

Journal: Comparative Islamic Studies

Subject Areas: Religious Studies Islamic Studies

DOI: 10.1558/cis.v7i1-2.313


This article adopts a unique angle to analyze China’s Middle East policy in “Chasing the Rising Red Crescent: Sino-Shi’i Relations in the Post-Cold War Era.” With the end of the Cold War and the political renaissance of Islam, the author argues that China’s strategic approaches towards the Middle East have changed fundamentally. The rise of China on the Middle East coupled with the strategic ascendancy of Shi’i Islam in the Middle East invites a strategic window for the emerging architecture of global geopolitics and world economy. The aim of Lee’s study is to make clear the historical trajectories and evolving strategic calculations in China’s Middle East policy and its global implications by reviewing Sino-Shi’i relations in general and introducing Chinese strategic interactions with Iran, Iraq, Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas in particular. Since the establishment of zhongguo zhongdong wenti teshi [Chinese Special Envoy for Middle Eastern Affairs] in 2002, China’s economic presence and political clout in the Middle East including the Shi’i region have been advanced obviously. Sino-Shi’i relations in the post-Cold War era, thus, should be seriously examined not only for understanding China’s strategic perceptions of the Middle East but also for explaining the pattern of Chinese foreign behaviours, as well as for expecting the impact of China’s rising in the region and its geopolitical implications for the future of China-U.S. relations

Author: Itamar Y. Lee

View Original Web Page

References :

BBC World Wide Monitoring (December 12, 2002).
“China and Saudi Arabia,” Embassy of the PRC in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (October 26, 2004),
“Chinese Foreign Policy: A Quintet, Anyone?”The Ecomomist (January 13, 2007): 25.
“Guojia kaifa yinhang Gao Jian fuxingzhang yu libanen fuzongli, yanghang hangzhang he chongjianwei zhuxi juxing huitan [Gao Jian, Vice Chairman of China Development Bank Met Vice Prime Minister, Chairman of the Central Bank, and Chairman of National Reconstruction Committee of Syria].” (September 10, 2009),
“Hu jintao zhuxi yu shuliya bashar zongtong huitan [Hu Jintao Met with Syrian President Bashar].”(June 23, 2004),
“Kongjun Liu Yazhou zhongjiang tan yilake zhanzheng, fenxi wojun fanzhan fangxiang [PLAAF Lt. General Liu Yazhou Discusses the Iraq War, while Analyzing the Development Direction of the People’s Liberation Army].” Yahoo News (May 31, 2004),
“Russia, Iran and Qatar announce cartel that will control 60% of world’s gas supplies.” The Guardian (October 22, 2008).
“Russia wants creation of organization for Persian Gulf.” Interfax (January 29, 2008).
“The Rise of China: Beijing’s Role in the Middle East.” hosted by the Saban Center for Middle East Policy of the Brookings Institution, Washington, DC, the U.S. (June 16, 2008),
“Vice Premier of State Council Discuss Prospects of Developing Relations.” Syrian Arab News Agency (November 19, 2009),
“Zhongguo yu ameng guanxi [Chinese Relations with the Arab League].”China-Arab States Cooperation Forum,
Abidi, A.H.H. China, Iran, and the Persian Gulf. New Delhi: Radiant Publisher, 1982.
Agha, Hussein J. and Ahmad S. Khalidi.Syria and Iran: Rivalry and Cooperation. London: Pinter Publishers, 1995.
Alterman, Jon B. and John W. Garver.The Vital Triangle: China, the Unites States, and the Middle East. Washington, D.C.: The CSIS Press, 2008.
Alterman, Jon B. and John W. Garver.“China’s Soft Power in the Middle East.” In Chinese Soft Power and Its Implications for the United States, edited by Carola McGiffert, 63–76. Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2009.
Amineh, Mehdi Parvizi and Henk Houweling, eds. Central Eurasia in Global Geopolitics: Conflict, Security, and Development. Leiden: Brill, 2005.
Benvenisti, Meron. Intimate Enemies: Jews and Arabs in a Shared Land. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995.
Berman, Ilan. Tehran Rising: Iran’s Challenge to the United Sates. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2005.
Blank, Stephen J. China’s Military Power: Shadow over Central Asia. Arlington, VA: Lexington Institute, 2006.
Blumenthal, Dan. “Providing Arms: China and the Middle East.”Middle East Quarterly (2005), http://www.
Bo, Tongxian. Zhongguo huijiao shi [History of Chinese Islam]. Taipei: Taiwan shangwu yinshuguan, 1996.
Brady, Anne-Marie.Making the Foreign Serve China: Managing Foreigners in the People’s Republic. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2003.
Calabrese, John. China’s Changing Relations with the Middle East. London: Pinter Publishers, 1991.
Chang, Parris H. “China’s Policy toward Iran and the Middle East.” Studies on Chinese Communism 43(5). (2009): 1–14.
Chen, Anquan. Yilang yisilan geming jiqi shijie yingxiang [Iran’s Islamic Revolution and Its Impact on the World]. Shanghai: Fudan University Press, 2007.
Chen, Chien-min. “Zhonggong guojia xin anquanguan de zhanlue siwei yu waijiao shijian [The PRC’s Strategic Notion and Diplomatic Practice of the New National Security View].” Dongya Yanjiu [East Asian Studies] 40(1), (2009): 75–106.
Chen, Yonglong. “China and Israel: The Best is Yet to Come.” Jerusalem Post (July 13, 2006), A14.
Chengappa, Bidanda M. India-China Relations: Post Conflict Phase to Post Cold War Period. New Delhi: APH Publishing, 2004.
Cooney, Kevin J. and Yoichiro Sato, eds. The Rise of China and International Security: America and Asia Respond. London: Routledge, 2009.
Dawn, C. Ernest. “The Foreign Policy of Syria.” In Diplomacy in the Middle East: The International Relations of Regional and Outside Powers, edited by L. Carl Brown, 159–178. London: I. B. Tauris, 2006.
Deng, Yong and Fei-Ling Wang, eds. China Rising: Power and Motivation in Chinese Foreign Policy. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2005.
Economides, Michael J. and Xina Xie. “China’s Oil Imports Continued Upward in ’09.” Energy Tribune (January 26, 2010),
Ehteshami, Anoushiravan. “Islam as a Political Force in International Politics.”In Islam in World Politics, edited by Nelly Lahound and Anthony H. Johns. London and New York: Routledge, 2005.
el-Dajani, Ahmad Sudki. “The Palestine Question in Arab-Iranian Relations.”In Arab-Iranian Relations, edited by Khair el-Din Haseeb, 345–366. Beirut: The Center for Arab Unity Studies, 1998.
Evans, Gareth. “Shifting Security Parameters in the Twenty First Century.” In The Gulf: Challenges of the Future, edited by The Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research, 29–51. Abu Dhabi: The Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research, 2005.
Fuller, Graham E. The Future of Political Islam. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.
Garrison, Jean A. “The Domestic Political Game behind the Engagement Strategy.” In China-U.S. Relations Transformed: Perspectives and Strategic Interactions, edited by Suisheng Zhao, 141–158. New York: Routledge, 2008.
Garver, John W. China and Iran: Ancient Partners in a Post-Imperial World. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2006.
Gause III, F. Gregory. The International Relations of the Persian Gulf. Cambridge and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.
Gill, Bates.Rising Star: China’s New Security Diplomacy. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2007.
Gleditsch, Kristian S. All International Politics Is Local: The Diffusion of Conflict,
Integration, and Democratization. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2002.
Goldstein, Avery. Rising to the Challenge: China’s Grand Strategy and International Security. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2005.
Gonzalez, Nathan. Engaging Iran: The Rise of a Middle East Power House and America’s Strategic Choice. Westport, CT: Praeger Security International, 2007.
Gordon IV, John, Robert W. Button, Karla J. Cunningham, Toy I. Ried, Irv Belickstein, Peter A. Wilson and Andreas Goldthau. Domestic Trends in the United States, China, and Iran: Implications for U.S. Navy Strategic Planning. Santa Monica, CA: The RAND Corporation, 2008.
Harari, Haim. A View from the Eye of the Storm: Terror and Reason in the Middle East. New York: Regan Books, 2005.
Harik, Judith. “Hizballah’s Public and Social Services and Iran.” In Distant Relations: Iran and Lebanon in the Last 500 Years, edited by H. E. Chehabi. London: I. B. Tauris Publishers, 2006.
Harris, Lillian Craig. China Considers the Middle East. London: I. B. Tauris, Co., 1993.
Hazran, Yusri. “The Rise of Politicized Shi‘ite Religiosity and the Territorial State in Iraq and Lebanon.”Middle East Journal 64(4), (2010): 521–541.
Hoveyda, Fereydoun. The Broken Crescent: The “Threat” of Militant Islamic Fundamentalism. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2002.
Huwaidin, Mohamed Bin. China’s Relations with Arabia and the Gulf 1949-1999. London: Routledg Curzon, 2002.
Ikenberry, G. John. “The Rise of China and the Future of the West: Can the Liberal System Survive?” Foreign Affairs 87(1), (2008): 23–37.
Ikenberry, G. John. “The Rise of China: Power, Institutions, and the Western Order.” In China’s Ascent: Power, Security, and the Future of International Politics, edited by Robert S. Ross and Zhu Feng, 89–114. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2008.
Israeli, Rafael. Islam in China: Religion, Ethnicity, Culture, and Politics. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2002.
Jaffe, Amy Myers and Steven W. Lewis. “Beijing’s Oil Diplomacy.” Survival 44(1), (2001): 115–134.
Kam, Ephraim. “The Threat Perception of the Arab States.”In Arms Control and the New Middle East Security Environment, edited by Shai Feldman and Ariel Levite. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1994.
Kemp, Geoffrey. The East Moves West: India, China, and Asia’s Growing Presence in the Middle East. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2010.
Kissinger, Henry. On China. London: The Penguin Press, 2011.
Kreutz, Andrej. Russia in the Middle East: Friend or Foe? Westport, CT: Praeger
Security International, 2007.
Kumaraswamy, P. R. ed., China and the Middle East: The Quest for Influence. London: Sage, 1999.
Kunisue, Norito. Iraku sensō no shinyen: kenryokuga hōkai suru toki, 2002–2004 [Abyss of Iraqi War: When the Power Demolished, 2002–2004]. Tokyo: Soshisha, 2007.
Kupchan, Charles A. The End of the American Era: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Geopolitics of the Twenty-First Century. New York: Vintage Books, 2002.
Lardy, Nicholas R. Integrating China into the Global Economy. Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution, 2002.
Larrabee, F. Stephen. The Middle East: The Changing Strategic Environment, Conference Proceedings. Santa Monica, CA: The Rand Corporation, 2006.
Lee, Itamar Y. “Peace Process in the Eyes of Chinese Special Envoys for the Middle Eastern Affairs.” a paper delivered at the 1st biennial international forum on the Middle East issues, organized by and the U.S. Asian Cultural Academy (UACA) and the Institute of Middle East Studies of Shanghai International Studies University (SISU), Shanghai, China,
November 2–4, 2007.
Lee, Itamar Y. “Deepening Naval Cooperation between Islamabad and Beijing.” China Brief: A Journal of Information and Analysis 9(13), (2009): 11–13.
Lee, Itamar Y. “Damascus in the Eyes of China: Sino-Syrian Relations in the Post-Cold War Era.” prepared for delivery at the annual meeting of the Middle East Studies Association of North America(MESA), Boston, MA, November 21–24, 2009.
Lee, Itamar Y. “Chūtou ni okeru chūgoku no eikyōryoku kakudai to henbou suru chūyou kokusai seiji [China’s Growing Influence in the Middle East and the International Politics of the Medient in Transition].” ICCS Journal of Modern Chinese Studies 2(1), (2010): 202–211.
Lee, Itamar Y. “A New Strategic Wing of the Dragon: Chinese Evolving Policy towards Central Asia and Shifting Perceptions of U.S. Military Presence.” in memory of the late Prof. Ellis Joffe, the 10 th annual conference of Asian Studies in Israel(ASI), the Louis Friedberg Center for East Asian Studies, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel (May 25–27, 2011).
Li, Chuanjiu. “Meiguo yu yisilan shijie chongtu de tantao [A Preliminary Study on the Conflict between U.S. and the Islamic World].” In Zhongdong yu yisilan lunwenji: xiandai musilin zhengzhi, shehui, wenhua de bianqian [The Middle East and Islam: The Change of Politics, Society, and Culture in Modern Muslim World], edited by The Center for Islam Civilization and Philosophy of the National Cheng Chi University. Taipei: Zhonghua minguo alabo wenhua jingji xiehui, 2004.
Li, Hongjie. Guojia liyi yu zhongguo de zhongdong zhengce [National Interest and China’s Middle East Policy]. Beijing: Central Compilation & Translation Press, 2009.
Li, Zhongfa. “Hu jintao yu yilake zongtong tala ba’ni juxing huitan [Hu Jintao Held a Conversation with Iraqi President Talabani].”Xinhua Net (June 22, 2007).
Liang, Ping’an. “China’s Potential Contribution to Middle East Cooperation.” In The Jewish-Chinese Nexus: A Meeting of Civilizations, edited by M. Avrum Enrlich, 268–278. London: Routledge, 2008.
Liu, Carrie and Manochehr Dorraj.“Reconstructing the Silk Road in a New Era: China’s Expanding Regional Influence in the Middle East.”In China and the Global Politics of Regionalization, edited by Emilian Kavalski, 165–176. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing, 2009.
Liu, Zhongmin. Dangdai zhongdong yisilan fuxing yundong yanjiu: zhengzhi fazhan yu guoji guanxi shijiao de shenshi [A Study on Islamic Fundamentalism in Contemporary Middle East: From a Perspective of Political Development and International Relations]. Hong Kong: Hong Kong Press for Social Sciences, 2004.
Liu, Zhongmin.On Modern History of China Maritime Defense Thoughts. Qingdao: China Ocean University Press, 2006.
Mao, Yufeng, “China’s Interests and Strategy in the Middle East and the Arab World.” In China and the Developing World: Beijing’s Strategy for the Twenty-First Century, edited by Joshua Eisenman, Eric Heginbotham, and Derek Mitchell, 113–132. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 2007.
Maoz, Zeev. Domestic Sources of Global Change. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1996.
Margonelli, Lisa. trans. by Miao Jingfen. Wusuo buzai de shiyou jingji [Oil on the Brain: Adventures from the Pump to the Pipe Line]. Taipei: Xianjue Publishing, 2008.
Marschall, Christin. Iran’s Persian Gulf Policy: From Khomeini to Khatami. London: Routledge Curzon, 2003.
Martin, Richard C., ed. Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World. Vol. 2, New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004.
Mi, Ligong and Gong Zhenxi.“Hu jintao hujian shuliya zongtong bashar [Hu Jintao Met with Syrian President Bashar].”Xinhua Net (January 11, 2001).
Milton-Edwards, Beverly. Islam & Politics in the Contemporary World. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2004.
Miyazaki, Masakatsu. Teiwa no nankai dai ensei [The Great Maritime Voyages of Zheng He from Southern Sea]. Tokyo: Chūo koronsha, 1997.
Nasr, Vali. “When the Shiites Rise.”Foreign Affairs 85(4) (2006).
Nasr, Vali. “The Shia Revival.”The Military Review (2007).
Nasr, Vali. The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2007.
Navarro, Peter. The Coming China Wars: Where they’ll be fought and how they can be won. Revised and Expanded Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: FT Press, 2008.
Ouyang, Cherng-Shin.Zhongdong jingji yu youyuan liuxiang chutan [An Inquiry into the Mideast Economy and Petrodollars Flows]. Taipei: Zhonghua Jingji Yanjiuyuan, 2008.
Pan, Guang. “China’s Success in the Middle East.”Middle East Quarterly (1997), http://ww
Pipes, Daniel. Greater Syria: The History of an Ambition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990.
Qian, Qichen. Ten Episodes in China’s Diplomacy. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2005.
Qiao, Liang and Wang Xiangsui.Chaoxian zhan [Unlimited War]. Beijing: Jiefangjun wenyi chubanshe, 1999.
Rahigh-Aghsan, Ali and Peter Viggo Jakobsen.“The Rise of Iran: How Durable, How Dangerous?”Middle East Journal 64(4), (2010): 559–573.
Rahim, Saad. “China’s Energy Strategy toward the Middle East: Saudi Arabia.” In China’s Energy Strategy: The Impact on Beijing’s Maritime Policies, edited by Gabriel B. Collins, Andrew S. Erickson, Lyle J. Goldstein, and William S. Murray, 143–161. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, the U.S. Naval Institute, 2008.
Restall, Hugo. “China’s Bid for Asian Hegemony.”Far Eastern Economic Review 170(4), (2007): 10–14.
Richardson, Michael. “China’s Ties with Iran vis-à-vis the West: Marching to the Drumbeat of Oil.” The Strait Times, July 25, 2008. Available at
Rubin, Barry. “China’s Middle East Strategy.” Middle East Review of International Affairs 3(1) (1999).
Rui, Ming. “Jiang Zemin chufang jishi: fang bayi queli zhongdong wenti teshi jizhi [The Documentary of Jiang Zemin’s Foreign Visit: The Establishment of Special Envoy for Middle Eastern Affairs Visiting Palestine and Israel],” Chang’anjie News (July 31, 2006).
Sakurai, Keiko, Shīa ha: taitou suru isurāmu shousū ha [Shi‘ism: The Rising Islamic Minority]. Tokyo: Chūokoron shinsha, 2006.
Shambaugh, David., ed. Power Shift: China and Asia’s New Dynamics. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006.
Sheikh, Naveed S. The New Politics of Islam: Pan-Islamic Foreign Policy in a World of States. London: Routledge Curzon, 2003.
Shichor, Yitzhak. The Middle East in China’s Foreign Policy, 1949–1977. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979.
Shichor, Yitzhak.“China’s Upsurge: Implications for the Middle East.” In Israel’s Strategic Agenda, edited by Efraim Inbar, 52–70. London and New York: Routledge, 2007.
Shichor, Yitzhak.“China’s Middle East Strategy: In Search of Wells and Power.” In China, the Developing World, and the New Global Dynamic, edited by Lowell Dittmer and George T. Yu, 157–176. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2010.
Shirk, Susan L. China: Fragile Super Power. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.
Sisodia, N. S. and V. Krishnappa, eds. Global Power Shifts and Strategic Transition in Asia. New Delhi: Academic Foundation, 2009.
Sutter, Robert G. China’s Rise in Asia: Promises and Perils. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2005.
Takim, Liyakat. “War and Peace in the Islamic Sacred Sources.”Journal of Shi‘a Islamic Studies 4(1), (2011): 5–22.
Talhamy, Yvette. “The Syrian Muslim Brothers and the Syrian-Iranian Relationship.”Middle East Journal 63(4), (2009): 561–580.
Tang, Baocai, “Zhongguo yu zhongdong guojia guanxi fazhan fangxiang [The Developmental Direction of Relations between China and the Middle East States].” In Yilake zhanzheng hou dongdang de zhongdong [The Turbulent Middle East after the Iraq War], edited by Tang Baocai, 288–319. Beijing: Dangdai shijie chubanshe, 2007.
Tang, Shiping and Cao Xiaoyang. “Xunqiu zhongmeiri xianghu anquan de jidian [China, U.S., and Japan: Searching for the Foundation of Mutual Security’].” Zhanlue yu Guanli [Strategy & Management], 1 (2002): 99–109.
Terhalle, Maximilian. “Are the Shia Rising?” Middle East Policy 14(2) (2007): 69–83.
Timperlake, Edward and William C. Triplett II.Red Dragon Rising: Communist China’s Military Threat to America. Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, 1999.
Trenin, Dmitri. Russia’s Policy in the Middle East: Prospects for Consensus and Conflict with the United States, a report presented at the Century Foundation, Washington DC, March 2, 2010.
Waki, Yuzo. Chūtou: taihenbou no jyokyoku [The Middle East: Prelude to Fundamental Change]. Tokyo: Nikkei Publishing, 2002.
Walt, Stephen M. Taming American Power: The Global Response to U.S. Primacy. New York: W. W. Norton, 2005.
Wang, Bo. “The Iraqi War and the New Iran-Iraq Relations.”Journal of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies (in Asia) 1(1), (2007): 66–77.
Womack, Brantly.“China between Region and World.”The China Journal 61 (2009): 10–15.
Wu, Bingbing. Shiyepai: xiandai yisilan zhuyi de xingqi [Shi‘ism: The Emergence of Contemporary Islam]. Beijing: Zhongguo shehui kexue chubanshe, 2004.
Wu, Bingbing. “Aiji yu yilang de guanxi [The Relations between Egypt and Iran].”In Aiji yu Zhongdong [Egypt and the Middle East], edited by Chen Jianmin, 224–242. Beijing: Peking University Press, 2005.
Wu, Yungui. “Yisilan jijin shili yu zhongdong diqu chongtu [Radical Forces in Islam and Regional Conflicts in the Middle East].” In Zhongguo xuezhe kan shijie [World Politics: Views from China], vol. 5 (International Security), edited by Yan Xuetong, 389–402. Hong Kong: Peace Books, 2006.
Xu, Xinhui, Libanen [Lebanon]. Beijing: Shehui Kexue Wenxian Chubanshe, 2007.
Zambelis, Chris. “The Geopolitics of Sino-Syrian Relations.”China Brief 8(20) (2008).
Yang, Jiemian.“Iran-Iraq Conundrums and U.S. Strategic Options in the Gulf Region.”Journal of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies (in Asia) 1(1), (2007): 20–30.
Zhang, Ping. “Israel and the Jewish People in Chinese Cyberspace since 2002.” In The Jewish-Chinese Nexus: A Meeting of Civilizations, edited by M. Avrum Enrlich, 103–117. London: Routledge, 2008.
Zhang, Tingxiu, “Shadi alabo xianshi [Current Situations of Saudi Arabia],” In Zhongguo waijiaoshi lunji [History of Chinese Foreign Relations], edited by Huang Zhengming, 1–12. Taipei: Zhonghua wenhua chuban shiye weiyuanhui, 1957.
Zhong, Zhicheng. Weile shijie geng meihao: Jiang Zemin chufang jishi [To Make the Word More Beautiful: The Documentary of Jiang Zemin’s Foreign Visit]. Beijing: Shijie zhishi chubanshe, 2006.
Zhu, Jianrong. Mou takutou no betonamu sensou: chūgoku gaikou no dai tenkan to bunka dai hukumei no kigen [Mao Zedong’s Vietnam War: The Great Transformation of Chinese Diplomacy and the Origin of the Great Cultural Revolution]. Tokyo: Tokyo University Press, 2001.