`US wants Muslim world`s support in its competition with China`
Cihan News Agency (CNA)
December 09, 2012
China`s Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi (front L) poses for a group picture with Tunisia`s President Moncef Marzouki (front C) and Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalem (front R) during the 6th political and economic cooperation summit between the Arab League and China in Hammamet May 31, 2012. Senior Arab officials on Thursday used the forum as an opportunity to lobby Yang, pressing China to use its influence to help stop the violence in Syria. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi
NEW YORK (CİHAN)- The US wants to have the Islamic world on its side as it needs new markets to compete with China and wants a bigger trade volume with the Middle East, which will in turn benefit this region economically and politically, according to Süleyman Kızıltoprak, a professor of history at Mimar Sinan University of Fine Arts. Kızıltoprak, one of Turkey`s most renowned historians, has shared with Sunday`s Zaman readers his perspective on recent developments in the Middle East and other parts of the world, offering a historical analysis of the events that shape the region. I had the chance to interview Professor Kızıltoprak when he arrived in New York to do some research. We talked about developments unfolding in both Egypt and throughout the Middle East.
In fact, the conversation ranged from the background of the Muslim Brotherhood to some of the dangers facing Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, the result of the Israeli attack on Gaza, the US`s Arab Spring vision, what the geopolitical struggle between China and the US really indicates and where exactly the British stand in the collective memory of the Middle East.
How are the closer relations that emerged between Turkey and Egypt in the wake of the Israeli attack on Gaza likely to affect general balances in the Middle East?
The Israeli attack on Gaza was a confirmation of a shift in balances in the Middle East. Within the Middle East, Iran, the Shiite factor and, naturally enough, the Hezbollah factor in Lebanon have been left in the background. The Israeli attack pushed Egypt, Turkey and Hamas into more prominence. In Palestine, Fatah has left leadership to Hamas.
For the past 200 years, Turkey and Egypt have never had this much of a shared and close political groundwork as they do now. For the first time, Egypt wants to be in a cooperative relationship with Turkey. Egypt applauds the many successes of Turkey in different arenas and does not view Turkey as competition. This is a development that could herald some very important results for regional peace and the peoples of the region. In the meantime, through Egypt, Turkey finds before it a very easy gateway into all of Africa. As for Egypt, it could benefit from all the economic, socio-political and democratic experience Turkey has. If, however, there are not some very swift reforms made and economic development triggered, things could become very difficult for Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.
From this perspective, Morsi really has to start taking some courageous steps for his country`s economy, for example, in the area of tourism. On this topic, one could compare Turkey during the years of [Prime Minister and later President Turgut] Özal and the Egypt of today. Had Özal not brought to Turkey a liberal economic system, social liberalism would not have developed nearly as much as we find it has today. And the middle class would not have become as strong as it has. The Egyptian economy must grow. The collective demands of the Egyptian people are for a better life, better health and education services, better job opportunities and higher incomes. A Morsi who fights the excessively conservative elements among his supporters could garner the support of other segments such as the Copts, the leftists and the liberals. The economic relations developing between Turkey and Egypt would, in the meantime, support this and would quickly be reflected onto other arenas as well.
You lived in Egypt for many years. Was the political transformation that came to Egypt one that you expected? Just how key has the Muslim Brotherhood been to these changes?
The changes that came to Egypt were expected. After being elected president of the US in 2008, the first trip made by [Barack] Obama was to Egypt. But Obama was not welcomed to Egypt by [Hosni] Mubarak.
In fact, there was not a single photo published of Mubarak and Obama together. What people remember of Obama`s arrival in Egypt on Air Force One is the welcome given to him by the grand sheikh of al-Azhar, Ahmed al-Tayyeb, as Obama was hosted by Cairo`s Al-Azhar University, and his speech at Al-Azhar stressed democracy. He said that in the Middle East, support should only be given to political regimes that have come to power through democratic means. In a sense then, he was lending support to the Muslim Brotherhood. In Egypt, the most organized societal structure there is the Muslim Brotherhood. When free democratic elections took place, the strongest candidate wound up being from the Muslim Brotherhood. The important thing for Obama and the US was that whatever party came to power in Egypt would cooperate with the US, and of course that along with democracy, a free market economy would also be implemented. In this way, the anti-US stance in the Arab public would decline, and American companies would be able to comfortably enter the Middle Eastern and Islamic markets. Not only this, but the increasingly negative perceptions of US actions in Afghanistan and Iraq -- perceptions that are a reality from Africa to the Far East -- would shift to more positive perceptions. From this angle then, Obama`s desire to see a Middle East composed of more democratic regimes is no surprise. So in this sense, yes, I was expecting change in Egypt. And it was no surprise that a key role in this change was played by the Muslim Brotherhood.
Do you believe that the Muslim Brotherhood will be a carrier of democratization or Islamization in this region?
The Muslim Brotherhood has only just newly arrived in power. But throughout the history of modern Egypt, this group has always been around. In fact, the Muslim Brotherhood came into being after the formation of modern Egypt, as sort of an “ulema” (group of the learned) movement that opposed some of the political and social structures brought to Egypt by the British. And in fact, the Muslim Brotherhood had always taken a role in political changes in Egypt. They gave their support in 1952 to the Free Officers and [President Gamal Abdel] Nasser against King Faruk. After Nasser, President [Anwar] Sadat had the need for the political strength and support of the Muslim Brotherhood, and at the start of the 1970s, they thus moved together. Later, these two camps grew apart in the wake of the Camp David agreements. When Mubarak came to power, after Sadat, he tried to get along with the Muslim Brotherhood. He even allowed the Muslim Brotherhood`s independent MPs to enter parliament. When the Muslim Brotherhood started getting larger, it began lending its support to the Salafi group. During all the wars with Israel, though, the Muslim Brotherhood supported the administration. In the wars of 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973, the Muslim Brotherhood was an organization from whom support could be expected. What can be expected from the Muslim Brotherhood today is -- as a political movement that shares the same values and emotional stance as the Egyptian people -- to go ahead with the democratization of Egypt, without carrying on Islamicism, nationalism or political factionalism. And actually, expectations go beyond this -- that the Muslim Brotherhood will provide solutions to some of the most basic problems of the most poverty-stricken segments of Egyptian society. This of course includes expanding work opportunities, bettering health and educational services throughout the country, preventing further poverty and overseeing a more equal distribution of income throughout the country.
Does British colonization play a role in the development of anti-American and anti-imperialist rhetoric in the Islamic movement in Egypt?
That is exactly right, in fact. The history of British colonization has a very profound effect on the region. But let us also not forget that the defeats inflicted by Israel as well as the far-from-sincere policies shown by the Western world towards Egypt led to a very serious level of opposition to the West among the Egyptian people. Some of the Egyptian groups who tried, post Camp David, to be friendly with Jewish society and America did not receive the support they expected from these entities.
So that the shared point for Egyptians belonging to different political streams really became over time anti-imperialist rhetoric.
Do you think that the view of the Ottomans among Egyptian intellectuals and in the Arab world has begun to change?
After the Ottoman state pulled out of the Arab world, the Arabs themselves became removed from their own history. What emerged was the lack of an objective view of Ottoman history and Islamic history. The past became an obscure memory when it was being remembered. And in fact, it was the Ottoman leadership that was blamed for later military, political and economic failures. And this stance actually became part of the official history in Arab countries. And interestingly, the cookie-cutter thoughts widespread in the Arab world when it comes to the Ottoman era in that world were largely shaped by Western historians themselves.
Thanks to increasingly close relations in recent years, the Arab public has begun to interpret Ottoman history more objectively. Playing an important and positive role in this change have been factors such as Turkish cinema, Turkish television, media, academia and even sports clubs. Not to mention of course Turkish foreign policy and the improved economic signs. Not only has there been a great deal of direct interest in the Arab world for the political, military and economic development of Turkey lately, but it has also given the Arab world a more sympathetic approach to Turkey, too. Also, Turkish historians have begun to draw attention to theses concerning the Ottoman state, and these theses have begun to gain acceptance. In fact, historians like Muhammed Harb, who have shared some very objective views of the Ottoman state, have become very popular with large crowds in the Arab world.
When you look at the whole picture as a historian, how do you think the US and the Western powers want to see the Islamic world and Turkey?
The US, today, wishes to have the Islamic world on its side. The US has a need for new markets, and it wishes to push ahead of China in that area of competition. The future vision for the US is to cooperate with a power that does not directly threaten its own strength, a power that has global competitiveness as well. The US would like to partner with Turkey and the Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries to be more competitive. The Far East markets are currently controlled by China and India. It really wants to be selling more US goods to the Middle East. As for the cheap cost of production in China, it would like to see this transferred to Middle Eastern and African countries. This is why there is a need for more democratic governments in the Middle East. The middle classes need to swell in numbers, and the purchasing power held by people in these classes needs to rise in order for there to be a market for US goods. How will the middle classes in the Middle East begin to strengthen and spread? Resources currently held in the hands of a few will be spread around by way of new and democratic structures, and it will be the middle class that benefits largely from this... The textile and service sectors as well as small and mid-sized enterprises will be strengthened and multiply. In short, the work force of the Middle East will be working for global production. And thus, both China and India will face a new region of competition. For the US, the strengthening of Turkey has value within the framework of a balancing factor against a strengthening China. If the 1.5 billion in the Islamic world, with Turkey at the helm, were to cooperate with the US, this would definitely be to the benefit of the US on a global scale. The world population of Muslims, which represents around 20 percent of the global population, has a share of world trade that is around 9 percent. What this means is around $12 trillion in trade volume annually. In the year 2050, Muslims will be around 30 percent of the world population, or one out of every three people. In short, in making calculations based on all this for the future, the US wants close ties with the Islamic world so that it can continue to be a dominant power.
The calculations we see being made today are all based on economic power. The US, which wants to retain its hold on the global market and global capital, bases its calculations on this point. As the world leader, the US has entered into a trend of declining gross domestic product (GDP). While the US had a 22.95 percent share of the global economy in 1985, this dropped in 2009 to 20.02 percent and then to 19.59 percent in 2010.
According to data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Germany -- as one of the countries that is key in shaping world policies -- saw its own share in the global economy drop from 5.64 percent in 1985 to 4.47 percent in 2005. At the same time, the rising star in the world economy, China, continues to see its share in global production rise. While it was at 2.89 percent in 1985, this share rose to 12.72 percent in 2010.
As for Turkey, while it is not seeing its weight in the world economy grow by leaps and bounds, it does continue to be able to increase its share. While its share was 1.02 percent in 1985, this rose to 1.35 percent in 2010.
When one looks at all this data, one notes that all of the Islamic countries combined hold the economic power of one China. Thus, efforts made by the US in competing with China economically to get the Islamic countries as allies are no surprise. As for the peoples of these Islamic countries, they will see political and economic benefits from this cooperation. Of course, these are analyses that are based on the conditions of today; as conditions change, so do US policies.
Who is Süleyman Kızıltoprak?
Kızıltoprak is a professor in Istanbul`s Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University`s department of history. His doctorate, titled “Mısır`da İngiliz İşgali: Osmanlı`nın. Diplomasi Savaşı (1882-1887) (British Occupation in Egypt: the Ottoman`s Diplomatic War 1882-1887) was published by the History Foundation. In addition, the well-known professor is the author of many books on the foreign policies of Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamid II, as well as the final century of the Ottomans in Egypt. His areas of expertise include, in addition to the Middle East, the administrative system of the Mamluks and the modern age.
© Copyright 2012 Cihan News Agency. All Rights Reserved.
Interviews PRC Special Envoy on China`s Friendship With Arab Countries
Jiefangjun Bao Online
Monday, June 4, 2012
A general view shows delegates attending the 6th political and economic cooperation summit between the Arab League and China in Hammamet May 31, 2012. The forum was attended by Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, and Arab delegates used the opportunity to lobby him over Syria, pressing China to use its influence to help stop the violence in Syria. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi
By staff reporter Gao Jiquan, “China is a Sincere Friend of the Arab People, an Exclusive Interview With China`s Middle East Issue Special Envoy Wu Sike”
The fifth China-Arab Cooperation Forum closed in Tunis on 31 May. The two sides issued a communique of the meeting stressing that the two sides will apply themselves to deepening strategic cooperation and work for common development. At a time when the Syria issue meets another crisis, the development of China-Arab relations draws people`s attention. Recently, this reporter particularly interviewed Wu Sike, Chinese special envoy for the Middle East issue, on issues relevant to China-Arab relations.
Reporter: The establishment of the China-Arab Cooperation Forum was announced in 2004 when President Hu Jintao visited the headquarters of the Arab League. Now, eight years have passed. How has been the process of development of China-Arab relations?
Wu Sike: When President Hu visited the headquarters of the Arab League in the Egyptian capital of Cairo in January 2004, I happened to be the Chinese ambassador to Egypt, and I witnessed the process of the announcement by the two sides on the establishment of the China-Arab Cooperation Forum and the celebrative scene. In September that year, the first ministerial-level meeting of the China-Arab Cooperation Forum was formally instituted, which is the highest level mechanism activity within the China-Arab Cooperation Forum framework. Later I was appointed China`s first plenipotentiary representative to the Arab League and therefore I may say I have witnessed the process of the development of China-Arab relations in the recent years.
Over the years, China-Arab friendly relations have kept developing and have never seen any tension and confrontation. In international affairs, the two sides have coordinated with and supported each other, supported each other on issues of concern of the other side, and have not interfered in each other`s internal affairs. Since we entered the new century, such issues as economic globalization and the international financial crisis have brought new challenges and opportunities to China-Arab relations. In the complicated and ever-changing international situation, friendly relations of cooperation between the two sides in all fields have withstood tests and remained fresh despite the years passed, and have entered a “fast lane” of accelerated development.
Reporter: How do we perceive the “fast lane”?
Wu Sike: Political mutual trust between China and the Arab World has kept deepening. China has firmly supported the core concern of Arab countries - restoration of the Palestinian people`s just cause of their legitimate national right. On the other hand, on issues involving China`s sovereignty and core interests, Arab countries have given China their precious support. The fourth ministerial-level meeting of the China-Arab Cooperation Forum was held in Tianjin in 2010, at which the two sides declared the building of “Strategic Cooperation Relations of Comprehensive Cooperation and Common Development,” further pointing out the direction of the development of China-Arab relations in the new period.
Tunisia`s Prime Minister Hamadi Jbeli (L) speaks with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi (R) during the 6th political and economic cooperation summit between the Arab League and China in Hammamet May 31, 2012. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi
China-Arab economic and trade cooperation has yielded fruitful results. Trade between the two sides increased by nearly eight times in the first 10 years of the new century - from $20.3 billion in 2001 to $145.4 billion in 2010. Facing the dual challenges of the international financial crisis and the drastic change in the regional situations, China-Arab economic and trade cooperation has maintained the robust momentum - bilateral trade in 2011 reached $195.9 billion, an increase of 34.7 percent from the preceding year. Exchange and cooperation in other fields, including cultural, educational, and journalism fields, also has kept achieving new development.
China-Arab collective dialogue and cooperation has developed in depth. The building of the China-Arab Cooperation Forum has kept moving forward. So far, more than 10 cooperation mechanisms, including ministerial-level meeting, high-ranking officials meeting, entrepreneurs meeting, civilization dialogue seminar, and journalism cooperation forum, have been established, greatly advancing friendly cooperation in all fields between the two sides.
Reporter: Since the last year, the situations in some Arab countries have been turbulent, changes of political regimes have taken place in several countries, and the situations in some countries are still worrisome. How do you view the changes of the situations in those Arab countries?
Wu Sike: What have happened in some Arab countries are the most profound social transformations since the national liberation movement in the 1950`s and 1960`s. Transformation is a major trend of modern social development. Development and transformation are in accord with the tide of the times and the people`s wishes, and have significance of progress for pushing forward reform and pressing for social progress. Of course, the fact that the situations in some countries have developed to the current stages is inseparable from adding fuel to the fire by some foreign forces for the sake of their own interests.
Reporter: China voted against the draft resolutions on the Syria issue at the UN Security Council in October last year and in February this year. What role do you think China has played in the development of the Syria situation?
Wu Sike: We used veto power twice on the Syria issue. At the beginning, many people did not understand this, saying we were protecting the Syrian authorities. After we presented the six proposals and expounded our stand, people, including the opposition of Syria, have begun to express their understanding. We were not protecting the Syrian authorities, but were truly upholding the UN Charter and upholding the interests of the Syrian people and the country`s overall interest in deeds. Moreover, this also was aimed at regional stability and international influence, because if a civil war breaks out in Syria due to a military intervention, it will have a very important impact on the international community, and the international economic situation, which has already been weak in recovering, undoubtedly will go from bad to worse because of an increase in oil price and other factors. It was because of the efforts of the various parties, including China, that the United Nations and Arab League jointly pressed for a political resolution as the first option for the Syria issue, and appointed former UN Secretary General Annan the special envoy of the United Nations.
Reporter: Currently the situation in Syria again has met a crisis. At the China-Arab Cooperation Forum, Minister Yang Jiechi again expounded China`s stand. How do you see the development of the situation in Syria?
Wu Sike: Currently, seeking a political solution to the Syria issue has reached a crucial stage. The violent incidents erupting during the ceasefire period in Syria once again showed that it brooks no delay to bring forth a complete ceasefire and to stop violence in Syria. Minister Yang Jiechi mainly stressed three points: First, China is just on the Syria issue. What China upholds are the norm of international relations, peace and stability in the Middle East region, and the long-term interest of the people of the Arab countries. Second, China is pragmatic on the Syria issue. China has worked for peace and urged for negotiation in deeds, and has done work on the Syrian government and the opposition in a balanced and in-depth manner. Third, on the whole, the goals of China and Arab countries on the Syria issue are in accord. The representatives of the Arab countries attending the current forum meeting applauded China`s just stand on the Syria issue. China is a sincere friend of the Arab people and is willing to work together with Arab countries and the Arab League to endeavor to press for a just, peaceful, and proper solution to the Syria issue at an earlier date.
Reporter: With the principle of not interfering in other countries` internal affairs, how can we achieve something diplomatically and how do we display an image of being a responsible major power?
Wu Sike: Our country embraces the “Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence,” of which the core is for all countries to respect one another and not to interfere in other countries` internal affairs. We respect the choice of the people of all countries - this is not only verbally, but also in practice. Of course, not interfering in other countries` internal affairs does not mean we can do nothing; instead, we should actively maintain contacts with all parties concerned and actively do some peace-making work. This also has given our diplomatic work some new quests and innovations. Diplomacy involves work on all fronts. First, we should remain calm amid changes, and then we should do something amid changes. While the situation drastically changed last year, trade between China and Arab countries still increased by 34.7% from the preceding year. China`s strong demand for energy basically has been ensured and the turbulences have not affected the normal exchange between the two sides. Furthermore, our work on dealing with the situation in Syria also shows that we are a responsible major power.
Reporter: Could you please show us the prospects of the future of China-Arab relations?
Wu Sike: In the process of developing relations with Arab countries, the Chinese government and people have always shown respect for the development and transformation roads independently chosen by the Arab countries in accordance with their national conditions; on the foundation of equality, mutual benefits, openness, and transparency, we have always sincerely carried out pragmatic cooperation with Arab countries; in the spirit of getting along harmoniously and inclusiveness, we have always actively pressed for a civilization dialogue and humanity exchange between the two sides. In the new situation, the connections between China and Arab countries have become even closer, the common language and common interests between the two sides have further increased, and the space for the development of China-Arab relations has become even broader. It is believed that China-Arab relations will usher in even better prospects in the new period, which will add to the well-being of the Chinese and Arab people and make new contributions to world peace and development.
Wu Sike: Veteran diplomat, born in 1946 in Anhui province`s Yingshang county. Currently, he is Chinese special envoy for Middle East issue and member of the 11 th National Committee of the Chinese People`s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). He was head of the Department for Asia and Africa of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Chinese ambassador to Saudi Arabia, and ambassador to Egypt and concurrently the first plenipotentiary representative to the Arab League.
Arab League: Also called the League of Arab States, includes 22 member states, namely, Jordan, the UAE, Bahrain, Tunis, Algeria, Djibouti, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Somali, Iraq, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Comoros, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Egypt, Morocco, Mauritania, and Yemen. Since China established diplomatic relations with Egypt on 30 May 1956 until China established diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia on 21 July 1990, China has established diplomatic relations with all of the 22 member states of the Arab League.
(Description of Source: Beijing Jiefangjun Bao Online in Chinese -- Online version of the daily newspaper of the Central Military Commission of the People`s Liberation Army (PLA), reporting on a wide range of military affairs; URL: http://www.chinamil.com.cn/)
©Compiled and distributed by NTIS, US Dept. of Commerce. All rights reserved.
Cleric Urges Rulers To Bolster Relations With China, Muslim World Instead US
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Report by correspondent: “Rulers Should Attend National Interests Rather to Seek US Pleasures; Abdul Rehman Makki”
Islamabad -- The meeting of political and religious parties will be held today regarding Difah Pakistan conference (Defense Pakistan Conference) to be held in Liaqat Bagh Rawalpindi, under the auspices of Difah Pakistan Council (Defense Pakistan Council). Hafiz Abdul Rehman Makki, president of coordination committee of Difah Pakistan Council, will chair the meeting.
In the meeting, arrangements and publicity campaign for Difah Pakistan Conference will be reviewed by the parties, and different measures will be considered to ensure maximum public participation (in the conference).
Meanwhile, while talking to different delegations yesterday (8 January), Hafiz Abdul Rehman Makki further said that pressure will be raised on the rulers to refrain from brushing aside the blood of martyrs for gaining the US pleasures, and from taking decisions that could propel country towards the US slavery once again. The rulers should safeguard the interests of the nation and the state, instead of seeking the US pleasure, he urged.
Hafiz Abdul Rehman Makki said resuming NATO supply line will be tantamount to permitting the US to massacre Pakistan army and its people once more.
Trade with India and giving it the status of Most Favorite Nation is a horrible conspiracy to ruin Pakistan`s economy. One-way trade based on loss (for Pakistan) should be stopped right away. He said the Kashmir issue and (differences over sharing river) waters should be resolved first, before starting any trade with India.
The government of Pakistan should sever its so-called friendship with the Untied States and bolster its relations with China and the Muslim world, he stated.
(Description of Source: Rawalpindi Nawa-e Waqt in Urdu -- Privately owned, widely read, conservative Islamic daily, with circulation around 125,000. Harshly critical of the US and India.)
© Compiled and distributed by NTIS, US Dept. of Commerce. All rights reserved.