By Jia Jinjing Source: Global Times Published: 2016-1-26
Chinese President Xi Jinping concluded a state visit to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran on January 24. This is not only Xi`s first official visit in 2016, but also the first state visit by top Chinese leaders to the Middle East since the "Arab Spring" in 2011. Given the current sophisticated regional situation, Xi`s visit has unique historic significance; the Chinese "One Belt, One Road" initiative will serve as a blueprint for the peaceful development in the Middle East.
The Middle East has been in a state of turmoil since 2011. The US "Greater Middle East" plan and the "Arab Spring" did not bring democracy or prosperity to the region, but unrest instead.
Tunisian political reform failed. Egypt has returned to military governance after years of political chaos. Other nations, such as Libya, Syria and Yemen, have been dragged into relentless wars as well. The Islamic State, on the other hand, seized the opportunity to strengthen itself.
Saudi Arabia and the US are distancing from each other following the low oil price in 2015. Refugees and terrorism are spreading to Europe. With Saudi Arabia cutting diplomatic ties with Iran, the Middle East is suffering from crises at the beginning of 2016.
It is safe to say that the US-designed blueprint for the Middle East development has failed. The region is now facing future puzzles. The turmoil will be intensified if the regional nations fail to find a right development path.
The Middle Eastern countries have been following three different development roads since the modern times. Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran are just typical representatives of the three paths. These countries` development patterns reflect the root causes for the Middle East question.
The future puzzles of the region cannot be fundamentally solved unless a blueprint based on the three development paths can be put forward.
The Egypt-centered Arab Ba`ath Movement represents the Middle East`s efforts in exploring Western-style modernization. In the past, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Muammar Gaddafi, Bashar al-Assad and Saddam Hussein were representatives of the mainstream modernization path in the region. Yet, with these symbolic figures challenged by the West, this development road has been ruined by Western countries.
The Saudi Arabia-represented Gulf pattern was created by the UK. But due to the traditional religious ideology and a lack of endogenous motive for modernization, this pattern has failed to serve as a blueprint for the region.
The Iran-directed electoral politics and industrialization have brought the nation stability. Yet, given the Shiite-Sunni relationship and the Western sanctions, Tehran`s development road is not an ideal choice for the region either.
Xi`s visit has brought a new blueprint for the Middle East - realizing peaceful development via the "One Belt, One Road" initiative. The blueprint has been welcomed by all Middle Eastern nations. It is the only ideal way for the region to realize peace and development.
First of all, the "One Belt, One Road" initiative focuses on cooperation, rather than conflicts, in the region.
The past development roads in the Middle East not only failed to address the conflicts, but also were taken advantage of by some external powers for geopolitical benefits.
In addition, the "One Belt, One Road" initiative advocates cultural communication and interconnectivity. The initiative is not a political framework. Currently, the Middle East lacks infrastructural connectivity. As a result, the regional economy has no solid foundation for sustainable development.
The "One Belt, One Road" initiative endeavors to promote extensive cooperation on the basis of connectivity. The initiative has no political goals. This is what the Middle East needs for development.
Last but not least, the "One Belt, One Road" initiative will connect the Middle East to East Asia, a new center of the global economy which has no historic grudges with the Middle East.
The failure of the past Middle East development roads is due largely to the West. Given the deep historic grievances, the Western-directed road has guided the Middle East into a state of turmoil.
Yet, friendly communication between the Middle East and East Asia has already existed for more than 2,000 years. East Asia-Middle East communication is a model for civilizational exchanges.
The author is Director of Department of Macroeconomics at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China.