Is China ‘Pivoting’ Toward the Middle East? Author Vali Nasr Says Yes

BY Larisa Epatko  May 14, 2013 at 10:00 AM EDT


Author Vali Nasr describes China’s interest in the Middle East.

As the United States eases back from involvement in the Middle East, China’s influence and economic dependence there grows, author Vali Nasr recently told PBS NewsHour senior correspondent Margaret Warner in a web exclusive interview.

“For China, the Middle East is a rising strategic interest,” he said. In fact, he continued to say that the Chinese don’t refer to it as the Middle East but as “West Asia.”

The U.S. has announced it wants to “pivot to Asia” and focus attention on China and away from the Middle East, Nasr said, but “the problem is just as we are pivoting East, the Chinese are pivoting West.”

The Chinese are looking to the region — from Pakistan to Iran to Saudi Arabia and Turkey — to help supply their vast need for energy and products, said Nasr, author of “The Dispensable Nation,” which critiques the Obama administration’s foreign policy. And China considers stability in the Middle East important to its own stability, he said.

The growing relationship might develop further. While the Middle East watches the American role recede, it will look to China for economic, diplomatic and possibly even military purposes, said Nasr. So as the United States leaves the region, it must be cognizant of what it’s leaving behind and why China is so interested, he said.

Nasr was a special adviser to Richard Holbrooke, who was envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan from 2009 to 2010. Prior to that, Nasr was an adviser on Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy team while she was running for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. He is currently dean of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C.

Watch for Margaret Warner’s interview with Vali Nasr on the May 24 NewsHour broadcast, and view more of our foreign policy coverage.