Three Pawns in the “Great Game”

The Early CIA in the Middle East

by David H. Price
published in MER271

Hugh Wilford, America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East (New York: Basic Books, 2013).

Middle East scholars have long been aware of the CIA’s power and swagger in the region, yet their studies rarely mention the Agency beyond passing references, and the CIA’s role in events is seldom the primary focus of academic works. There are several reasons for this lacuna, not the least of which are the methodological obstacles to studying secret activity.

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Please Explain This Map

by Chris Toensing | published May 24, 2014 - 11:54am

In early May the website Vox made a small splash on the Internet with “40 Maps That Explain the Middle East.”

China's New Silk Road Strategy

by Haiyun Ma , I-wei Jennifer Chang | published May 20, 2014 - 3:14pm

In the current issue of Middle East Report, we write about the strategic logic of China’s increasing investment in teaching Middle Eastern languages, particularly Arabic, Persian and Turkish. A key goal of the push for Middle Eastern language competency is to help rebuild the Silk Road that China stood astride in centuries past.

Region, Race and Some Ironies of History

by Cemil Aydin | published May 7, 2014 - 10:01am

In the forthcoming issue of Middle East Report, “China in the Middle East,” I write about the often forgotten history of political, intellectual and cultural ties between East Asia and West Asia (or the Middle East) in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Arabs in Yiwu, Confucius in East Beirut

by Roschanack Shaery
published in MER270

The September 11, 2001 attacks marked the beginning of large-scale trade between the Middle East and mainland China in the modern era. New visa restrictions in the United States -- until then the number-one trading partner of Arab countries -- forced Arab merchants to find business destinations in various Chinese cities. Statistics attest to the intensification of Sino-Arab trade: In 2004, the volume was less than $36 billion but in 2011 it reached nearly $200 billion. The Chinese government’s goal is to boost trade to $300 billion in 2014.

DragonMart, the Mega-Souk of Today's Silk Road

by Jacqueline Armijo
published in MER270

In 1998, a shipwreck was discovered off the coast of Indonesia. It turned out to be the remains of an early ninth-century dhow from the Gulf that had been headed back from China with a cargo of over 70,000 items, primarily ceramics, produced in different Chinese regions. The goods varied in style and quality, and had clearly been custom-made for the different tastes of the major trading centers of the Gulf. Thousands of ceramic bowls and dishes had been neatly stacked into hundreds of large urns, which in turn had been arranged in several layers of rows along the bottom of the dhow.

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China's Strategic Middle Eastern Languages

by Haiyun Ma , I-wei Jennifer Chang
published in MER270

Though the People’s Republic of China has extensive commercial ties in the Middle East, its three strategic partners in the region are Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey. It is not surprising, therefore, that the major Middle Eastern language programs in China today are Arabic, Persian and Turkish. The growth of Middle Eastern language and area studies in China has tracked with the changes in the political ties of the People’s Republic to the region.

Prospects for China's Expanding Role in the Middle East

by Kyle Haddad-Fonda
published in MER270

In the autumn of 2011, as the international outcry against Bashar al-Asad intensified, it was impossible for the government of China to avoid being drawn into the conflict in Syria. After China joined Russia in October of that year in vetoing a UN Security Council resolution condemning the brutality of the Asad regime, a series of demonstrations erupted throughout the Middle East. Many protesters reserved their strongest feelings for Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who had become the most visible opponent of international intervention in Syria. Yet China, which up to that point had rarely inflamed such passions in the Arab world, was also a target of the demonstrators.

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Changing Modes of Political Dialogue Across the Middle East and East Asia, 1880-2010

by Cemil Aydin
published in MER270

East Asia’s relationship with the Middle East today is based mainly on economics and is devoid of grand political projects of solidarity and intellectual dialogue. Countries such as China, Japan and Korea present the Middle East with a model of neoliberal economic development. At the same time, the redemptive transformation of East Asia from a Western-dominated region to a globally powerful one offers a trajectory of development diverging from the Middle East, which struggles with political turbulence, regime crises and regional wars both cold and hot.

Chez Vous, Gitmo to Guangzhou

by Darryl Li | published May 2, 2014 - 11:47am

We at MERIP are excited about the issue of Middle East Report on China and the Middle East coming out next week, featuring the work of two of my mentors, Engseng Ho and MER editor Cemil Aydın. The issue will address linkages between China and the region, from trade in oil and manufactured consumer items to ideological exchanges under the signs of Marx, Mao and Islam.