Academic journal article Middle East Review of International Affairs (Online)

Ten Years Later: Who Won the Iraq War, the Us or China?

Academic journal article Middle East Review of International Affairs (Online)

Ten Years Later: Who Won the Iraq War, the Us or China?

Article excerpt


Ten years after the U.S invasion and occupation of Iraq ended, more and more journalists, academics, and policy makers contend that Washington liberated the Iraqi people at heavy human and economic cost to itself, while China ended up the biggest economic beneficiary: Chinese energy firms will become the main customer for Iraqi oil in the foreseeable future. This complaint reflects the evolution of the new current situation in Iraq, where the Chinese presence has been increasing steadily, while U.S. companies have withdrawn from doing business with the country. As Michael Makovsky, a former Defense Department official in the Bush administration, said "We lost out. The Chinese had nothing to do with the war, but from an economic standpoint, they are benefiting from it."1

The U.S. invasion of Iraq and its aftermath have arguably been the most pivotal events in the Middle East region since the end of the Cold War.2 The Iraq War had an appreciable impact on Iraq's relationships with both the U.S. and China. Both countries have rapidly expanded bilateral trade with Iraq, with an emphasis on energy deals. Yet, the war has made it more difficult and risky for Chinese and U.S. companies to conduct investment and business activities in Iraq. Therefore, we must review both winners and losers as well as the consequences of the war for the short and long term.

The first section of this study will analyze the economic benefits and strategic advantages and challenges and losses to China resulting from the Iraq War in the short and long term. The second section will analyze the economic benefits, strategic advantages, and challenges and losses to the U.S. from the Iraq War in the short and long term. The third section will discuss the findings and conclusions.


Economic benefits and strategic advantages

China's Middle East foreign policy in the Post-Cold War Period reflected an intensification of Beijing's drive for economic modernization. China focused almost exclusively on pursuing its own economic interests, primarily driven by the search for energy security and the desire to increase its overseas markets and investment opportunities. Since that period, Beijing has worked to maintain stability in the Middle East for the purpose of securing its energy and economic interests there. This policy, however, is at least partially constrained by China's need to consider U.S. interests. Beijing must find a way to balance its foreign policy and economic interests with U.S. policy and interests in the region.3

There are a number of ways to evaluate the benefits and advantages of the Iraq War on Chinese strategic and economic interests in the Middle East. The Iraq War had an appreciable impact on Beijing's strategic interests in the region, but more importantly, on economic interests and energy security.

Strategically, the Iraq War gave Beijing diplomatic "breathing room" to expand its sphere of influence in East Asia and the Middle East. The Iraq War had major effects on the China's strategic perspective and was a positive development for its rising power status.4 First, the U.S. occupation of Iraq diverted U.S. power, attention, and resources which otherwise would have been used to contain the rise of China by creating strategic regional alliances against it, establishing military bases in the region, and generally increasing its presence in Asia. Second, the cost of the war drove the U.S. into further financial distress, especially relative to China. Third, the war created tension between Washington and its traditional diplomatic and security alliances around the world.5 Moreover, the war damaged the U.S.'s image and reputation in the region and prevented it from implementing other policies. For example, Saudi Arabia was disappointed by the U.S. failure to take action against the Assad regime.6 Finally, the war stretched the U.S. military's resources very thin and prevented further troop deployments in the region and elsewhere in the world, particularly in regions where such deployment might have encroached on China's sphere of influence and security. …

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