You might be surprised by China’s presence in the Middle East


MIDDLETOWN – Here are seven things you would have learned had you attended Isaac Kardon’s fascinating lecture on China and the Middle East on March 8 at Temple Shalom.


           China has very concentrated and active business interests in the Middle East, but only a small military presence there. The Chinese government has been content to rely on the United States and other countries for its security in the region.

           China has one naval base in the Middle East. It’s in Djibouti, in East Africa, and was originally established to counter piracy in the area.

           Israel was the first Middle Eastern country to recognize the People’s Republic of China, in the 1950s.

           China is the biggest trading partner of five nations in the Middle East, including Iran and Saudi Arabia.

           China tries to stay out of the way and out of trouble in the Middle East. They are interested in doing business while staying neutral.

           China has a huge footprint in the region, with several hundred thousand Chinese living and working throughout the Middle East. “America is fighting and not winning” the battle for influence in the region, said Kardon. “China is winning and not fighting.”

• China imports 45% of its oil from the Middle East, so it has an interest in protecting the sea lanes.

“China is here to stay as a power, and we would do well to know something about it, especially in the Middle East,” Kardon told approximately 55 people who attended the lecture.

Kardon is an assistant professor at the Naval War College’s China Maritime Studies Institute, in Newport. He researches, writes and teaches on China’s foreign policy, focusing on China’s maritime disputes, the law of the sea and overseas port development. 

He received a Ph.D. in government from Cornell University, a masters in philosophy in modern Chinese studies from Oxford University, and a B.A. in history from Dartmouth College. He studied Mandarin Chinese at Peking University, Tsinghua University and Taiwan Normal University.

This lecture was part of a foreign policy lectures series at Temple Shalom. The two other lectures, scheduled for March 29 and May 17, have been postponed. New dates will be announced later.

On the schedule are Evan Shallcross, who will speak on “Beyond Imperialism, Exploring the Strategic Significance of Crimea to Russian Security.” Shallcross is a lieutenant in the Navy, currently assigned to the Surface Warfare Officers School, in Newport, where he teaches ship driving, navigation, war gaming and other subjects.

Ken Sandler will speak on “Frameworks, Actors and Factors to Explain Foreign Policy Decision Making.” Sandler is a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps, currently assigned as a military professor at the Naval War College, where he teaches national security affairs.

For more information about the lecture series, contact Temple Shalom by email, at

FRAN OSTENDORF ( is the editor of Jewish Rhode Island.