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Middle East Crisis Heightens Global Tensions

Leo Timm
Leo Timm covers China-related news, culture, and history. Follow him on Twitter at @kunlunpeaks
Published: October 26, 2023
(Image: RONALDO /Getty Images)

News analysis

With the Israeli army poised for a difficult invasion of Gaza following the terrorist attacks and massacres carried out by extremist group Hamas starting Oct. 7, the Middle East appears to be on the brink of a major war. 

In addition to the over 1,400 Israelis killed in the opening violence — many in cold blood — more than 5,000 people have died in retaliatory bombings of Gaza by the Jewish State’s armed forces in the weeks since. Syria, Iran, Jordan, and various Islamist terror groups have indicated that they will escalate the conflict if Israel follows through with its invasion of the blockaded city-state. 

The U.S. has asked Israel to delay its operations by a few days so that American forces can get ready to support the invasion and its goal of eliminating Hamas, according to various media. 

An Israeli Merkava tank is deployed with other armored vehicles along Israel’s border with Gaza on Oct. 24, 2023, amid the ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (Image: ARIS MESSINIS/AFP via Getty Images)

US officials worry about global threats

Meanwhile, events in the Holy Land join Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine, as well as rising tensions in East Asia, where the U.S. and its allies have faced greater saber-rattling from Communist China and North Korea. 

On Oct. 22, the Philippine government condemned “dangerous blocking manoeuvers” by Chinese coast guard vessels that led to a collision in disputed waters of the South China Sea; the China Coast Guard admitted to a “slight collision” between one of its ships and a Philippine vessel. 

A Philippine flagged boat is blocked by a China Coast Guard vessel during an incident that resulted in a collision between the two vessels, in the disputed waters of the South China Sea in this screen grab obtained from handout video released October 22, 2023. (Image: China Coast Guard/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo)

In addition to its disputes in the South China Sea, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has kept up its military harassment of Taiwan, as well as making unsafe aerial intercepts of U.S. and allied aircraft over the Western Pacific, of which the Pentagon documented over 180 incidents between autumn 2021 and autumn 2023, according to an Oct. 19 report.  

On Oct. 20, Axios released a report citing unnamed Biden administration officials as saying that they were privately worried about the possibility of five global threats that “could fuse into one” to endanger the international position of the United States.  

The threats included a war involving Israel and Palestine “that reaches to Iran and beyond”; the recent meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to “further strengthen their anti-America alliance”; the deployment of the formidable, Iran-aligned terrorist force Hezbollah to attack Israel upon its invasion of Gaza; the frequent testing of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles by North Korea; and the “massive spread of doctored or wholly fake videos to manipulate what people see and think in real time.”

A Chinese military plane came within 20 feet (6 meters) of a U.S. Air Force aircraft, in this still image taken from a video, Dec. 21, 2022. (Image: U.S. Department of Defense /Handout via REUTERS/File Photo)

Communist China aims to forge anti-America ‘new world order’ 

Various public figures and media reports have warned that those global threats could be manipulated — or even planned — by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and countries aligned with it. 

Outlets like The New York Times and Wall Street Journal pointed to Xi and Putin’s Oct. 18 meeting in Beijing as the two leaders “doubling down” on a shared vision of a “new world order” opposed to that championed by the U.S. 

On Oct. 22, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told Fox News that China, Russia, and Iran formed a new “Axis of Evil” constituting “an immediate threat to the United States.” 

The phrase “Axis of Evil” was coined during the George W. Bush administration (2001–2009), which pursued lengthy and costly military interventions in the Middle East, to describe Iran, Iraq, and North Korea. 

FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on “Worldwide Threats” Jan. 29, 2019 in Washington, DC. Intelligence leaders discussed North Korea, Russia, China and cybersecurity among other topics. (Image: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Also on Oct. 22, repeating prior statements warning about the threat of Chinese espionage, FBI Director Christopher Wray said in an interview on “60 Minutes” that the PRC represented “the defining threat of this generation,” with there being “no country that presents a broader, more comprehensive threat to our ideas, our innovation, our economic security, and ultimately our national security.”

The FBI has “2,000 active investigations that are just related to the Chinese government’s effort to steal information,” Wray said. 

McConnell also said, “We know which side they’re on” with regard to the PRC’s stance on the Israel-Hamas war. “We need to view this as a worldwide problem,” he added.

CCP-Hamas connection 

Chinese foreign ministry spokespersons have refrained from condemning Hamas’ attacks on Israel and its citizens, while criticizing the Israelis’ response as disproportionate. 

Yuan Hongbing, an exiled Chinese dissident and jurist with access to information about the goings-on in elite CCP political circles, said in a recent interview with Vision Times that the Communist Party was actively supporting Hamas and other anti-Israel terrorist groups, with the aim of “distracting the attention of the United States.”

“Hamas and one of the chief planners of the recent attack on Israel, Mohammed Deif, are closely linked to and are key contacts of the CCP’s external liaison department,” Yuan explained, adding that Chinese advisors had instructed Deif to “endure hardship to seek revenge.” 

Yuan Hongbing, a Chinese jurist now residing in Australia, speaks at a Chinese democracy events in 2009. (Image: via

Moreover, the Hamas terrorists had made use of Huawei communications equipment and Iranian rocket and drone technology to evade Israeli intelligence and boost their combat capabilities, Yuan said. 

According to Yuan, based on information he received from “conscientious insiders within the CCP system,” the now-purged vice minister of Public Security, Meng Hongwei, established training centers in western China to train Iraqi guerrilla fighters, as well as members of the Taliban. This was why the CCP was able to “quickly form a strategic alliance with the Taliban government in Afghanistan” following the withdrawal of U.S. forces in 2021, Yuan said.  

‘Sleepwalking our way into World War III’

Tech and rocketry mogul Elon Musk said in an online panel held Oct. 23 that he feared the ongoing wars in Ukraine and the Middle East could have the world “sleepwalking our way into World War III.”

He called for restoring “normal relations with Russia” rather than continuing to funnel support to Ukraine for its counteroffensives which, despite copious Western military aid and training, have fallen flat in the face of defenses set up by the Kremlin in the parts of Ukraine occupied by the Russian army. 

“We need to figure peace in Ukraine,” he said, adding that otherwise Russia would be irrevocably forced into an anti-Western alliance with Communist China. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a meeting at the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, China, October 18, 2023. (Image: Sputnik/Sergei Guneev/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo)

Musk warned that should a third world war break out between the present Western and Eastern blocs, the West would not “have an overwhelming advantage in industrial might. The foundation of war is economic power, especially industrial output, basically how many tanks and guns and drones can you make, relative to the other side,” he said, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. 

Geopolitical conflict or taking on communism?   

Yuan Hongbing believes that the actions of the CCP under Xi are aimed at preparing the Chinese military for an invasion of Taiwan, something he warns will happen around 2025. 

Meanwhile, the Pentagon in its Oct. 19 report noted the steep difficulty of managing an invasion, and assessed that “even assuming a successful landing and breakout past Taiwan beachhead defenses” by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the invasion would present a “significant political and military risk for Xi and the CCP.”

Recent newsletter analyses by SinoInsider, a risk consultancy that specializes in elite CCP politics, hold that the CCO under Xi Jinping does not currently have much appetite “for seizing the opportunity of war in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, as well as America’s increasingly divided attention at home and abroad, to invade Taiwan.” 

The analysts cited the “floundering” Chinese economy and recent instability in the CCP’s military leadership and diplomatic corps — the last few months have seen the disappearance, then dismissal, of foreign minister Qin Gang and defense minister Li Shangfu, both allies of Xi — as factors limiting Beijing’s ability to remedy domestic and political troubles, let alone conducting major military operations. 

China’s Defence Minister Li Shangfu attends the 20th IISS Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore June 2, 2023. (Image: REUTERS/Caroline Chia/File Photo)

According to SinoInsider, recent diplomatic moves by the PRC — such as pushing for a visit by Xi to the U.S. and a recent symposium promoting “neighborhood diplomacy” in Asia — show that the Xi leadership is interested in temporarily mending fences with the West so as to buy time to stave off troubles brewing at home. 

However, while a tougher stand by the U.S. and its allies to support Taiwan would check CCP geopolitical ambitions in the West Pacific, Beijing would continue to counter these actions with nationalist propaganda and build up the anti-West “new world order” with countries like Russia. 

On the other hand, “should the U.S. and its allies spotlight the CCP’s massive human rights abuses and expose the Party’s pernicious Marxist-Leninist ideology,” the CCP would have no rhetorical defense with which to spin effective counter-narratives, SinoInsider wrote in an Oct. 26 issue of their newsletter. 

“The CCP cannot publicly refute the U.S. and its allies for exposing it without inadvertently focusing attention on the disastrous aspects of its rule and undermining its own political legitimacy” in China.