Turkish Energy and Natural Resources Minister Fatih Donmez and Turkey's Transport Minister Adil Karaismailoglu attend the departure ceremony of an export train bound for Russia and China from Ankara Station in Turkey on January 29, 2021. Photo: Celal Gunes / Anadolu Agency

A “Pax Sinica” is emerging in the Middle East and Central Asia in plain sight, albeit unnoticed by American planners. The main brace of the strategic architecture is an emerging alliance between Pakistan, a Chinese economic dependency, and Turkey, which relies increasingly on China for financing and trade. Chinese media reported the Turkish foreign minister’s visit to Pakistan Jan. 12 to 13th as a key step towards such an alliance.  And if Turkey and Pakistan ally, “Iran has no choice but to find a way to join the Turkish-Pakistan camp,” in the view of a Chinese military site reposted by NetEase.

I first raised the prospect of a “Pax Sinica” in the Middle East in 2013, and noted last year that a much-discussed (but so far only discussed) Sino-Iranian investment deal of up to $400 billion was “a move on a global game board in response to American efforts to hinder China’s breakout as a technological superpower.” The Turkey-Pakistan rapprochement of the past several months adds a new dimension to China’s ambitions in the region.

While America focused on the peace agreements between Israel and the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan, China maneuvered among the only three Muslim states with significant military capacity and economic potential. The $2 trillion Belt and Road Initiative will provide the economic foundation for Chinese hegemony from the Indian Ocean to the Black Sea. The emerging Sinocentric bloc of Turkey, Iran and Pakistan will leave America’s ally India isolated and weak, Chinese planners believe. It’s geopolitics played on the principles of Go, whose object is to encircle and isolate the opposing pieces.