With the US continuing its shift to Asia from the Middle East, China faces a choice. Beijing knows that various and sundry forces in the Middle East are a growing threat—as well as in Malaysia and other places Chinese have migrated to. From Obama’s arguably premature exit from Iraq, we can see the results of a military vacuum. But, the Pentagon has been announcing a shift away from the Middle East and toward Asia for quite some time, regardless of Obama’s or any other American president’s choice of timing.
Hostile groups in the Middle East are hostile both to the US and China. These are a kind of “shared enemy”. With the US no longer holding the China-US enemies in check, China becomes vulnerable, and more quickly so. The Middle East is much closer to Chinese “Far East” territory than the Western US on the opposite side of the world.
China has a choice: Continue to fortify to compel changes in the South Sea while remaining vulnerable to enemies in the back yard or else fortify where the US left, grow in strength where Beijing had not initially dreamed of, and maintain non-conflict at home. So far, it seems that China wants to wind history backward rather than forward; that means not only winding back the maps, but bringing all the conflict that came with them and more. But, we’ll see.