Middle Eastern Dilemma amidst Sino-US Rivalry

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America has played a pivotal role in the Middle Eastern region. From the Truman Doctrine to the Trump withdrawal of American troops, the US has sought enough influence in the Middle Eastern region to maintain its global hegemony. Middle East has provided an economic as well as political bastion to the USA against other stakeholders like China and Russia. Before, both the US-constructed challengers, China and Russia were not indulged in the Middle East to counter America, but as goodwill to promote development and peace, as they have prompted. But obviously, behind the scenes certain realpolitik is alive. Amidst the Chinese growing influence in the region resulting from its stakes in BRI, the American position is challenged to some scholars and strong believers of the Thucydides Trap. Though China has not prompted any sign of threatening the US position, realism pushes the USA to sense the menace which China poses to its global ambitions.

Major power politics is not a matter of dilettante analyses. Perspicacity to dig the granular postures is required to analyze what the elite wants. Chinese interest in the Middle Eastern region is various. From economic dependency to cultural promulgation, China also wants to hit the Western bird with this one stone. The point to ponder here is that does China poses a threat to America or is it self-constructed by the latter itself? Looking at Allison’s well-explained Thucydides Trap portrays that it’s not China that threatens America, but the latter that is feeling threatened from the rising power stature of the communist dragon. Professor Bill Brown of Xiamen University says that China is just focused to promulgate economic development across the world, but it’s the West who always sees it as a zero-sum game. Instead of lending hands to prosper synergistically, America has portrayed the Chinese rise as threatening global peace, but that’s not the case. Fareed Zakaria also orates in his book “Post American World,” US must dissipate the psyche of considering China as a threat, must get down of the hegemonic chair, and start cooperating with the world.

Looking at the facts and scholarly beliefs, China has not posed any threat to the American position yet. Looking specifically at the Middle Eastern region and especially the Gulf countries, Chinese indulgence is based on its energy interest. Reports have predicted that soon, China will be the largest energy consumer, to counter these issues China is making ties with the region. One Belt One Road initiative is to procure the economic interest of China and Middle East is a pivotal region in China’s OBOR policy. The Gulf fulfills 40% oil needs of China and 14% of natural gas. For that purpose, China is building ties with individual countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and especially the foremost recent China-Iran $400 billion deal. The deal is still dubious in its aspects, but it does not abstain to think of China’s deliberately surging influence in the region. China is helping Qatar to build the Lusail Stadium the leading venue for the 2022 FIFA world cup. China is also building Yanbu oil refinery in Saudi Arabia and railway line from Jeddah to Macca and Medina. With other Gulf countries also, China is working on developmental projects. According to IMF, the trade between China and the Middle East stood at $197 billion.

America also feels threatened by the Chinese military presence in the region. But the fact is that China is only militarily present in Djibouti in a marginalized number comparative to America. Two policy papers “China’s Arab Policy Paper” and “Vision and Action on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21-st Century Maritime Silk Road” only portray china’s military engagement with the region. Security aspects are neglected in both official policy papers. Because China wants the Middle Eastern countries to know that it’s not ambitious of promulgating its military interest rather economic development of mutual benefits.

The question that whether China will be strategically engaging in the region or not. So, yes it will intervene in the region strategically. Strategic does not mean the military presence to counter any other threat like of USA. But the coherence of interest between China and the Middle East will refer to strategically engage with the region so to procure economic interests. However, America will try to counter this Chinese influence befittingly by hook or by crook, but if not maneuvered diplomatically, it will be counterproductive.

It’s a matter of fact that Middle Eastern countries consider China more reliable than America. However still China has not shown any security interests in the region, but it will play a strategic role there. Besides military adventures, China will take a conciliatory role in the region. It will try to mitigate between Iran and Saudi Arabia, in Syria, in Yemen, and other war-torn areas. For China, the regional rivalries do not matter for formulating its foreign policy. For it, Israel, Iran, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Qatar are equally important, so it will abhor choosing sides like America has been doing for decades. Rumors are also there that China will help Iran to get out of US sanctions, and it’s true to many extents because Chinese interests are economically focused. Iran is not used to countering America but for China’s economic well-being as of its geopolitical significance in the BRI. European countries are also seeing China as a partner against American expectations. As when America is physically dissipating from the region, but it does not mean that it will spare a vivacious room for China and Russia to enhance their influence. Rather, America will diplomatically ensure its presence in the region through its allies UAE, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. But Gulf cannot bear to chose sides in the major power politics. If America puts a condition again as it put in the Cold War, it will surely cost it losing its diplomatic influence also.

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