The Big Picture

Beijing Poised to Gain Influence in Mideast Gulf

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China's Current Account Reversal
  • Mideast Gulf foreign ministers' recent trip to Beijing to discuss accelerating free trade discussions underlines China’s growing influence in the world's oil heartland. 

  • The US’ position as regional security hegemon is under no immediate threat, but Beijing has stolen a march in certain strategic economic areas.

  • The ongoing spat over the sale of F-35 jets to the United Arab Emirates could prove a watershed for the US-Gulf relationship.

The already-vital Mideast-China relationship is looking more important by the year. For Gulf Cooperation Council producers, China is their biggest trading partner and market. For China, the region is the biggest supplier of the energy that fuels its economy and perhaps the single most critical node in Beijing’s “Belt and Road” economic masterplan. But China continues to avoid taking on any sort of security guarantor role in the region. Its key strategic goals in the Gulf — de-escalate and keep the oil flowing — mesh with Washington’s. Yet despite this unusual alignment, tensions with Washington in the region are rising, in large part fueled by US insistence that it be allowed a veto over what kind of economic relationship recipients of key US military technology can have with China.

Security Risk , Oil Supply, LNG Trade, Macroeconomics
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