BY SAEEDA USMANI
The Middle East is a region with immense geopolitical importance, and the United States has been a major player in the region for many years. However, in recent years, a new major power has emerged in the Middle East – China. The Chinese government has significantly increased its presence in the region, investing billions of dollars in infrastructure projects and forming strategic relationships with countries in the region.
Chinese government’s most visible initiative in the Middle East has been their “Belt and Road Initiative”, a massive infrastructure project designed to connect China to Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. China has already invested heavily in transport, energy, and communication infrastructure associated with the project, which has allowed them to form strong economic ties with countries such as Iraq, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. China is the largest single investor in the region, with investments collectively more than $100 billion in 2020. Additionally, China is increasingly involved in regional conflicts, such as in Syria, and has been providing support to key Middle Eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Iran.
The implications of China’s growing influence in the Middle East are far-reaching and could have a significant impact on the power dynamics of the region, as well as the United States’ interests in the region. The 2023 Saudi-Iran peace deal, brokered by China, is a major diplomatic victory for China and a sign of its growing clout in the region. This growing presence has the potential to shift power dynamics away from the United States and toward China, which would then be in a much stronger position to influence the politics and economies of Middle Eastern nations.
IMPLICATIONS FOR THE US AND CHINA
This power shift will bring major implications for the United States, as it would weaken its influence in the region and reduce its ability to protect its interests. Furthermore, the US-China-Russia rivalry in the region could further complicate matters, as all three countries have interests in the Middle East and would be competing for influence.
“How US protects its interests? “In order to protect interests and maintain influence in the region, the United States must remain engaged in Middle Eastern affairs and be prepared to act if necessary.
This could involve diplomatic and economic engagement, as well as monitoring the situation and responding to Chinese initiatives with their own strategies. The US must also be prepared to work with regional partners in order to limit China’s influence in the region. Several International relations experts including Mr. Mustansar Klasra i.e. Visiting lecturer at the Department of International Relations, University of Chakwal say that the significance of the Chinese move in the Middle East should not be overstated, but there is scope for more cooperation in the future.
Second, China’s growing influence in the region could lead to a weakening of US alliances in the region. US allies such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt have increasingly been turning to China for economic and political support, which could lead to a weakening of US alliances in the region. This could bring significant problems for US security interests in the region, as the US would no longer be able to rely on these countries for support.
Third, China’s growing influence can weaken the US economic interests in the region. As China increases its investments in the region, it could lead to a decrease in US investment, which could have a negative impact on US companies operating in the Middle Eastern region. In addition, China’s investments could be used to finance projects that compete with US companies, which could lead to a decline in US market share in the region.
FUTURE OF CHINA AND THE US IN THE MIDDLE EAST
The future of the Middle East is uncertain and it remains to be seen how the power dynamics will shift as a result of Chinese influence. However, what is certain is that the United States must remain vigilant and take steps to ensure that their interests in the Middle East are protected and that the power dynamics do not shift away from them. In order to protect U.S. interests in the Middle East, the government must remain aware of the potential risks posed by Chinese influence in the region and be prepared to respond to Chinese initiatives with their own strategies. It is also important for the United States to continue to support diplomatic efforts, such as the Saudi-Iran deal, in order to maintain peace and stability in the region and ensure that Chinese influence does not undermine American interests in the Middle East. The kingdom is joining as a dialogue partner week after Beijing helped broker a deal to normalize relations with Iran.
The writer is a student in the Department of International Relations, University of Chakwal, Punjab, Pakistan. Her area of interest mainly revolves around Strategic and Diplomatic affairs of the Middle East inclined toward power politics. She can be reached at Usmani4613@gmail.com.