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Will tensions between the US and China erupt in the Middle East? | Foreign News

 Will tensions between the US and China erupt in the Middle East? | Foreign News

Will China step up to fill the void if the US decides to shift its focus away from the Middle East?

This month, United States President Joe Biden made his first trip to the Middle East, an area that had previously been at the forefront of his nation's foreign policy, 18 months into his term in office.

However, even with these close ties, China remained a concern.

Before leaving on the trip, Biden wrote, "We have to... put ourselves in the best possible position to outcompete China.

As China's imprint has become increasingly apparent, there is a rising narrative within the US foreign policy community that tends to regard the Middle East as a potential hotspot for global US-China competition.

China, the second-largest economy in the world, has increased its economic portfolio with the region and signaled that it is here to stay. This has happened in a variety of ways, from traditional collaboration areas like oil and gas to the new so-called "health silk road," where China uses the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to provide healthcare to countries in need.

This is preparing the ground for more fierce rivalry between China and the US, which regards the Middle East as firmly falling inside the purview of international security.

According to Mohammed Turki al-Sudairi, director of the Asian studies division at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Saudi Arabia, "as China's footprint has grown, there is this romanticized Orientalism towards China and this [conception of] China as a potential alternative to the US, as a wealthy power to address the issues in the region in substantive ways."

Yuan as the new currency?

According to others, as the US steadily changes its foreign policy focus away from the region and its energy concentration away from oil, this could bring the Middle East closer to China.

Saudi Arabia reportedly considered taking the Chinese renminbi (yuan) in place of US dollars for Chinese oil purchases in March. This would be a significant departure from the present international oil trading system, which is centered on the dollar.

According to China's General Administration of Customs, Saudi Arabia is the country that exports the most crude oil to China. In 2021, for instance, China imported 87.58 million tonnes of crude oil from the kingdom, placing it first on the list of countries that China imports crude oil from.

Analysts claim that such a deal would benefit both Saudi Arabia and China.

Despite the Middle East's automatic identification with oil and gas in the last decades, many observers think the fight between these two main regional powers will not necessarily be in the energy sector.

China's increasing authoritarianism has sparked a new round of more severe ideological conflict between the US and China in the Middle East, which contrasts sharply with what Biden has referred to as "American ideals."

According to Murphy, China is "fostering support in the period of growing multipolarity" as it becomes more likely to be able to compete with the US on an equal footing," as evidenced by its treatment of its Muslim Uighur people and its crackdown on dissidents in Hong Kong.

"China is guaranteeing there is no support to protect internal security,"

Mutual interests;

The concept that the US will lose its dominant position in the region to China may be exaggerated, and analysts believe that China and the US's presence in the region might easily be advantageous to both countries. Nevertheless, the heart of the zero-sum US-China battle may stop there.

Guy Burton, an adjunct professor at the Brussels School of Governance and a specialist in China-Middle East relations, argued that the notion that the US is in danger of losing the Middle East to China is oversimplified.

Burton noted that China has been active in the Middle East for a considerable amount of time and that its economic influence has grown beyond the oil industry to include the digital, healthcare, and real estate sectors. "However, that does not imply that Middle Eastern.

China's influence in the Middle East is mostly economic, not security-related, according to Murphy. "That type of involvement is not being provided in that manner"

China has benefited greatly from American security presence in the past; China's rising investment is predicated on the security and stability of those countries, from Iraq to Kuwait. In that regard, according to Burton, there are some areas where US and Chinese objectives coincide.

Meanwhile, China has long praised its capacity to forge close ties with other nations that are occasionally rivals of its own, most notably Saudi Arabia and Iran, two of China's most important regional allies.

China has been quite successful up to this point in adhering to a balanced foreign policy and keeping good relations with neighbors.

Beijing is in a good position to avoid interfering politically in a strife-torn area because it has agreements with Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE as well as a 25-year cooperation pact with Iran.

However, it is uncertain how long China can carry out its solely economic foreign policy in the region as the US and China both grow more motivated to participate in competition.

Support has been gained due to China's historical achievement in upholding a largely neutral attitude. China's disregard for Riyadh's human rights record and the fact that Iran is not recognized as an international pariah and is given some relief from sanctions are both appreciated by Saudi Arabia.

However, several observers have expressed skepticism about the probability that China will adhere to that strategy strictly.

Economically, Burton said, "when you invest more, you are going to become more hooked in and eventually you are going to get drawn into politics." "At the same time, Americans are attempting to advance this new "Cold War narrative" by pressuring their allies to make choices right away.

Now that the world is moving into a more uncertain phase, it is impractical for many nations in the area to have to choose between some of the larger powers.

"People are not thinking in binary terms, namely either the US or China, in a region that is in a period of transformation," said al-Sudairi. They require both.

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