Many observers have noted recently that China’s foreign policy has turned more assertive than it has been in decades. When it comes to the Middle East, it has expressed this aggressiveness mostly through the veto power it wields in the United Nations Security Council, protecting Iran from crippling sanctions over its nuclear program. Additionally, the Chinese government, along with the Russians, have prevented the U.N. from sanctioning the Syrian regime.
The Pivot vs. March West
China is now one of the largest GCC countries trade partner, the largest exporter to the Middle East, the biggest importer of Iranian oil, and the largest player in the Iraqi oil game.Naser Al-Tamimi
However, as China’s influence grows in the Middle East two contradictory points should be highlighted: on one hand, the old ‘oil for security’ paradigm of U.S.-GCC relations could weaken as the United States get less oil from the Middle East and China’s economic and political influence grow over time. On the other hand, while there is fear for the future of the U.S. role, there is at the same time no alternative to it. Indeed, a recent study by the Centre for Strategic and International (CSIS) finds that citizens of countries of the Middle East are more apt to expect a weakened United States over the next decade. But there is also still a sense that the United States is the only actor with the ability to play the role of external guarantor of security for the region.