China could have “an important role to play in Middle Eastern diplomacy” to see Belt & Road Initiative succeed
China could have “an important role to play in Middle Eastern diplomacy,” especially if it wants to see the Belt and Road initiative run smoothly, Euan Austin writes for the Market Moghul. “Whilst China and the Middle East are in an economic matrimony, Middle Eastern states themselves are struggling following a bitter divorce,” Austin says, pointing to Saudi Arabia and Iran’s animosity and the diplomatic rift between Qatar and its neighbors as obstacles to China’s prospects in the region.
Even though Beijing’s foreign policy has always steered clear of meddling in others’ affairs, the Chinese could take a leaf out of Russia’s book for this one, using their influence as a major economic player to “force actors in the Middle East to cooperate.” Oil, for example, could hold a lot of sway. The author notes that China is vital to the Middle East’s oil economy, pointing out — in the Saudi Arabian case specifically — that “if Beijing was to accelerate its domestic oil output decline, or buy GCC oil to store in their Strategic Petroleum Reserve, then the situation in the Middle East could improve.”
By getting more Middle Eastern countries to sign on to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank as well, “China could stick by their principles and step into the power vacuum to become the Middle East’s economic leader.”