From Soft Power to Hard Power: China in the Arabian Gulf

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Cuneyt Yenigun


During the Cold War, the Gulf countries and China were on different pacts. Although China began to establish relations with the West after 1978, the Gulf remained cold to China for ideological, political, historical, and possibly religious reasons. Following the discovery that these differences do not impede West’s economic relations with China, the Gulf began to establish economic relations with China in the last two decades.  All Gulf states have military agreements with the UK and the US. However, negative developments between the Gulf and the West, such as decreasing demand for Gulf oil, OPEC+ refusing oil production in order to increase demand, the European Parliament’s suspending GCC-EU institutional relations, human rights, and political critics from Euro-Atlantic zone countries, have pushed Gulf countries to the awaiting China. Over the last decade, China has been economically rising in the Arabian Gulf through FDIs, investments, economic agreements, and China's massive demand for Gulf oil, industrial goods, and military industry with the Gulf being the world's largest importing region. These economic ties help China and the Arabian Gulf establish international, security, and political ties. Today, China is a soft power in the Gulf, challenging the US as the world's hegemon power, at least economically, but it is clear that through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), security agreements, and projected military bases in the region, it will soon become a hard power. The major point is how the US will react to it. Will the US take aggressive measures against the challenger China, or will it implement some captivating projects for the Arabian Gulf countries, or let the China and the Arabian Gulf to expand their relations?

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