World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


China-Middle East Relations: emerging cross-regional nexus? (114) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: TUE 20, 2.30-4.30 pm

· NOT_DEFINED institution: Durham University (United Kingdom)

· NOT_DEFINED organizer: Dr Yukiko Miyagi

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: The purpose of the panel is to discuss the extent and the nature of the recently growing cross-regional relationship of the Middle East with East Asia, and to reach conclusions on its implications for the Middle East. Toward that end, China’s case will be studied as a newly emerging regional power whose energy needs are soaring, economic power rapidly expanding, and political and military powers showing its new assertiveness. The panel will suggest that China, a leading East Asian power, will, along with an established economic power, Japan, and an emerging economic power, India, build deep inter-dependent economic relationships particularly with the oil states in the Middle East, and that this will have an impact on the level of East Asian involvement in the security issues in the Middle East. The oil demands of the growing economies in East Asia, and the rise in China’s demand in particular, has already been showing its international impact. The rise of Chinese demand for oil has resulted in an oil price hike in recent years, its consumption being the second largest after the US and Japan in 2004. China is expected to surpass Japan in the near future. Furthermore, the shift in China’s international position and character from a revolutionary, socialist, less developed country into a stability-oriented, newly developed yet assertive power while preserving its identity as a champion of the Third World will have a complex impact on its approach towards the Middle East. The panel also aims to provide a comparative examination of the growing relationship in the two dimensions - economy and security--in order to determine the extent and the scope of its impact on the Middle East’s cross-regional relationship. Even as the major oil producers in the Middle East have sought to diversify their economic interests especially after the 9.11 attacks in the United States, rapid economic development has increased the energy demand and interest of East Asian states in strengthening ties with Middle East oil states. The resulting growing economic inter-dependence is likely to create stakes in the relationship as well as vulnerabilities for the both parties towards their partners. The panel will explore whether this will imply the emergence of competition between East Asian powers and the other powers (such as US, Europe) over their energy and economic ties with the Middle East oil states, whether Middle East-Asian economic relations will move beyond trading relations and whether this will be transferred to cooperation between the East Asian powers and the Middle East in the security dimension. The panel consists of papers on the economic and security dimensions of Chinese relations with the Middle East. One focues on overall cross-regional relations with China as a focus and the second looks at cross-regional security relations. Two papers will look at the economic dimensions with a focus on the rapidly expanding and strengthening ties of China with the economically pivotal state in the region, Saudi Arabia.

Chair: Prof. Tim Niblock, Institute for Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter, UK

Discussant: Prof. Tim Niblock, Institute for Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter, UK

Paper presenter: Dr Raja M. Albqami, Centre for Asian Studies, Institute of Diplomatic Studies, Riyadh, Saudi-China Economic Relationship
The first paper will examine the development of the China-Saudi bilateral trading relationship up to the present time as well as its future prospects, taking a quantitative approach, in order to show to what extent the two states have become crucial to each other’s economies. It will show how their trade relationship has expanded rapidly since the establishment of diplomatic relationship in the beginning of the 1990s to become leadings trade partners for each other, with the oil trade at its core. Indeed, the Gulf is most important source of oil to China, currently providing 30% of its total oil imports, and the amount and share is expected to rise. However, this paper also looks at the non-oil trade relationship, to show how their relationship is moving beyond that of a mere oil producer and purchaser. Their trade in non-oil commodities has increased, with China ranking the second most important trade partner for Saudi non-oil export, and the second source of Saudi imports.

Paper presenter: Ms Sara Bazoobandi, Institute for Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter, UK, The Strengthening Role of Arab Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWFs) in Gulf-China Relationships
This paper will discuss another feature in the development in the economic and energy relationship, the investment and recycling of Middle East petro dollars. It will look into the situation of how the petro dollars, long recycled through US banks and assets, are being shifted towards East Asia along with the creation of Arab sovereign wealth funds (SWF) by the Gulf states as a result of the recent oil price-rise.

Paper presenter: Dr Yukiko Miyagi, Centre for the Advanced Studies of the Arab World, Durham University, UK, China’s Palestine Policy
This paper looks at the security dimension of China’s involvement in the region, by focusing on the Palestinian issue in order to find whether the growing economic relationship is affecting China’s security cooperation in the region. The Palestine issue is a major concern among the Middle East states carrying both symbolic as well as political significance for them. As a revolutionary, socialist and Third World leader, the People’s Republic of China had been engaged in the Palestinian issue since the 1950s perceiving it as a gateway to the Arab world. This paper examines how its stance and methods of approach have changed over time, as well as identifying continuities in order to explore the impact of the change in China’s international identity and seeks to explain these developments.

Paper presenter: Dr Narayanappa Janardhan, Political Analyst, UAE, Middle East-East Asia Ties: economy first, what next?
This paper discusses the general trends in Middle East-East Asian relations and the implication of China’s case. It will give a comprehensive view on the topic, which puts the earlier papers in a conceptual framework. It will not only discuss the expansion of economic relationships between the rising East Asian economies and the Middle East oil states, but also the factors which may have conditioned the new cross-regional camaraderie, especially in the political and security dimensions. It will argue that the relationship with East Asia will only become a significant one for the Middle East only if the latter is ready to be engaged on issues beyond trade.