Navigating The Gulf : China’s balancing strategy

Mandira, Bagwandeen (2014-12)

Discussion Paper

Due to China’s growing energy needs that stem from its unrelenting economic development, Beijing stresses the importance of maintaining a continuous supply of energy - particularly oil - to maintain its impressive economic growth. However, seeing as China’s domestic resources are unable to satisfy its projected future oil demands, the Chinese realise that, barring significant domestic oil discoveries, their dependency on oil imports - particularly from the Middle East - will continue to increase. Of particular importance to the Chinese is the Persian Gulf as it contains a large share of the world’s proven oil reserves. China has thus sought to improve relations with Persian Gulf nations such as Iran. However, Iran’s pursuit to obtain nuclear capabilities has implicated China in Iranian-American tensions. Although China has sought to steer clear of becoming embroiled in the Iranian nuclear situation due to its improved standing in the Gulf, Beijing has unavoidably become a significant actor in the diplomatic brinkmanship regarding Iran’s nuclear situation. By means of a literature review, this paper posits that China’s response to Iran’s nuclear ambitions essentially mirrors its overall diplomatic strategy towards the Middle East; a strategy of pragmatically balancing its own relationship with the US whilst simultaneously advancing profitable geo-economic relations with oil rich Gulf nations.

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