Latest publications: China’s Hedged Economic Diplomacy in Saudi Arabia and Iran by Jeremy Garlick

GARLICK, Jeremy (2023) China’s Hedged Economic Diplomacy in Saudi Arabia and Iran: A Strategy of Risk Mitigation. In KIM, Young-Chan (ed.) China’s Engagement with the Islamic Nations: A Clash or Collaboration of Modern Civilisation? Cham: Springer. ISBN 978-3-031-31041-6.

The Persian Gulf is a key area for the regional implementation of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in the Middle East. Persian Gulf countries, in particular Iran and Saudi Arabia, are major suppliers of energy to China. Geographically, they are also located at the nexus of the maritime trade route between Asia and Europe. Building strategic partnerships with Saudi Arabia (in 2008) and Iran (in March 2021) is thus a key part of Beijing’s strategy under Xi Jinping to use the BRI to enhance China’s comprehensive economic and energy security. From the point of view of Iran and Saudi Arabia, both need China as an economic partner: Iran because it has few other allies and is ostracised by the US and other Western nations; and Saudi Arabia because China is the largest importer of Saudi oil and is a significant source of investment in the Saudi Vision 2030 projects. At the same time, Shia Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia are bitter regional rivals engaged in a struggle for regional hegemony. Accordingly, China’s Persian Gulf strategy of economic diplomacy through BRI investments and economic partnerships can, therefore, be categorised as strategic hedging: cultivating both partners without alienating or over-committing to either.

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