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The Middle Eastern vision. The world rises in the east and sets in the west. The times of “oil for security” in the Gulf countries are over. Asia and China are increasingly present in that area

The Gulf countries refuse to become a "battlefield" or "playground" for the major powers. Today's world order is undergoing changes, and the trend of “rise in the east and decline in the west” is becoming more and more evident in those countries. The Gulf countries hope to break their traditional image, expand areas of cooperation and foreign partners, especially increasingly tighten ties with emerging countries in Asia. In March 2021, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi proposed a five-point initiative to achieve security and stability in the Middle East, of which "jointly building collective security" is one of the key points. Where is the Western strategy?



by Nicola e Gabriele Iuvinale

The Gulf countries refuse to become a "battlefield" or "playground" for the major powers. Today's world order is undergoing changes, and the trend of “rise in the east and decline in the west” is becoming more and more evident in those countries. The Gulf countries hope to break their traditional image, expand areas of cooperation and foreign partners, especially increasingly tighten ties with emerging countries in Asia, establishing independent economic and security structures in the process of competition between great powers , developing relations of equal cooperation and becoming a bridge between the East and the West. China's "five-point initiative" for security and stability in the Middle East, as well as the principles of mutual trust, tolerance and win-win advocated by international organizations such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, are becoming increasingly more than stable points of reference in the countries of the region.

The world today is going through enormous changes. All countries and regions are clearly aware of the changes in the world order: the United States and the West are increasingly seen as being in decline, while Asia and other regions are growing and their strength is increasing.

The economic, social and security landscape of the Gulf region is also undergoing rapid evolution. Gulf countries with strong development dynamics such as the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are seeking to build balanced strategic relationships and diversify beyond the traditional scope of energy trading, involving security, space exploration, technology and other fields.

The current evolution of the global landscape has brought many opportunities and risks to the Gulf region. Now is a good time for them to accelerate the integration of the GCC, especially on the security, monetary and economic fronts.

The Gulf states are trying to reshape the world's view of security issues in the region. Gone are the days when “oil for security” defined relations between the Gulf States. The region will strive to build a conflict-free future, with regional economic integration and prosperous societies. With the support of Eastern and Western powers outside the region, the Gulf countries have sought to actively respond to regional challenges. Solutions to the conflicts in Yemen, Syria and Libya are in the works. Arabs believe that through regional efforts and dialogue, these problems can be resolved as soon as possible.

To understand the growing importance of security in the Gulf region, it is necessary to understand that there is an ever-widening trend of a rapidly evolving new world order and a shift in the economic center of gravity from West to East.

PwC predicts in its report “The World in 2050” that by 2050 three of the world's four largest economies will be located in Asia, namely China, India and Indonesia.

But until then, due to the long road to the development of new energy and the difficulty of replacing oil and gas in the short term, the Gulf countries will still be the main source of energy imports for countries around the world , particularly China and India.

Currently, China is the largest oil export destination in the Gulf region, and five of the six GCC members are major Chinese suppliers of oil and natural gas. India is expected to become the largest importer of oil and natural gas in the Gulf region by 2035, which will further cement the region's status as an energy supply base for the world, especially Asia.

Some cities in the Gulf countries, such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi, have taken advantage of their local strategic locations to transform themselves into global trade and logistics centers and bridges for trade between East and West.

In 2020, China replaced the EU as the GCC's largest trading partner. The volume of bilateral trade increased significantly last year. Trade between some other Asian countries and GCC countries has also shown a similar trend, and the importance of trade security and maritime navigation security in various countries has become increasingly important.

As Asia's share of GDP in the world continues to expand, Gulf countries will continue to advance economic cooperation with emerging Asian powers and use bilateral and multilateral platforms to strengthen dialogue with Asian countries. For example, some Gulf countries recently sent delegations to participate in a series of ASEAN meetings.

Gulf countries are also paying close attention to progress in implementing the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

Trade volumes between the Gulf and the rest of Asia are expected to increase significantly over the next 30 years as the Gulf states become increasingly closely linked to Asia's giant emerging trading blocs.

Now, led by China, Asia is increasingly becoming the center of the global economic and political scene. The countries of the region do not want to see external forces taking advantage of the vulnerability of bilateral trade and maritime routes to engage in "blackmail". Therefore, establishing a clear security framework at the regional and bilateral levels has become crucial.

In an increasingly multipolar world, the Gulf region should not be subject to a single security partner or group of partners, but should diversify its partners and develop partnerships with countries that have the capacity to maintain peace and share common interests with the Gulf region, thus ensuring the stability and prosperity of the region, believes Li Sirui, Former strategic advisor to the Chairman of the Executive Board of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, and researcher at the Asia Global Institute of the University of Hong Kong.

Thanks to the enormous synergy and complementarity between the economic development of both sides, the economic integration between the Gulf region and Asian countries, especially China and India, is expected to be further deepened in the coming years. In order to maintain the rapidly developing economic and trade ties between Asia and the Gulf region, it is necessary for all parties to increase investments to ensure the normal functioning of trade.

In March 2021, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi proposed a five-point initiative to achieve security and stability in the Middle East, of which "jointly building collective security" is one of the key points.

Gulf countries will begin to seriously consider the initiatives and suggestions put forward by all traditional and non-traditional partners and work to create a cooperation framework that better suits the realities of the region. Gulf countries can also study and learn from the experience of international organizations such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Some countries have in fact already requested observer or dialogue partner status in the SCO.

At present, competition between major powers is rapidly intensifying, and the Gulf countries will try to avoid becoming a “battlefield” or “playground” for great powers. Countries in the region will establish consensus and common positions and accelerate the establishment of regional security principles and cooperation frameworks to ensure regional security and prosperity.

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