Seeking to carve a sphere of influence in the Persian Gulf, China seems to have found a new opportunity thanks to COVID-19. In this vein, Beijing pursues a delicate balance between the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) and Iran. By this means, it also aims to limit the room of maneuver enjoyed by the United States and India in this part of the world.
Gulf Arabs and China: Contemporary Relations
COVID-19 has led to a slowing down of activities in many sectors, thus lowering oil prices. This set the Gulf countries, which have already been occupied with diversifying their economies, into alarm. The Arab countries of the Gulf are in dire need of finding new investors to uplift them in the face of fiscal deficits to rise up to 25 percent of GDP in 2020. Against this backdrop, Beijing, which has already limited Washington’s room of maneuver in East Asia and Africa owing to its increasing visibility, seems to have declared the Persian Gulf as another area of competition. The Persian Gulf is a critical venue, from which China procures more than half of its energy requirements. Known as one of the most important allies of the USA in this region, Saudi Arabia sold almost a third of its crude oil exports (about 2m barrels per day) to China in May. Indeed, Riyadh has already surpassed Russia last year, to become China’s top supplier. In addition, the amount of crude bought from Kuwait and Oman, as well as petroleum gas exports from Qatar have increased exponentially throughout the years.