China Looks to deepen Relations with West Asia

Dr. Manochehr Dorraj's picture

With China’s emergence as the world’s number one energy consumer and oil importer, its ties with Middle Eastern and Central Asian nations have assumed a more significant role in sustaining its rise to power globally. China is the number one recipient of Saudi and Iranian oil exports in the world. In fact, China depends on the Middle East for close to 50 percent of its total oil imports. Not surprisingly, then, Beijing’s energy and national security depends on maintaining supply security and cultivating warm relations with the key regional energy producing nations.

Since 2007, China has been Iran’s number one trade partner in the world and Saudi Arabia is soon to follow Iran’s path with China becoming its number one trade partner. Five years ago, China already surpassed the United States (US) as the top exporter to the region. President Xi Jinping declaration of inauguration of a “New Silk Road” and a “New Maritime Silk Road,” further tying China to Central Asia and the Middle East through trade, investment, transportation, communication, and other links is indicative of China’s awareness of the region’s economic significance and China’s desire to enhance the infrastructure and other business opportunities of Chinese multinational corporations. Xi’s upcoming trip to Iran in May 2015 is a concrete manifestation of Beijing’s desire to deepen ties with that country and the entire region. However, the pace and the intensity of such ties also will depend on US containment policies and Washington’s political posture towards Beijing. The jury is out on whether the Obama administration is willing or able to muster the financial, military, and political assets necessary to contain the rise of China. It remains to be seen if the American “pivot to Asia” will amount to anything else beyond courting India and joint military exercise with Australian military.