The Dragon Nests: China's Energy Engagement of the Middle East

Manochehr Dorraj and James English
Publication Date: 
June 1st, 2013

China is the largest consumer of energy, the leading exporter of manufactured goods and possesses the second largest economy in the world. The great dragon’s current economic activity extends to all corners of the world, including the hydrocarbon-rich Middle East. Since becoming a net importer of oil in 1993, China’s engagement of the Middle East has focused heavily on energy acquisition as the country urgently needs reliable sources of oil and natural gas to continue its unprecedented economic rise. For now, Middle Eastern countries seem amenable to the nesting dragon, whose increasing energy consumption, rapidly expanding economy, lack of colonial history and a policy of ‘offend no one’, its vast cash reserves and a willingness to pay premium prices for energy sources render it a highly appealing partner, capable of balancing the hegemonic policies and unipolar presence of the US. This article provides a summary of China’s expanding energy relations with seven major energy producing states of the Middle East, namely Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, UAE and Qatar, and assesses the political implications of China’s burgeoning relationship with the region