The Return of the Middle East to its Asian Home? The Expanding Middle East-Asia Nexus and its Ramifications, part I
“The Asianization” of the Middle East, fostered by expanding trade, energy, immigration, military and political ties between Asia—most notably, China, Japan, South Korea, India and the region—foretells a political realignment in which the Asian powers are filling the vacuum created by diminishing US and European influence. The most significant indicator of this trend is China’s expanding energy-related trade and investment links with the region, complemented by substantial increases in bilateral trade, military and political ties.
By 2008, China overtook the US as the number one exporter to the Middle East and by 2010 it overtook it as the number one importer from the region. Currently, 47 percent of China’s energy imports come from the Middle East. For Iran and Saudi Arabia, the two regional energy giants, China is their number one energy importer and their number one global trade partner. The Middle East plays a significant role in supplying China’s energy, which ensures it national security, sustains its economic rise, and provides China with viable export markets. Lacking a colonial history in the region, through its policy of “respect for sovereignty and win-win economic strategy,” China has chipped away at US influence in the region, expanding its power at US expense. This is one major example of the region’s “Asianization.” The volume of Japanese and South Korean and Indian bilateral trade also has expanded considerably in the last two decades. India alone has more than six million migrants working in the Gulf Cooperation Council Countries and its imports of energy from these countries have increased exponentially. Thus, we are now witnessing the beginning stages of a global realignment of forces in which the economic power is shifting from North America to the Asia Pacific that is going to impact the world in profound ways for decades to come.