PERSIAN GULF/CHINA – The Persian Gulf and China: The Growth and Limits of Economic Ties (Nader Habibi, Crown Center for Middle East Studies, Brandeis University)

China’s economic and diplomatic ties with each of the eight states that border the Persian Gulf rapidly expanded over the past two decades. This occurred despite conflicts and diplomatic tensions among those states and the heavy dependence most of them have on the United States for their external security. And China, so far, has largely avoided being drawn deeply into the complex politics of the region. In this Brief, Nader Habibi explores the reasons for this growth in China’s trade and investment with Iran, Iraq, and the monarchies of the Gulf Cooperation Council. He analyzes the motivations and strategic calculations of the Gulf states while emphasizing China’s ability to contribute to economic diversification programs and link infrastructure projects to its global Belt and Road Initiative. Habibi concludes by discussing factors that might limit further expansion of Gulf-China economic ties, including increasing U.S. concern about China’s growing influence in the region.