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China's New Role in the Middle East

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Along with China’s growing presence and interests in the Middle East, Beijing finds it increasingly challenging sitting on the sidelines of the region’s conflicts and tensions, and has called for establishing a new role in the Middle East. By adopting content analysis to examine 53 articles written by Chinese scholars, this research analyzes how Chinese scholars understand the concept of China’s new role in the Middle East. It argues that the concept is still under heated debate concerning to what extent and in which aspects China should change the policy from non-interference and non-involvement in Middle Eastern conflicts, whether China should identify itself as an order participant or order shaper, and which countries China should attach most importance to when conducting role adjustment in the region. The study finds that when formulating foreign policy towards the Middle East, the Chinese elites oscillates between prioritizing economic interests and geopolitical concerns. This argument is tested by using the ordinary least squares model. The study contends that the new role is too vague to be institutionalized at this stage, which reflects Chinese elites’ dilemma between expanding its political influence in the Middle East’s rule-setting, and trying to keep the risk-aversion diplomacy by not turning any Middle Eastern country or major international player in the region into a hostile force.

This talk is part of the China's New Role in the Middle East series.

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