Energy cooperation has been a key aspect of growing bilateral cooperation between China and the Arab states of the Gulf region for the past several years. Since 1996, China has become a net importer of crude oil and, as the second‑largest energy consumer in the world after the United States, is now the third‑largest importer of oil after the United States and Japan. Therefore, it should not come as a surprise that China is eying a deep and strategic partnership with the states of a region that sits on top of the world’s largest proven crude oil and natural gas reserves.
The deepening political and economic cooperation between China and the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has received increasing attention from the region’s more established strategic players: foremost the United States, but also the UK as well as the EU and some of its member states. Indeed, the region’s apparent geopolitical challenges— such as the American withdrawal from the Middle East, the escalation of sectarian wars in the region, the outbreak and development of the Syrian conflict followed by the spread of Islamic radicalism and similar threats—have encouraged the Arab states in the Gulf (as well as Iran) to look more to the East for new reliable partners. This has provided China with an opportunity to obtain a foothold in the region, which sits adjacent to the Silk Road region and is therefore of significant and lasting interest to readers of Baku Dialogues. Continue reading →