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China’s Yemen Diplomacy and a Multipolar Gulf

Since it first emerged as an economic powerhouse in the 1990s and early 2000s, China has consistently adhered to the principle of neutrality and non-interference in other nations’ internal affairs. As it gained economic clout and a growing market share throughout the Middle East, Beijing preserved its reputation as a neutral market, conducting trade with all nations and remaining aloof from regional politics. Given this background, the announcement in March of a China-mediated diplomatic normalization between Saudi Arabia and Iran—the Gulf’s two primary geopolitical foes—after years of the rivalry came as a shock both to Middle Eastern and Western experts. The Saudi-Iran détente could contribute to the de-escalation of deadly tensions, particularly in the Gulf region. Riyadh and Tehran are engaged in prolonged and bloody proxy wars in the Middle East—most notably in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia has led a military coalition against the country’s northern Houthi rebels for eight years without success. Continue reading