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China’s relationship with the Gulf states is becoming increasingly close. Economic ties have been growing for decades, based around the specific mutual trade needs of the two regions – that is, China’s immense demand for oil and the Gulf’s need to sell it. These economic ties are now being complemented by closer political ties and an enhanced security relationship. These links were aptly demonstrated with the December 2022 inauguration of the first China-Gulf Cooperation Council summit held in Saudi Arabia, which emphasised co-operation on security and support for each other’s ‘core interests’, and China’s March 2023 brokering of a détente between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
At a time of escalating geopolitical tension around China’s role in the world, and with Chinese relations with the UK, EU and US all becoming increasingly fraught, it is plausible that this enhanced collaboration with the Gulf will cause alarm in some quarters. In particular, the Gulf’s increased reliance on trade with China may spark fears that its appetite to follow the West’s political and cultural lead will be reduced.
This discussion will explore how Gulf-Chinese relations have evolved and whether the apparent Chinese mediation breakthroughs are quite as profound as many think. They will also strive to situate traditional western powers in this moment of seeming Chinese ascendancy, and to reflect on whether there are plausible avenues for three-way – west, Gulf, China – mutually beneficial relations.
Join us on 11 May to mark the launch of the Lau China Institute’s latest policy paper, "Culture, history and change: The Gulf in between the West and China," by Dr David B Roberts and Dr Chuchu Zhang. The authors will be joined by Professor Yahia Zoubir, Dr Dawn Murphy and Mr Ahmed Aboudouh to discuss the key take aways and recommendations for policy. There will be an opportunity for Q&A and networking at the end. Tea/coffee will be provided.
Please note, places are limited so registration is essential. King's Staff & Students ticket holders will be required to show valid proof of King's ID upon entry.
About the speakers
Dr David B Roberts is an Associate Professor at King’s College London. He is also Adjunct Faculty at Sciences Po. Previously, David was the Director of the Gulf office of the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security studies think-tank (RUSI Qatar). His primary research interest focuses on the politics, foreign affairs, and international security of the Gulf monarchies and the wider Middle East. His new book, ‘Security Politics in the Gulf Monarchies,’ was published in 2023 by Columbia University Press.
Dr Chuchu Zhang is Associate Professor of International Relations in the School of International Relations and Public Affairs at Fudan University. She is also Deputy Director of the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies at Fudan University. She received her PhD in Politics and International Studies from University of Cambridge. Her research focuses on Middle Eastern politics, Sino-Middle Eastern relations, and regional governance. She is author of Islamist Party Mobilization: Tunisia’s Ennahda and Algeria’s HMS Compared, 1989–2014 (Palgrave, 2020). She has published in many top peer reviewed journals including Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space, Land Use Policy, Pacific Focus, Chinese Political Science Review, and Journal of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies.
Professor Yahia H. Zoubir is Professor of International Relations and International Management, and Director of Research in Geopolitics at KEDGE Business School, and Non-Resident Senior Fellow, Middle East Council on Global Affairs (Doha, Qatar). He has been a visiting professor at many universities and business schools in China, the United States, and several countries in Europe and Asia for the past 30 years. There are dozens of his publications: articles in journals and encyclopaedias, books and book chapters on international policy, foreign policy, governance and security issues. He has worked as a consultant for governments and companies around the world.
Dr Dawn Murphy is Associate Professor of National Security Strategy at the US National War College, where she specialises in Chinese foreign policy and domestic politics, US-China relations, and international relations. Her research analyzes China’s interests and behavior as a rising global power towards the existing international order. Murphy examines China’s relations with the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa in her book China’s Rise in the Global South: The Middle East, Africa, and Beijing’s Alternative World Order.
Mr Ahmed Aboudouh is an experienced journalist and international relations researcher. He currently serves as a nonresident Fellow at the Atlantic Council in Washington. He is also the head of the China Research Unit at Emirates Policy Center, an Independent Abu Dhabi-based think tank. Ahmed was the Consultant Editor at The Independent newspaper until 2022. He holds a Master of Arts in International Relations from the Department of War Studies at King’s College London. His research focuses on China’s political, economic, technological and people-to-people relations with the Gulf region, great-power competition, and regional implications.
About the LCI Policy Series
The Lau Policy Series brings researchers, academics and policymakers together to discuss key policy challenges relating to China. From China’s impact on renewable technology to tensions with the United States, the series aims to present clear analyses to help us understand contemporary China, its actions and its effect on the world.
This inaugural series, titled ‘China in the World’, explores how China operates beyond its borders in its new role as a political and economic superpower. It will look at issues ranging from the changing role of diplomacy to the creation of new foreign investment programmes such as the Belt and Road Initiative. You can find the full collection of the Lau Policy Series here.