As global uncertainty grows, the US-China rivalry becomes more complicated. The continuous rivalry between the two nations is occurring in Asia-Pacific and on other continents with different dynamics.

First and foremost, the following determination must be made. The United States influence in the Middle East is dwindling. On a worldwide basis US’ strength is decreasing.

On the other hand China is acting based on a "weak hegemonic drive." The Middle East is vital to the world's great powers because it is a significant supply of fossil fuels. Furthermore, it occupies an important strategic position along trade routes from Asia to Europe.

China views the Middle East through a "global development initiative"

China also closely monitors infrastructure rebuilding in the loans it provides to nations in the area and the growth of the country in question. A similar strategy is taken concerning the Africa. Of course, we should emphasize that countries such as Sri Lanka have difficulties with "non-repayment of debt."

The significant aspect is that China establishes a distinct stance by "engaging similarly with each country through trade." For example, while making a 400 billion dollar arrangement with Iran (which would be tough to accomplish), at the same time it may construct a drone plant with Saudi Arabia and then make port agreements with Israel.

Because of the sanctions reduced Russia's oil exports, causing attention to shift back to the Middle East regarding fossil resources. On the other hand, the prospect of Israel and Iran's growing enmity escalating into a massive battle over Lebanon is still alive.

The important to remember here is that the Middle East front has specific characteristics to the US-China competition. It should be noted that Russia and Iran wield considerable power in the Middle East in comparison with China and the United States. In the Middle East, China shines out in economic things, Russia in politics, and Iran in operational affairs.

The United States is attempting to cooperate with Israel in this context, although there are some coordination issues owing to the "nuclear agreement negotiations" with Iran. Furthermore, the United States, attempting to move all of its resources to the Asia-Pacific area, appears to be experiencing "focus issues."

Is it possible for China or other nations to fill potential gaps?

In the short run difficult to respond. However, certain specific findinds could be used to derive conclusions. To begin with, China has no plans to take any initiative in the region's political or security architecture.

China, which is enjoying its most productive moment regarding oil imports from Russia, will not abandon the Middle East, even if it stabilizes its grip. China's recent initiatives in key agreements with Iraq and Syria rebuilding (albeit no tangible steps have been implemented yet) garner notice.

As a result, the Ukraine crisis appears to have reactivated the dynamics of a great power struggle. US has a significant military presence in the region. In other words, according to Mao's dictum, "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun", US will maintain its sphere of influence in the Middle East.

However, the region's nations have substantial economic engagement with China. They will show a growing trend toward China in the long term due to its non-interference in China's domestic affairs.

On the other hand, the notion that China and Russia can work together in the area appears weak, especially at this point.

China's purpose in the Middle East is to compete in the economic aspect with the United States

For the time being, China will aim to maintain a balanced competition with the United States by refraining from intervening in "regional political matters and conflict spots" in the Middle East.

In conclusion, it is possible to say. Because of its long-standing worldwide competition with China, the United States has been steadily retreating from the Middle East. However, recent events like the Ukraine crisis have hampered this tendency.

China is prepared to participate in economic engagement in the Middle East, as it is in other parts of the world, but this willingness does not imply ultimate responsibility for the area. It has a great economic capability, but it is still far behind its competitors in terms of regional investment.

Furthermore, China has no military presence in the region. This is a crucial consideration. The fact that the region's governments choose China over the United States, both postponing legitimacy issues and generating certain beneficial scenarios in terms of infrastructure investment, may be a possibility at the time.

However, it is difficult to predict the outcome of a potential conflict between the United States and China over middle east. All of the findings on the rivalry in issue indicate that any troubles that may emerge between the US and China may occur in the Asia-Pacific region.


Dr.Hüseyin Korkmaz. The author is a researcher focusing on China and geopolitics in the Asia, primarily related to the US-China relations.

@drhkorkmaz