China's Balancing Act in the Gulf
August 21, 2013
China is increasingly reliant on Middle Eastern energy. Yet, China is reluctant to commit to a region in which the United States seems to have an overwhelming military and diplomatic advantage. The region’s deep divisions and swirling politics give the Chinese pause as well. Still, many Middle Eastern countries seek a greater role for China in the region, either to balance against the United States or to make the United States work harder for its alliances. Saudi Arabia accounts for one-fifth of China’s oil imports, and Saudi-Chinese non-oil trade is booming. China also imports significant amounts of oil from Iran, and it views its Iran relationship as a strategic hedge against U.S. influence. But Iran also causes problems for China—and for Chinese energy security. In the coming years, China will only grow more dependent on Middle Eastern energy, and China will face an even more challenging balancing act in the Gulf.