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As Russia Distracts the U.S., China’s Middle East Ties are Booming

Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council Nayef Falah M. Al-Hajraf with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Image via China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

As U.S. and EU foreign policy increasingly disengages from the Middle East to focus on the crisis in Eastern Europe, China is building stronger relations with the powerful Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC.) In 2020, China replaced the EU as the biggest trading partner of the GCC (made up of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, and Bahrain.)

China originally focused on the GCC region as a way to diversify its oil sources. But the relationship has expanded to include wider trade relations: “There is a very strong China moment in the GCC that has been built over the past 15 years of relations[…]it has become a top partner at the level of the bloc,” said Mohammed Al-Sudairi, head of the Asian Studies Program at King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in a recent interview. (Also check out our 2020 interview with him.

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