The Gulf: Dragon on the Prowl

Focus Asia October, 2022

The geopolitical sands are shifting in the Persian Gulf. Investments in critical infrastructure allow Beijing to project power, reap financial rewards, secure resources, expand markets, acquire strategically located bases, and undermine America’s security alliances. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has further brought into sharp focus simmering tensions and stresses and strains. Economic diversification, strategic hedging, pragmatism and “Look East” are the buzzwords. The Gulf sheikhdoms are on the cusp of history where choices made today will shape their future. Washington can no longer expect a monogamous relationship in a region ripe for polygamy with multiple suitors. Nonetheless, this paper argues that the logic of geopolitics dictates that China’s expansionist moves would prevent America’s retreat because the success of Washington’s Indo-Pacific strategy is linked to maintaining its presence in the resource-rich Gulf, and not letting China dominate it. Besides, when the chips are down, nearly all Gulf states still “Look West” for security against regional threats.

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