Implications of the Sino-American rivalry on the Persian Gulf security

Author: Tawfiq Alfaifi

Alfaifi, Tawfiq, 2021 Implications of the Sino-American rivalry on the Persian Gulf security, Flinders University, College of Business, Government and Law

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This research investigates the problem of regional security in the Middle East in light of contemporary geopolitical developments at the international and regional levels. The current and future economic and security scenarios for the region are considered taking into account the disengagement of the United States from its long-held role in the region, leaving a security vacuum, simultaneous with China's increasing engagement in the regional economic sector. From the 1950s to the early 1990s, the global level of Great Power's security rivalry has been either aligned with, or reinforced by, patterns of regional security rivalry. With the renewed Great Power competition, it appears that the US offshore balancing strategy and China's strategic ambiguity are the two approaches in which each side will advance its security and economic interests in the Middle East. The study aimed to determine the most prominent possible repercussions of the Sino-American rivalry on the security of the Persian Gulf. It investigated whether China is willing and capable to fill the Middle East security vacuum and explored how Washington and Beijing have each pursued their separate regional security objectives. The study argues that Middle East security has become an increasingly regional affair that regional powers are being forced to deal with. Concurrently, China has adopted a non-interventionist approach to consolidating its regional economic interests, offering regional states the lure of participation in its Belt and Road Initiative, while taking advantage of the urgent need of regional actors to diversify their economies. Despite lowering of priority in the region during the past decade, the study anticipates that Washington will seek to prevent China from achieving relative gains in the area of its historical hegemony. As the US is drawn back to the region for counterbalancing of China's rise and protecting US status in the global power rivalry with China, its purposes will tend to focus more on liberal democratic and human rights values and strategic economic considerations than on the previous security role. This study shows that there is no global power other than the US willing or capable to fill the current Middle Eastern security vacuum. Thus, the regional powers have rushed to fill this void since 2011, either by maximising power or maximising security. The study justifies its conclusion that the formation of pragmatic alliances, even of former adversaries, based on the preservation of existential interests of states, is a likely future scenario bearing in mind the increasing regionalisation of the Middle East.

Keywords: Middle East Regional Security Complex, Persian Gulf Security, Sino-American Rivalry, Neorealism, Balance-of-Interest, Balance-of-Power

Subject: International Relations thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2021
School: College of Business, Government and Law
Supervisor: Dr. Luis da Vinha