For many years, China and the US have remained the two centers of political and economic power worldwide. However, if previously, the countries were strong allies with a free trade agreement, today’s political and economic environment has led to rivalry and competition to monopolize the political stage. According to Itakura, “in 2018, the two world largest economies, the USA and China, exchanged rounds of imposing of import tariffs against each other, and this escalated into the US-China trade war” (77). As a result, both the US and China are now focused on establishing more strategic partnerships with other states in order to claim their political and economic leadership.
Currently, the Middle East and, more importantly, the countries of the Persian Gulf are major destinations for strategic cooperation. Three primary reasons attract developed economies to this region. First and foremost, the Middle East and the Persian Gulf account for the majority of oil and natural gas (Ahmad). Second, this region’s growth potential is likely to create a full-scale competition with the European market, so it is necessary to invest in the economy while it is more available. Third, anyone who gains control over the Middle East gains a significant political and economic advantage in the world arena (Ahmad). For this reason, both the US and China are eager to cooperate with the countries that can export oil and natural gas in exchange for an international security guarantee and economic investments.
One of the richest countries in the Middle East is Qatar, which makes it one of the most desirable goals for the world’s largest economies. According to Chaziza, “Qatar is a small Emirate located on the Persian Gulf ’s northeast coast in the Middle East, sharing a land border with Saudi Arabia in the southeast and sea borders on the Persian Gulf with the UAE and Iran” (96). Currently, China and the US continue to develop diplomatic relationships with Qatar in order to gain economic and political advantage.
China started to build a diplomatic relationship with Qatar in the middle of the 20th century when the country was still under the control of the United Kingdom. However, a full-scale diplomatic and political union was formed in the 1980s, when the countries established a firm bilateral import and export system and eventually entered an agreement to avoid double taxation (Chaziza). Moreover, the cooperation is also encouraged by constant diplomatic visits, cultural exchange, and joint military initiatives. According to Chaziza, “Qatar, as the owner of the world’s second-largest reserve of natural gas, exports gas to China,” whereas China constitutes most of Qatar’s imports (96). Hence, it becomes evident that Qatar should currently pursue strategic cooperation with China to support sustainable supply chain management within the country.
On the other hand, Qatar’s cooperation with the US has grown rapidly over the past years. Since the first Gulf War, the US has become strategically valuable to the country. According to Fahy (2018), “Qatar and the US developed close military ties…but their strategic partnership has been particularly strong since 2003, when the US moved its central regional airbase from Saudi Arabia to Al Udeid, southwest of Doha” (80). Moreover, their relationship is also characterized by economic bonds, with Qatar investing money in real estate and airlines in the US and exporting natural gas (Fahy). Currently, nearly 8% of the natural gas imports to the US are comprised of the Persian Gulf countries (US Energy Information Administration). With an ongoing Russian gas embargo proposal, the demand for natural gas supply from the Middle East increases. However, the most important aspect of the Qatar-US strategic relationship is the military support and defense cooperation agreements. According to the US Department of State “the US has over $26 billion in active government-to-government cases with Qatar under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) system making Qatar the second largest FMS partner in the world” (para. 5). Over the past years, however, this coordination has been questioned because of Washington’s ambiguous position in terms of securing peacekeeping troops in the Middle East (Alsulami 13). As a result, regional countries like Qatar are seeking military help from Eastern countries like China and Russia.
Considering the fact that Qatar has strong ties with both the US and China, it is recommended Qatar embrace the opportunities of both strategic alliances. According to Alsulami, Middle East countries can benefit from the bilateral cooperation in several ways:
- Diversification of the alliances in competing countries by avoiding both Western and Eastern restrictions on trade;
- Ensuring both investment and military security by promoting America’s peacekeeping and militarization efforts along with China’s investment in the regional countries;
- Ensuring regional stability by not letting either political powers gain a universal advantage.
Hence, Qatar’s only efficient way to promote balance in the region is to secure a trusting relationship with both the US and China. Both East and West are currently interested in the Persian Gulf region, and favoring either side will result in a dramatic shift in global political patterns. For this reason, Qatar should continue diplomatic relationships with the two states by letting them invest in the region’s development of infrastructure, economy, and global trade.
Ahmad, Amjad. “The Middle East is a Growing Marketplace, Not Just a War Zone.” Atlantic Council, Web.
Alsulami, Mohammed Saqr. “US-China Competition and Its Implications for the Middle East.” International Institute of Iranian Studies, Web.
Chaziza, Mordechai. “China–Qatar Strategic Partnership and the Realization of One Belt, One Road Initiative.” China Report, vol. 56, no. 1, 2020, pp. 78-102.
Fahy, John. “International Relations and Faith-based Diplomacy: The Case of Qatar.” The Review of Faith & International Affairs, vol. 16, no. 3, 2018, pp. 76-88.
Itakura, Ken. “Evaluating the Impact of the US-China Trade War.” Asian Economic Policy Review, vol. 15, no. 1, 2020, pp. 77-93.
US Department of State. “US Security Cooperation with Qatar.” Web.
US Energy Information Administration. “How Much Petroleum Does the United States Import and Export?” n.d., Web.