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HomeGeopolitical CompassEast AsiaChina’s Belt and Road Initiative and US Middle East Policy

China’s Belt and Road Initiative and US Middle East Policy

Author: Charles W. Dunne

Affiliation: Arab Center, Washington DC, USA

Organization/Publisher: Arab Center, Washington DC, USA

Date/Place: January 13, 2020/USA

Type of Literature: Report

Word Count: 2358


KeywordsChinese Assertiveness, Security Umbrella, Economic agreements, Strategic Thinking


The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is the largest strategic plan of the 21st century, intended to link China to Europe through the Middle East and Africa. The initiative has had notable success but is faced by difficulties, such as accusations of corruption and fear of China’s rise, that give the US an opportunity to sharpen its policy towards Chinese assertiveness. Despite the dangers of debt trapping, environmental concerns and threats to sovereignty, Middle Eastern countries went straight ahead with making BRI deals. The Gulf Cooperation Council countries have signed a 5G agreement with China, and other countries like Djibouti and Egypt are also on the list for major infrastructure projects. The increased Chinese economic presence is accompanied by expanding security networks, building a naval base in Djibouti and expanding maritime ties with Israel. The US has its focus on the Indo-Pacific, but not much is being done regarding the Middle East. The US should add the BRI’s presence in the Middle East to its strategic thinking; extracting economic and security benefits out of the BRI infrastructure is a start that will benefit the US and balance the playing field. Supporting American companies that utilize the project’s infrastructure is a start, while the US security umbrella could be used to have a say in the BRI planning in the region. Finally, an emphasis on threats and risks the BRI poses on involved states is crucial, stoking global opinions against it. 


By: Omar Fili, CIGA Research Assistant



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