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What Can US Do to Corral Growing Chinese Influence in the Middle East?

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken faces challenges in Saudi Arabia visit amid U.S. concerns over China's Middle East influence. (GV Wire Composite/David Rodriguez)
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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken faces an uphill battle in his three-day visit to Saudi Arabia this week, as the U.S. struggles to maintain influence in the Middle East.

The significance of the recent Chinese-brokered Saudi-Iranian agreement to re-establish relations has been mostly downplayed by the Biden administration. However, it seems that the U.S. is concerned about China’s influence in the greater Middle East region. America’s allies in the region have improved relations with Beijing and Tehran while Russia’s sway in the Middle East has also made the U.S. nervous, causing it to ramp up pressure on certain Middle Eastern states.

Shift in Attitude a Regional Phenomenon

This shift in attitude towards relations with the U.S. is not only evident in Riyadh, but is a regional phenomenon. The United Arab Emirates has also cultivated closer ties with China, improved strategic relations with France, and engaged Iran, Russia, and India.

Trade between the Middle East and China has grown significantly from $15.2 billion to $284.3 billion between 2000 and 2021, while trade with the U.S. has increased only modestly from $63.4 billion to $98.4 billion. Six Middle Eastern countries have recently requested to join the Chinese-led BRICS group.

US Foreign Policy

The majority in the region believe the U.S. is a hypocritical imperial power that isn’t serious about human rights and democracy. This is particularly apparent in America’s foreign policy on Palestine, which staunchly supports Israel. Secretary Blinken’s visit to Riyadh will likely pressure Saudi Arabia to normalize relations with Tel Aviv.

These changes in the geopolitical landscape have messy long-term implications for both sides, determined by whether and how America chooses to change its foreign policy.

Read more in Al Jazeera.

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