Monday, June 19, 2017

How the Qatar crisis could turn into a disaster for Beijing

Staying engaged in the Middle East is in China’s long-term economic interests, but competing with the US for influence may be a slippery slope towards picking sides in potential armed conflicts 

By Cary Huang


The recent row between Qatar and its Arab neighbours puts a big question mark over the feasibility of Beijing’s plans to promote connectivity and build a China-centred trade network among Eurasian countries.  The diplomatic rift will interrupt Beijing’s efforts to manage its multitrillion-dollar projects under the Belt and Road Initiative, as the crisis in the Gulf region might mark the beginning of a new round of chaos, and perhaps military conflicts, in the wider Middle East.  On June 5, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Yemen and Egypt broke off ties with Qatar, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism. They imposed air, land and sea blockades on the gas-rich nation, which is using its wealth to bankroll its regional and global ambitions and fund the influential pan-Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera and 2022 Fifa World Cup. A few more Arabian nations joined in the Saudi-led sanctions, while Turkey and Iran voiced their support for their Muslim brethren in Qatar. All six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE – involved in the row have much at stake, economically and geopolitically, in China’s Belt and Road economic corridor.