The MED This Week newsletter provides expert analysis and informed insights on the most significant developments in the MENA region, bringing together unique opinions on the topic and reliable foresight on future scenarios. Today, we focus on the recent visits of Gulf representatives to China, in the attempt to enhance their respective bilateral relations with Beijing. At the core of this recent diplomatic activism, there are several vital economic and security issues, starting with the rising concerns over the stability of Central Asia and the ongoing negotiations in Vienna over the JCPOA.

On January 10th, Foreign Ministers from Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, and the Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), arrived in China for a five-day visit to deepen their relations with Beijing. Here, the Gulf monarchies’ representatives are holding a series of bilateral meetings with their Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, aimed at consolidating their bilateral partnerships in numerous fields. On the one hand, GCC states are seeking closer ties with Beijing, mainly to diversify their oil-dependent economies and encourage Chinese investments in the region. In this framework, the GCC’s unprecedented visit will likely pave the way for practical progress in negotiating a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the two sides, first tabled in 2004 and reopened last year during Wang Yi’s tour in the Gulf. On the other hand, China has sought to bolster its ties with GCC states, representing Beijing’s most significant trade partners and energy suppliers in the Middle East. In parallel with the GCC’s official tour, Iranian Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, is set to visit China on January 14th. The growing concerns over Central Asia are likely to be among the topics covered in the discussions the Iranian Foreign Minister will have in Beijing. Over the past years, China has reportedly bought an increasing volume of Iranian oil in spite of US sanctions. Furthermore, China has been supporting the talks currently ongoing in Vienna, aiming to revive the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal. Overall, this first-of-its-kind diplomatic activity may also signal China’s intentions to step up its role in the Middle East region, which is vital for the country’s strategic interests and an area where the United States has traditionally been a dominant power. At the same time, it manifests how Gulf-China relations are nowadays going beyond economic ties.


Experts from the ISPI MED network react to the deepening ties between GCC countries and China.

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