Connectivity between the Gulf Cooperation Council and Asia

The relationship between the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and Asian states, including China, India, Japan and South Korea, has long been complementary. While the focus of the GCC-Asia relationship has concentrated predominantly on the energy dimension, this represents only one part of what is becoming a more complex set of exchanges. Increasingly, a more diverse economic relationship is emerging, which includes new forms of cooperation and partnership, from participation in construction and development of energy and non-energy related infrastructure, to ports, roads and other transport links. In addition, the links are becoming more financial as well, with investments in real estate, health care and financial services.

Beyond the economic dimension, there are evident shifts within the security field as well. But in contrast to the energy and other commercial dealings between the GCC and Asia, these strategic forms of engagement are less defined and concrete. A key part of this uncertainty is due to the status of the US and its historic position as the regional hegemon and long-standing security guarantor for the Arab Gulf states.

This paper examines the multiple ways in which connections between the GCC and the rising powers of Asia are evolving.  In particular, is considers the impact of China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) and how this seems likely to increase the GCC’s focus on Asia, potentially at the expense of its historic economic and security ties with Europe and the US.

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