In keeping with its overall “Arab Policy”, and as it has done with Saudi Arabia, China has nurtured and expanded its ties with the United Arab Emirates. Just as it seeks to accomplish its strategic objectives in the Middle East by developing its ties with Saudi Arabia, arguably the premier Middle Eastern power, Beijing appears to wish to leave nothing to chance, developing its bilateral relationship with the UAE so as to further diversify its energy sources, increase its influence in the region and further ensure its export markets and the security of its export routes, including the Belt and Road Initiative. As it is doing with Saudi Arabia, and in keeping with President Xi Jinping’s political dictum of demonstrating to the world that China’s great rejuvenation has begun and that it is prepared to take its rightful place at or near the very top of the international order, China is moving beyond a mere transactional relationship with the UAE and seeks a more strategic one.

Key points:

  • As it has with Saudi Arabia, China has developed its relationship with the United Arab Emirates.
  • The UAE needs the relationship to retain a major energy market and to continue to act as a trans-shipment hub for China’s manufactured products to the Middle East, Europe and Africa.
  • China also seeks to draw the UAE into its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
  • The BRI is coming under increasing suspicion, however, which could have an adverse effect on the China-UAE relationship.
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