The Vital Triangle: China, the United States, and the Middle East

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The United States has been deeply involved in the Middle East for more than a half century and seized with China's role in the world for a similar period of time. Up to now, the two issues have remained distinct. Increasingly, China's growing thirst for energy has brought it to the Middle East, where governments are curious how the growing superpower might fit into their own strategic understanding of the world. China's increasing role in the Middle East comes at a time when the United States is itself deeply enmeshed in the region, setting up the possibility of competition or even conflict between the two great powers. This volume explores the complex interrelationships among China, the United States, and the Middle East-what the authors call the "vital triangle." There is surely much to be gained from continuing the conventional two-dimensional analysis-China and the United States, the United States and the Middle East, and China and the Middle East. Such scholarship has a long history and no doubt a long future. But it is the three-dimensional equation-which seeks to understand the effects of the China-Middle East relationship on the United States, the U.S.-Middle East relationship on China, and the Sino-American relationship on the Middle East-that draws the authors' attention here. This approach captures the true dynamics of change in world affairs and the spiraling up and down of national interests. Central to this analysis is a belief that if any one of the three sides of this triangular relationship is unhappy, it has the power to make the other two unhappy as well. The stakes and the intimacy of the interrelationship highlight not only the importance of reaching accommodation, but also the potential payoff of agreement on common purpose.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780892065295
  • Publisher: Center for Strategic & International Studies
  • Publication date: 5/21/2008
  • Series: Significant Issues Series, #2
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 152
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Jon B. Alterman is a senior fellow and director of the Middle East Program at CSIS. John W. Garver is a professor at the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at Georgia Tech.

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Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2 China

China's Management of Conflicting Interests

China's Narrative of the U.S. Drive for

Middle Eastern Hegemony

Watching the Tigers Fight

China's Middle Eastern Policies and Interests

Sustaining China's Successful Development Drive

Constructive Engagement with the United States in Iraq

The New Sino-Saudi Relationship

Agreement and Disagreement over Iran

China and the Future of Iran's Nuclear Programs

The Taiwan Factor

3 The Middle East

Saudi Arabia: The Pivotal State


Weapons Sales




Other Middle Eastern Countries

Nonenergy Trade


Cultural Links


4 The United States

The U.S. Commitment to the Middle East

U.S. Problems with China's Involvement in the Middle East

U.S. Concerns with Chinese Military Capabilities

Supporting U.S. Enemies

Attracting U.S. Allies

Broader American Thinking about China

Nonmilitary Competition

Sino-U.S. Economic Competition in the Middle East

Sino-U.S. Military Competition in the Middle East

Sino-U.S. Politico-Ideological Competition in the Middle East


5 Conclusion and Recommendations

Key Findings

Policy Recommendations: Building on Security First


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