China’s role in the multipolar architecture
Even though the effects of multipolarity are widely discussed among theorists, and despite differing opinions on the question if a multipolar world order is more or less stable than a bi-polar world order, general consensus is that multipolar world orders tend to be less stable than unipolar systems. The theories of IR were not able to forecast the current power architecture, and– considering the global interdependencies of our time — these systemic theories can only partially help to understand and examine the rise of the emerging China and its consequences for the Middle East.
To grasp China’s emerging rise and the consequently emerging multipolar system more precisely, Barry Buzan’s ideas about a world without a hegemon might be a helpful approach. According to him, American primacy is not only over, it is also unfavorable. He states that against the background of increasing regionalist movements, many powers are likely to achieve a regional position of leadership providing them with the tools to oppose American leadership. He calls this development ‘decentralized globalism’ and advocates for the illegitimacy of the US hegemony. However, the Arab World alone, will not be one of the challengers of US dominance in the future. They are torn apart by opposing alliances and a bunch of domestic problems. Regional cooperation in the Arab World is a paradox, since regionalism does not show an equivalent functionality despite the numerous similarities in religion and culture. However, the analysis on regionalism lacks explaining the role of non-state actors, which is crucial in this framework. Looking at the history of the Middle East as a whole, it becomes clear that profits where not shifted from Arab countries to Western countries, but especially from Arab countries to Western corporations. A more in-depth analysis must focus on implementing the role of transnational corporations in a globalized world more precisely to assess how they affect regional developments.
Here, China’s Belt and Road initiative can be a possible solution to several problems. Having already started to invest in several Arab countries, China’s rise does also reflect on its economic ties with and its general presence in the Middle East. The BRI could very well be a tool for China’s communist party to both, overcome their domestic challenges in China and establish a new position in the global balance of power. While the general perception of the BRI in Western media is skeptical and many official voices in the West have expressed their doubts about BRI’s economic viability, most in-depth studies consider the possibility of its transforming trade and political relationship throughout varying degrees. It is rare to find unreserved support for the BRI within the circles of American foreign policy. Nonetheless, many have understood that the initiative can bring around potential complementarities between the BRI or the AIIB and America’s preferred institutions and frameworks. China’s emergence in numerous fields, among them innovation and R&D showcase that the BRI is a very serious project that does possess the potential to create mutually beneficial situations for all stakeholders. China’s diplomatic success, despite its potential to diminish US American military presence in the region, can also be very beneficial globally.
Viewing peace as preferable to war might save the US much money for maintaining expensive military bases and open new opportunities for the transfer of knowledge and capital. Especially against the background of the Arab World’s structural challenges, China’s BRI can serve as an impeccable chance, provided that the Arab countries utilize their resources more efficiently. Provided that all stakeholders are interested in a mutually beneficial outcome from the current tendency, we can concluded that the Middle East is facing the unique opportunity to open a new chapter in its history. Development is the crucial aspect for the region’s future. In a transnationalized system, it is difficult for developing Arab countries to engage with the global economy outside of their core exports, which are usually energy. Countries must focus on developing their national economies and to create internal demand, and the BRI’s development formula might offer this opportunity if it softens the attached strings. If the Middle East and the rest of the world can restore their domestic developments, everyone will benefit. This essay did not dive into the analysis of globalized financial markets, but as it was mentioned, transnational globalization, the failing economies and the rising global debt does not promise to pave the way for a desirable future. Western collaboration with China and its BRI promises to bring economic benefits while allowing them to enter a process at a time when it still can be reshaped and influenced. If the Western actors worry about the extent to which the BRI is in accordance to Western values, why not joining the initiative now and shaping it according to their needs?
Considering that the initiative relies on a peaceful Middle East and taking the high military expenditures for wars in and around the Middle East into account, some of these expenditures could be diverted into this project. This could also help convincing China to help protect the USD as a mutually beneficial strategy. The future should not be about hegemonic contestations, but about international cooperation that provides mutual benefits for all parties. The US is vital in this future, and so are Russia, China, and the Middle East.
Serving as a future hub for communication, mediation and organization of global transactions and trade, and based on the resourcefulness of oil and gas, the Arab World can begin to efficiently foster its framework of regional integration and allow for spill-over effects to strengthen the Arab League and to allow for intra-Arabic growth and cooperation, entering a path of pacification and wealth in the lands of 1001 nights.