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When a Sleeping Giant Wakes – A Neoclassical Realist Analysis of China’s Expanding Ties in the Middle East

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Between 1949 and the late 1970s, interactions between China (PRC) and Middle Eastern nations were limited. After China started to implement economic reforms in 1978, however, the country opened up to the global economy in general and the Middle East in particular. Since the 1980s, the new Chinese economic dynamic, as a result of its economic reforms, has significantly increased China’s footprint in the region. China’s distinct approach has been to secure access to natural resources and new markets while, at the same time, making sure not to get bogged down in the Middle East’s political conflicts. However, as we argue in this paper, China’s role has by now become so prominent that it will be increasingly difficult for China to maintain its low-profile role. By analyzing the development of China’s role in the region generally as well as its specific relations to Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Israel, we conclude that China is likely to become a more active player in the region.

Affiliations: 1: Maltepe University, Department of Political and Science and International Relations, Marmara Eğitim Köyü, 34857 Maltepe/İstanbul – Turkey, ; 2: University of Durham, School of Government and International Affairs, The Al-Qasimi Building, Elvet Hill Road, Durham DH1 3TU, UK,


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