China-led multilateral initiatives are increasingly becoming attractive platforms for Middle Eastern countries. An emerging general consensus is that joining organizations like the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is essential for their economic and political diversification strategies. As in the case of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), there is nearly unanimous support for China’s new global initiatives.
In addition to establishing a mutually beneficial cooperation framework, this broad regional support markedly underlines China’s growing influence in the Middle East. It also shows regional states’ readiness to support Beijing’s core interests in other organizations, such as the UN and the G20, as well as an increasing alignment on preferences for a multipolar global order.
Due to concerns over the perceived de-prioritizing of the Middle East by the US and its European allies, regional states have adopted a transactional foreign policy that is driven by national interests and based on balancing and hedging between the two superpowers, while embracing multilateralism on both sides. Declining US influence and the absence of Western multilateral alternatives, made joining China-led organizations a strategic objective – despite their flaws. No country in the Middle East sees great power competition in binary terms. Western and China-led multilateral organizations are, and will continue to be, the only way for the Middle East to balance between the two powers.
The event will be held on the record and will be livestreamed on the MENA Programme’s Facebook page.