I agree with Francesco that it will be a while before China is in a position to play a decisive role in the Middle East, despite the power vacuum created by the withdrawal of Europe and the U.S. However, I would make the following points:
It is quite inaccurate to refer to Oman as a “satellite of Iran”. The Omanis are trying to balance their geographic position and their geopolitical interests between the GCC and Iran but ultimate loyalty is to the GCC (unlike Qatar unless under Saudi duress).
The principal interests of China in the Middle East are two-fold: stability because of oil supply and support for its new economic policy of emphasis on hi-tech. In terms of the first, there is a strict limit for the time being on what China can do. Its diplomatic statecraft depends on the other elements of its projection of power. Militarily it is too far away to be significant as yet. Financially/economically it is dealing in part with countries with financial reserves to rival its own–some mere pinpricks on the map.
On its other priority, however, there is only one country of interest to China in the Middle East–Israel, and China is pursuing its technological interests in Israel with enormous vigor. Israel is even more important to China in this respect because investments and joint ventures do not come with the security baggage which comes along with attempts to collaborate or purchase U.S. tech companies.
Oil can be obtained in a large number of places–hi-tech for all practical purposes in only one.
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Categories: Chatham House Rules