Krahl, Daniel: East of Suez : China’s Role in the Middle East (2003-2013). - Bonn, 2019. - Dissertation, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn.
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author = {{Daniel Krahl}},
title = {East of Suez : China’s Role in the Middle East (2003-2013)},
school = {Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn},
year = 2019,
month = mar,

note = {The focus of this study is to understand the process of regional role formation and if and how China’s regional economic presence and its global ‘rise’ are transmitted into a regional political role.
Today, China is becoming more economically involved in nearly all regions of the world and this often leads observers to conclude that China is becoming a ‘global power’ or a ‘superpower’. What this assumption often overlooks, is how this is new presence of China is perceived by regional states, and if and how this regional perception feeds back into China’s thinking about its own role. If the economic capabilities are not the only decisive factor in attributing or choosing foreign policy roles, then the puzzle should be why certain states chose certain roles, or are attributed certain roles, even if their capabilities would allow them alternative ones.
Two theoretical concepts will be used in this study to help us understand how China is evolving as an international actor. First, the concept of ‘role’ as described in constructivist role theory, as a pattern of behaviour that limits and enables the behaviour of international actors, and second, the ‘region’, in a constructivist sense as a Regional Security Complex (RSC), as the constitutive arena in which roles of actors are formed in a discursive process. China’s role in the Middle East therefore is less a function of its growing capabilities, and more a result of socialization between China and Middle Eastern countries.
Distinguishing four different levels of discourses has been a useful analytical framework as it enables us to understand the different perspectives of China, the regional debate, the Saudi, Emirati and Egyptian domestic discourses and those of the other international actors. While it remains difficult to clearly delimit the different levels, especially the regional and the domestic level, it still allows us to identify the three main findings: The ‘knowledge gap’ between China and the Arab states; substantial differences in the framing of political identity and roles; and most importantly the differing role conceptions and expectations between China and the Arab states, which in turn are a result of both knowledge gap and cultural differences.
The historical roles ascribed to external powers in the Middle Eastern RSC differ fundamentally from the Chinese historical experience. While ‘anti-imperialist’ rhetoric is used in the Middle East as frequently as in China, outside intervention has been a permanent characteristic of the Middle Eastern RSC.
In the Chinese debate before the Arab Spring, the Middle East also had the role of an ideological ally as the only region in the world where there is no functioning democracy, and a good argument for the concept of political order being based on culture. With the Arab Spring, the Chinese perception changed and the Middle East was now seen even more as a source of instability and danger to the Chinese domestic order. China tried to counter this threat in its debate by focusing on the causes of the Arab Spring as typically Arab and emphasizing that the Chinese political system has been more effective in meting its people’s needs.
Accordingly, from 2013 onwards China actively tried to address its role conflict in the Middle East and Xi Jinping substantiated China’s willingness for a role change in October 2013 by publicising the ‘One Belt –One Road’ framework, now named ‚Belt and Road Initiative‘ not only as a revival of the old silk road, but more importatnly as an attempt to negotiate China‘s new roles – globally and in the Middle East.},

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