In December 2022, Chinese President Xi Jinping travelled to Riyadh for the first summit between China and GCC leaders, officially sealing what has become a strategic partnership in just a few years. Oil and gas exports to China remain the backbone of economic relations between the GCC and China, but these have deepened and diversified over time. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are China's most important partners in the GCC and have received the bulk of Chinese investment and awarded large construction contracts – mainly for industrial parks and port facilities – to Chinese companies. The GCC countries' "visions" of transforming their economies away from fossil fuels and China's "Belt and Road Initiative" a strategy to achieve economic opportunities and political influence abroad have led to a classic "win-win" situation between the two sides. So far, China has shied away from challenging the US as the main security provider in the region but has started supplying arms to its main partners Saudi Arabia and the UAe, which want to hedge against a possible US withdrawal from the region. China is trying to reconcile its relations with the GCC countries with its relations with Iran, the arch-enemy of the Arab states. It is doubtful whether this can work in the long run and whether China can avoid becoming embroiled in the various conflicts in the region. The US-Chinese rivalry could endanger the fragile stability in the region.
Heinrich Kreft is a German career diplomat and academic. Since September 2020 he is the Director of the Center for Diplomacy at Andrássy University in Budapest, Hungary, where he also holds the Chair for Diplomacy and is directing the International Relations and european Studies program. He has published extensively on major power political and economic relations; on international security; the Arab world; european, American and Asian political and economic affairs. Most recent publications on US-China relations; transatlantic relations; Islam in Germany; geopolitics and culture and on German and european foreign policy after Russia´s attack on Ukraine.
The latest developments in Sino-Gulf relations marked the opening of a new period. China aspires to use the current geopolitical situation in the Gulf as a bandwagon to get the GCC states behind its policies. Nevertheless, disagreements among the Gulf states continue to hinder China’s aspirations. There are significant divergences in foreign policy approaches between the GCC states. Therefore, a common Gulf foreign policy position towards China is more complex than it seems.
Mordechai Chaziza is a senior lecturer at the Department of Politics and Governance and the division of Multidisciplinary Studies in Social Science at Ashkelon Academic College, Israel. Dr. Chaziza also holds a Ph.D. from Bar-Ilan University. His research focuses on China-Middle East and North African relations.
Over the past years, the countries of the GCC have become more and more relevant in various theaters but, as a result of these dynamics, the organisation got weaker, burdened by increasing internal problems. This article aims to investigate why and how Gulf countries have become more active on the global stage and the impact of this greater strategic autonomy on the GCC as an organisation. The main argument is that this greater strategic autonomy is a result of systemic changes in the Gulf Regional Security Complex, namely the end of the American external hegemony. This autonomy has led to an increasing geopolitical discrepancy between some members of the organization and a greater assertiveness in their foreign policy approaches – as shown in the case of the Arab Spring, but which ended up weakening the GCC. The loose institutional arrangements on which the GCC was built also allowed for these differences to emerge more sharply, leading to what is as "organisational cacophony" and resulting in an overall weakening of the organisation, with the 2017 blockade being the culmination of these dynamics.
Dario Cristiani ia Resident Senior Fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) in Washington D.C., working on Italian foreign policy, Mediterranean Security, Terrorism, and Global Politics. He received his Ph.D. in Middle East & Mediterranean Studies from King’s College London in 2015 and has previously lived in Italy, the UK, Turkey, Belgium and Tunisia.
Gulf sovereign wealth funds (SwFs), large state-owned investment funds, have historically been known as quiet global investors deploying capital through a long-term approach, mainly in western financial markets. More recently, however, Gulf ruling elites have been leveraging them to proactively drive nation-building projects, deepen strategic international partnerships and claim a more prominent role on the world stage. why is that the case? The article argues that Gulf SwFs are now pivotal agents in the region’s shifting international politics. A new generation of leaders is using them to pursue elite-based interests and economic development goals that induce deeper economic and political influence in a regional sphere of influence. They also drive Gulf governments' attempts to boost alternative revenue streams through significant investments in disruptive technologies and low-carbon projects, simultaneously expanding the rentier monarchies' international reach beyond their role as fossil fuel producers. The article delineates the rise of SwFs as alternative mechanisms of regime maintenance; they enable incumbent elites to advance foreign policy ambitions and maintain shared expectations about the appropriate organisation of a political economy by harnessing the impending energy transition and the impact of the climate crisis.
Alexis Montambault-Trudelle is pursuing his Ph.D. at the University of edinburgh. His research focuses on Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund to explore the effects of internal political dynamics on sovereign wealth management. He investigates how intra-elite dynamics, regime structures and state-society relations in the post-2015 Saudi political landscape shape the sovereign wealth fund's institutional design and behaviour, whether in the kingdom or across the global financial market. He is particularly interested in the political economy of Gulf states and the multiple facets surrounding the relationship between states and the financial market.
A major change in Saudi Arabia’s international profile has been the much greater role assigned to its sovereign wealth fund. Certainly, in the past few years the Public Investment Fund has been substantially reconfigured, effectively supplementing its more traditional regional investments with fresh focus on strategic stakes and ventures in the US and other key foreign states. After outlining the PIF’s current decision-making structures and strategy overview, this article explores some of the fund’s most notable recent investments, also addressing key issues and concerns.
Christopher Davidson is a former reader in Middle East politics at Durham University, a former visiting associate professor at Kyoto University in Japan, and a former assistant professor at Zayed University in the UAE. His books include From Sheikhs to Sultanism: Statecraft and Authority in Saudi Arabia and the UAE and Shadow Wars: The Secret Struggle for the Middle East. In 2022 he served as the US Department of Justice’s expert on the politics of the Gulf monarchies, with reference to national security and foreign influence operations.
The 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal significantly altered the Middle east’s geopolitical landscape, resulting in a shared security threat and increased cooperation between Israel and moderate Gulf states. The turning point of this Arab-Israel rapprochement was the Abraham Accords of 2020, which marked the normalisation of ties and new strategic partnership between Israel, the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco. The implications, changes and challenges, as well as potential for other countries to join the peace circle, is explored.
Jonathan Ghariani recently completed his doctorate at the University College london, in Hebrew and Jewish Studies . His thesis focused on the diplomatic history of Arab-Israeli relations and geopolitical negotiations. He holds a master's degree in Security and Diplomacy at Tel Aviv University, Israel and a bachelor's degree in Government Diplomacy and Strategy from IDC Herzliya. Ghariani has also completed internships at the Institute for National Security Studies and at the Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies. Most recently, he was a visiting scholar at the Azrieli Institute of Israel Studies at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada,
where he spoke and published his research on Israel’s historical relations with Morocco and Oman.
Kristian Coates Ulrichsen
This essay examines how Qatar’s international relations are changing as the decade of regional rivalries which followed the Arab uprisings in 2011 gives way to an era characterised by great power competition, which presents new challenges as well as opportunities for states such as Qatar and its neighbours. An opening section provides an overview of the rifts among the Gulf States that formed a near-constant backdrop to most of the 2010s and only came to an end in 2020. This leads into a second section which examines the pace and depth of Gulf states’ reconciliation in the two years since the signing of the Al-Ula Declaration in Saudi Arabia on 5 January 2021. A third section analyses how Qatar is balancing international relationships and picking a path through the growing polarisation of global geopolitics and ends by looking ahead and assessing how Qatar’s international relations may further evolve.
Kristian Coates Ulrichsen is a fellow for the Middle east at the Baker Institute. His research examines the changing position of the Gulf states in the global order, as well as the emergence of longer-term, non-military challenges to regional security.
Two and a half years after their signing, rather than the historical breakthrough President Trump presented, the Abraham Accords appear a somewhat contradictory work in progress. If, on the one hand, they promoted greater integration among the signatories, they did not prove the expected rallying point nor really tackled the Middle east’s many political and security problems. In March 2022, the establishment of the Negev Forum raised new expectations, but its impact is still to assess. At the same time, the weakening of the US role hampers the possibility washington could provide the process with clear guidance and leave the regional actors large room for manoeuvre.
Gianluca Pastori is Associate Professor, History of political relations between North America and europe, Faculty of Political and Social Sciences, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milano, Italy. In the same Faculty, he also teaches International History (Milano), and History of the international relations and institutions (Brescia). He is author or editor of several books and essays on the history of international relations, security issues and military history.
Vakur Sümer and Ayşegül Kibaroğlu
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is suffering from varying degrees of a water crisis. While the region’s water challenge is an enduring one, new problems add layers of complexity and perhaps fragility and instability. Meeting the water challenge requires a better governance of water resources, both internal and transboundary; with a view to constantly renewing the infrastructure and adopting modern technologies. Improved water management, in turn, will contribute to the amelioration of the existing conflicts in the region whether local, country-based or regional.
Vakur Sümer is Director of the Eurasian research Institute, Hoca Akhmet Yassawi University, Almaty, Kazakhstan. He is also Associate Professor at the selcuk University’s Department of International relations in Konya, Turkey. His research interests include environmental policies and law in Turkey and crossborder cooperation on those matters.
Ayşegül Kibaroğlu is Professor at the Department of Political science and International relations, MEF University. Her research focuses on the role of water management in transboundary and international contexts.
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is one of the most vulnerable to climate change,
with implications for already high levels of water stress, food insecurity, and forced displacement,
among others. Confronting these challenges requires a multi-faceted approach. roadmaps to
do so tend to focus on issues related to food systems, water management, energy use, how to
create climate-smart cities, and how to provide sustainable financing for climate action. These are
key priorities, but education to climate change should also be considered as a priority. Based on
research by UNEsCO, this article analyses the extent to which MENA countries have integrated
climate change education in their national curricula. Challenges faced by teachers in educating
students to climate change are documented. Finally, examples of initiatives taken in MENA
countries are shared. Overall, the MENA region may be lagging other regions, but there are also
some bright spots.
Quentin Wodon is Director of UNEsCO’s International Institute for Capacity Building in Africa. Previously, he worked at the World Bank, including as lead Economist, lead Poverty specialist, and manager of the unit on values and development. Before that, he taught with tenure at the University of Namur. He also taught at American University and Georgetown University. He holds four PhDs, has over 700 publications, and has held leadership positions with multiple nonprofits as part of his volunteer work. His research has been covered by leading news media globally.
Martin Paul Jr. Tabe-Ojong
Martin Paul Jr. Tabe-Ojong is a Development Economist and works as an Associate research Fellow at the Development, strategy, and Governance Division of the International Food Policy research Institute (IFPrI), and is based in Cairo, Egypt. Passionate about international development, poverty reduction, and shared prosperity, his research focuses on selected strands in development, agricultural and behavioural economics using econometric impact evaluation. Previously, he has worked on issues covering agricultural transformation and rural development as well as aspirations and rural poverty. His ongoing work includes climate change adaptation, food security, social protection and labour market outcomes, digitalisation in agriculture, and socioemotional skills. Martin holds a Ph.D. in Agricultural Economics from the University of Bonn, Germany. He also holds an Msc in Agricultural and Food Economics from the same university where he was awarded the Hans H ruthenberg award for an excellent thesis from the Foundation Fiat Panis in 2019. He has advised and consulted for the World Bank, World Fish, ICrIsAT, the German Development Institute, Global Crop Diversity Trust, and, the Alliance for Bioversity and CIAT. He is highly skilled at data collection through household surveys with fieldwork and research stays in Cameroon, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Ghana, Egypt, and Cote d'Ivoire.
Manfred A. Lange
The MENA region is plagued by extremely hot and dry summers and extended warm spells and
the region is known as a “climate change hot spot”. results of numerical climate models indicate
heat waves lasting up to 90 days with temperauterers of more than 50° C in the late 21st century.
Enhanced warming in larger cities lead to outside conditions that become unbearable and pose
extreme risks to human health. Decreases in precipitation are enhanced through heat-related
processes and result in extreme water scarcity. Effective adaptation strategies that reduce the
risks to human communities and natural ecosystems rely on established methods in the framework
of a Water-, Energy- and Food-Nexus.
Manfred A. Lange is the Director of the Future Earth MENA regional Center and serves on the steering Committee of MedECC. Previously he was Director of the Arctic Center in rovaniemi, Finland (1992-1995), Professor of Geophysics at the University of Münster in Germany (1995-2007) and the founding Director of the Energy, Environment and Water research Center at the Cyprus Institute in Nicosia, Cyprus (2007-2015). He His research includes the assessment of climate change impacts with a focus on water- and energy security, renewable energy sources and energy- and water use efficiency in the built environment.
Farah Al Qawasmi
Climate change is an increasingly manifested topic on the table of international dialogue, and the state of Qatar has been no stranger to this. In 2008, the country developed a strategic plan called “Qatar National Vision 2030,” through which it emphasised the strategies of its environmental pillar alongside its evidently changing environmental policies. Although it is a small, developing country, Qatar is amongst the largest emitters of CO2 and greenhouse gases, and has the highest C02 emissions per capita worldwide. In 2005, Qatar decided to improve its negative environmental impact and signed the KYOTO protocol. subsequently, Qatar has had a longstanding commitment to rationing state and consumer behaviour. The impact of climate change is grave for the world, and for Qatar specifically as it lacks natural resources such as water and fertile land and is situated in a geologically challenging region. In light of this, combined with growing economic and state developmental projects, Qatar finds itself stuck between the crossfire of a weak environmental state but an ambitiously growing economy with projects that could pose harmful environmental consequences both locally and internationally. Therefore, this article will adopt Qatar as a case study and present the effects of climate change. It will investigate the strategies and policies that Qatar has formulated and is currently developing and applying in order to achieve its mission of reducing the effects of climate change locally and internationally.
Farah Al Qawasmi is a researcher at the Gulf studies Center. she received her undergraduate degree from Georgetown’s school of Foreign service in Doha with a degree in International Politics. she continued her studies at sOAs, the University of london, where she pursued a Master of science degree in Cooperate Globalization and Development. Her research interests include water and food security, politics, and socio-economic development in the Gulf and MENA region.
Muhammad Zulfikar Rakhmat and Diwangkara Bagus Nugraha
In recent decades, the relationship between Indonesia and the GCC countries havs made
significant strides, including on the political, security, economic and socio-cultural fronts. Energy
has been the bedrock of Indonesia-GCC economic engagements. While this has been dominated
by fossil energy, they are increasingly moving towards renewable energy and mutual efforts to
combat climate change. Even though the cooperation is still at an early stage, this paper aims
to examine the development of climate cooperation between Indonesia and the GCC countries,
with the objective of providing policy-oriented suggestions that the two sides can take to develop
Muhammad Zulfikar Rakhmat is a research professor at the Korea Institute for ASEAN studies, Busan University of studies, and an assistant professor at Universitas Islam Indonesia. He is also affiliated with the Middle East Institute, National University of singapore. He received his B.A. in International Affairs from Qatar University, before completing M.A. and Ph.D from the University of Manchester, UK. His research focuses on China-Indonesia-Middle East relations.
Diwangkara Bagus Nugraha is a sustainable energy researcher focusing on southeast Asia. He is currently pursuing a master’s degree in sustainability Management at the University of Agder, Norway, and Universitas Gadjah Mada, Indonesia. Previously, he obtained his M.sc. in Advanced Electrical Engineering from the University of Manchester, UK.