US-Chinese rivalry is forcing Gulf Arab states to make impossible choices, UAE’s Anwar Gargash told World Policy Conference
ABU DHABI: Economic and strategic competition between the United States and China is putting enormous pressure on the Gulf Arab states, a senior UAE official told delegates on the second day of the 14th World Political Conference in Abu Dhabi.
Anwar Gargash, UAE presidential diplomatic adviser and former minister of state for foreign affairs, said geopolitical rivalry is forcing countries in the region to make impossible choices regarding their strategic and trade partnerships.
Gargash urged the international community to speak out against such pressures and not become pawns in a new cold war. “I think if this message gets to the Chinese, Americans and others, I think it will, in itself, create what I would call a moral collective,” he said on Saturday.
“We are all very worried that a cold war is imminent. This is bad news for all of us because the idea of choosing is problematic in the international system, and I think it will not be an easy task. “
The United Arab Emirates and other Gulf Arab countries have long been close allies of the United States. However, China has since emerged as a powerful economic player in the region and its thirst for crude oil has made it the biggest buyer in the Gulf, putting countries like the United Arab Emirates in a dilemma.
“It will be a big challenge for all of us,” Gargash said. “For us here in the United Arab Emirates, the United States is our predominant strategic partner, but China is our number one or two economic partner – along with India.”
Although the Chinese offer lucrative opportunities for trade and business partnerships, Gargash hinted that the UAE sees the Americans as a more transparent strategic ally.
“China will continue to be extremely important,” Gargash said. “While America’s direction is something you can glean from various readings, lectures, and discussions, the understanding of China’s direction, I think, is more opaque. “
What started as a trade war over China’s economic policies has since evolved into a clash between different ideologies, leading to growing tensions in the South China Sea and schisms between the United States and its traditional European allies.
Bilateral relations between the United States and China fell in 2018 when then-President Donald Trump imposed punitive tariffs on China. This was followed by restrictions on China’s access to U.S. technology products and foreign investment involving security concerns, and allegations of unfair Chinese trade practices.
President Joe Biden has since amplified the policies of his predecessor by strengthening anti-China alliances and implementing additional sanctions. Borrowing from the Cold War playbook, Biden characterized the US-China conflict as “a battle between the usefulness of 21st century democracies and autocracies.”
Analysts believe US-China tensions are driven less by economic realities than by great power rivalries – exacerbated by mutual mistrust of each other’s strategic goals.
Gargash highlighted the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on international affairs, saying it demonstrates the need for greater cooperation rather than confrontation.
“We really see several dimensions of the changes in the international system,” he said. “I think that, on the one hand, the pandemic shows very very clearly that our geostrategic priorities must not only be political… but that they can concern other problems.
“It will take, in fact, from all of us, an understanding… that confrontation is not the way to go, and that communication is the way to go.
“This does not mean that we will be able to change Iran’s perception of its role in the region, or Turkey’s perception of its role in the region, or the way we see the Arab world and how it should return to. a more vibrant regional region. system. But at the same time, I think we also have to understand that it is extremely important to avoid confrontations. “