We can work on University of California Jacques Rousseaus Contributions to Realist Thought Discussion – Assignment Help

I’m trying to study for my Political Science course and I need some help to understand this question. Go to redshelf.com (i will provide credentials) and answer these questions below: Chapter 8 CPA 7 Define raison d’état (25 words or less). What are Jacques Rousseau’s contributions to realist thought? What are the main differences betweenRead more about We can work on University of California Jacques Rousseaus Contributions to Realist Thought Discussion – Assignment Help[…]

We can work on FUTURE IMPACT OF BELT AND ROAD INITIATIVE IN THE MIDDLE EAST CHAPTER 4: FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION This chapter contains a discussion of the findings of the study alongside a critical discussion of the findings. The discussion of the study’s findings is designed to help link the findings to the literature as was reviewed and presented in Chapter 2. Overview of Research Aim and Objectives At this point, it is worth reiterating that this study aimed to comprehend the future implications of the OBOR initiative in the Middle East through the lenses of international relations and politics. Its objectives were (1) To examine the interests advanced by China’s One Belt One Road Initiative in the Middle East; (2) To assess the economic and political instruments used by China in the Middles East under the One Belt One Road Initiative; (3) To examine whether China’s responding to domestic and international political considerations under OBOR initiative; and (4) To use the realism school of thought to analyse whether China is advancing national interests using One Belt One Road Initiative and the likely outcomes as well as the political and economic roles that China is likely to play in the future of the Middle East. China’s Growing Role and Influence in the Middle East In order to better understand the likely impacts of OBOR on the Middle East has to be commensurate with appreciating the fact that through OBOR, China has significantly stepped up its presence and influence in the Middle East. This has the implication that even if OBOR achieves nothing else in the Middle, it will definitely help improve relations between China and various Middle Eastern countries. In fact, China’s OBOR has already begun having such effects, with several countries in the Middle East already having forged closer working ties with Beijing (Küçükcan, 2017). Therefore, the question no longer ought to be if China cab foster closer working relations with Middle Eastern countries but the nature of these relations and their implications for the specific countries concerned and the Middle East as a whole. In this regard, China has managed to develop working relations, both in the economic and political sense, with several countries in the Middle East some of which are on different sides of the regional political divide (Scobell & Nader, 2016). The expectation is that over time, China is likely to leverage on its OBOR projects to extent its presence deepen its influence in the region. At this point, it is important to mention that for many years, the Middle East has been one of the regions of the world where China has remained fairly inactive. This has been mainly because the US and to some extent Russia have been the main major powers actively involved in the Middle East (Küçükcan, 2017). This must have promoted or compelled Beijing to stay back in order to avoid unnecessary confrontation with these two powers and especially with the US. After all, there has not been much at stake for China in the Middle East at least until China emerged as a major economic and political power. With its newfound position of the world’s second largest economy, China has a lot to lose if it does not seek to become actively involved in the economic affairs of the Middle East. This could in turn explain why it has finally chosen to make the all-important move into the Middle East and sort of fight for its position in this geopolitically and economically important region. Rather than wait and hope for US influence in the Middle East to wane as it has been doing in the recent past, China may have decided to directly take on the US. After all, there can be no telling if US influence in the Middle East will in deed wane. While it may be true that the US – especially under Donald Trump, has become less involved and seemingly less interested in the Middle East compared to the years prior, this may represent personal choices by the Donald Trump rather than official US policy. No doubt understanding this, China has chosen to move into the Middle East and chart its own courser. OBOR is in this regard an important instrument being used to deepen Chinese influence in the Middle East. Economic Impacts of OBOR in the Middle East One of the areas where OBOR could have sig infant implications for the Middle East is the economy. In this regard, China has been able to use OBOR to foster closer working relations with Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and even Israel. Specifically, China’s investment and in and trade with these countries has increased significantly in the recent past and especially as a result of OBOR. This is in line with OBOR’s mission and objective which, at least from China’s perspective, seeks to foster greater connectivity between the Middle East and China, Africa, and Europe by boosting economic growth. In this regard, energy is particularly important in this relationship, and OBOR plays the role of facilitating energy cooperation and trade between the major oil producers in the Middle East and China (Küçükcan, 2017). This is where Saudi Arabia and Iran come into play. Although the two countries are sworn ideological enemies with Iran being an enemy of the US while Saudi is a close ally of the US, both are allies of China in this regard. This has created a somewhat complicated situation for the two countries with each one choosing to relate with China differently and independent of how China deals or relates to the other (Fulton, 2017a). Therefore, it can be argued that even though the entire Middle East is bound to benefit from OBOR, the greatest beneficiaries seem to be the major oil exporters which are using OBOR as the main channel to transport their oil and gas exports to China. This way, OBOR could be said to be a major boost for the Middle East’s energy security because it has effectively helped cement its market in China. This is especially so given that China is a large importer of oil and other energy resources required to furl its larger and growing manufacturing sector. Therefore, the major oil exporting countries of the Middle East namely Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait, and Iraq (among others) find OBOR to be a means of strengthening their energy security (Kamel, 2018). This is especially important at a time when oil prices have been declining especially in the wake of increased production of alternative sources of fuel in the US and the COVID-19 pandemic. The more the US has been able to produce its own oil largely from non-fossil sources the lesser its dependence on Middle Eastern energy has become in the recent past. As such, it has always been in the best interests of the major oil-producing countries in the Middle East to have another large market; and China has become that market (Shichor, 2017). As the world’s second-largest economy and one that is almost totally dependent on energy imports, China provides the Middle Eastern energy producer with a ready and fairly secure market that compensates for the loss of the US market. To get this oil to China, transportation by sea is required; and this is why OBOR comes in handy. The maritime roads envisaged by China offers the rich Gulf States and Israel the opportunity to safely transport their energy to China. Therefore, OBOR has both short-term and long-term energy security goals for both China and the energy-exporting countries in the Middle East (Kamel, 2018). This is in line with the realist school of thought that provides that states act in a self-interested manner (Ehteshami & Horesh, 2017). If it was not for their self-interests, most of the major oil-producing countries in the Middle East would not have agreed to support OBOR in the first place because many perceive China as a potential threat to their geopolitical security. China’s expansionist tendencies (especially in the South China Sea) and its claims over Taiwan have served portrayed nit as a country with regional and global hegemonic interests (Osman, 2017). Therefore, many Middle Eastern countries are possibly wary of China which to them could as well be using OBOR as a geopolitical tool to extend its influence in the Middle East and in doing so undermine other major powers in the region such as Russia and the US. However, their self-interests in terms of oil and economic issues have compelled them to embrace OBOR despite these concerns. Specifically, economic interests associated with a relatively secure energy market in China have made even the most sworn enemies of each other (such as Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar) support OBOR (Fulton, 2017a). This is a classic case of states setting aside their traditional differences and in favour of advancing their economic interests. As has just been noted, the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to have far-reaching implications for OBOR’s effects on the Middle East. Of interest is the fact that China’s economy has been negatively affected by the pandemic with China’s economic growth declining significantly (Ghazal, 2019). Among other issues, the lockdown announced by different countries in the world, including China, have significantly hampered (or restricted) normal economic activities. In China, air travel and manufacturing have been among the worst hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and this has led to reduced demand for oil in China. Therefore, the major oil-exporting countries from the Middle East have had their economies shrinking owing to reduced demand for oil especially by China (Fulton, 2017b). From Economic Interests to Security Issues For all the benefits that the aforementioned countries in the Middle East are getting – or are bound to get – from China, there is a cost to pay. The more China gets economically involved with Middle Eastern countries through OBOR the more likely it is that it will also use the opportunity to advance geopolitical interests (Osman, 2017). If anything, the economic narrative seems to be only advanced by China with most other countries, including those in the Middle East, considering OBOR to be just as much (if not more) about geopolitics as it is about economics. OBOR’s geopolitical effects in the Middle East is especially a significant issue coming at a time when US influence and role in the Middle East seems to be waning. For China, OBOR may just be the opportunity to fill in the geopolitical gap that is being created –inadvertently or deliberately – by the US (Ehteshami & Horesh, 2017). The exact manner in which this is affecting (or is likely to affect) Middle countries in the Middle East is not yet clear because it is not yet clear the extent to which OBOR will be implemented (Xuming, 2018). If fully implemented, the geopolitical implications for the Middle East will be greater than if OBOR is only partially implemented. However, it is evident that the economic interests that the Middle East derives from OBOR could overshadow any security concerns they may have. Moreover, several countries in the Middle East have over time become increasingly distrustful of the US and its security policies in the region (Harding, 2019). In the wake of the US’s reluctance to get actively involved in major conflicts in the region such as the Syrian Civil War and the blockade of Qatar by the so-called Arab Quartet, it is becoming difficult for countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar to rely fully on the US for their future security (Osman, 2017). Both the Saudis and the Qataris would have expected the US, as an ally, to support them in the crisis involving the blockade of Qatar as well as in the Syrian conflict. However, the apparent neural position of the US could be a cause for concern. Therefore, these countries may just be happy having China as another possible security partner. For them, it seems not to matter much the real identity of their security allies as long as they are powerful enough both militarily and economically. China just happens to be one such country that offers Middle Eastern countries with both economic and security benefits (Osman, 2017). As would be expected, Middle Eastern countries opposed to each other would have preferred that China related with them and not with their enemy states (Harding, 2019). For instance, Israel and Saudi Arabia would have wished that China’s OBOR did not include Iran while Iran and the Palestinians may have wished that OBOR left out Saudi Arabia and Israel. Qatar may also have wished that all the so-called Arab Quartet was left out of OBOR. This is mainly because these countries find themselves on different sides of the ideological and political divide in the region and some of them have sworn to annihilate others (Ghazal, 2019). In this regard, OBOR could be perceived as a unifying factor that effectively deescalates long-running political conflicts and tensions in the region such as that pitting Israel against the Palestinians, Iran against Israel, Iran against Saudi Arabia, and Saudi Arabia against Qatar. The fact that these countries have chosen to work with China through OBOR means that they consider economic interests to exceed and be of greater importance than their historical political and ideological differences (Osman, 2017). Iran, in particular, is bound to benefit the most from OBOR in that the project raises the profile and strategic significance of the Suez Canal. Therefore, Iran is likely to have significant bargaining power be in the region because any safe shipping via the Suez Canal and the wider Persian Gulf will greatly depend on Iranian security. This could, in turn, make more countries in the region to refrain from any actions that would upset Tehran lest their shipping jeopardised (Ehteshami & Horesh, 2017). Even the US and the EU may in the future want to reconsider their Iranian foreign policy because antagonising Iran in the future may prove costly to Western shipping throughout the Persian Gulf. Regionally, this may undermine Saudi Arabia’s legitimacy and position as the leader of the region, a position which has always been contested between the Iranians and the Saudis. A geopolitically weaker Saudi Arabia may, in turn, mean a more emboldened Qatar, Syria, and Yemen, and this could significantly alter the geopolitical and ideological landscape of the entire Middle East. It is also possible that as the strategic importance of the Suez Canal increases and that of other logistics hubs in the Middle East and Central Asia decline as a result of OBOR, Iran may become more aggressive especially in its development of nuclear weapons. This may increase tensions between Iran and Hezbollah on one hand and Israel and the US on the other. The Palestinians are most likely to align themselves with Iran; and this could explain why Palestinians are mostly in support of OBOR (Reardon-Anderson, 2018). At the very least, OBOR is set to reinvent even reignite the Israel-Palestinian conflict when Palestinians feel more empowered as a result of Iran becoming a more powerful and influential actor in the region. Therefore, it can be argued that to a large extent, OBOR is an effort to build and deepen mutually beneficial, positive-sum economic development ties. However, it could also be regarded as a vehicle through which China seeks to strengthen its security situation and political influence in the Middle East along its strategically important periphery (Xuming, 2018). Through OBOR the influence of the US in the Middle East is likely to decline while Chinese influence is likely to increase. This is in turn likely to have far-reaching implications for the Middle Eastern countries whose security has traditionally been defined by Washington. Through OBOR, China has been able – and will continue being able – to counter American influence in the Middle East because the project is more of a “China dream” that has been designed to help restore enthusiasm and optimism about the future of the country, especially among its younger generations. This “socialist China dream” strongly emphasizes the need to make China “powerful and strong” again and not necessarily economically prosperous and free (as espoused by the American dream) (Ferdinand, 2016). This is where the Middle East comes into play as it will be – or has already become – the battleground between China and the US in their endeavour to exert their hegemony and manifest their power. While the economic power has already been manifested in more overt ways, China’s political power is only being covertly expressed and displayed through what could be described as soft power (Dorsey, 2018). Countries in the Middle East may soon be compelled by circumstances to choose between aligning themselves with the US or China. So far, many of the countries have managed to embrace Beijing without letting go of the US. Even though this has often angered Washington, these countries do not have much of a choice. In the future, and especially as China’s OBOR project extends across the Middle East, many countries in the region may need to choose between China and the US if they have to continue enjoying the benefits that accrue from the OBOR (Ghazal, 2019). Therefore, strategic geopolitical realignments may become more common in the near future even as China’s OBOR projects became more pervasive in the region. This is in line with Overholt’s (2015) contention that China seeks to use OBOR for economic and geopolitical purposes. In the economic sense, OBOR is designed to help bring in Middle Eastern energy resources while in the geopolitical sense it is a means of expanding China’s shadow over the Middle East (Overholt, 2015). Possible Impact of the COVID-19 While most BRI projects in the Middle East are yet to start, several others have already begun in several countries in the region. In fact, there are countries where sections of the projects have been completed and operationalized. The repayment of loans associated with OBOR projects is likely to become a major challenge for many countries in the Middle East as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. This is mainly because, for most such countries, the pandemic presents an added economic burden that was not planned and budgeted for but that has to be funded (Loayza & Pennings, 2020). Specifically, the sharp decline in oil prices as a result of the pandemic is likely to push many of the major oil-exporting countries to the brink of economic recessions. This will, in turn, make it hard or even impossible for them to repay their OBOR loans or fulfil their other mandates regarding OBOR. Without the steady receive streams that these countries were used to before the outbreak of COVID-19, the situation is set to go from bad to worse. This debt burden may be the very undoing of those countries that are indebted to China because then they will have little choice but to agree to China’s demands. Unfortunately, China might just use such conditions to compel countries in the region to align themselves with it instead of with the US. With most OBOR projects put on hold and the operations of projects that have been completed suspended or delayed indefinitely, revenues are set to decline significantly (Chohan, 2020). In the end, these projects may make immense losses, and this may further make it harder for similar projects to be funded going forward. The result could be making more countries in the Middle East to become more dependent on China and its loans, a situation that could significantly and undermine their sovereignty.   References Chohan, U. W. (2020). Forecasting the Economic Impact of Coronavirus on Developing Countries: Case of Pakistan. Dorsey, J. M. (2018). China and the Middle East: Venturing Into the Maelstrom. Springer. Ehteshami, A., & Horesh, N. (Eds.). (2017). China’s Presence in the Middle East: The Implications of the One Belt, One Road Initiative. Routledge. Ferdinand, P. (2016). Westward ho—the China dream and ‘one belt, one road’: Chinese foreign policy under Xi Jinping. International Affairs, 92(4), 941-957. Fulton, J. (2017a). The GCC Countries and China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI): Curbing Their Enthusiasm?. Middle East Institute, 17. Fulton, J. (2017b). China’s Relations with the Arab Gulf Monarchies: Three Case Studies (Doctoral dissertation, Department of Politics, and International Relations). Fulton, J. (2018). China’s Presence in the Middle East: The Implications of the One Belt, One Road Initiative/The Red Star and the Crescent: China and the Middle East. The Middle East Journal, 72(2), 341-343. Ghazal, M. (2019, April 16). Arab states ‘essential’ for success of One Belt, One Road — experts. Retrieved from Jordan Times: https://www.jordantimes.com/news/local/arab-states-%E2%80%98essential%E2%80%99-success-one-belt-one-road-%E2%80%94-experts Harding, R. (2019, September 20). China’s Belt and Road Initiative and its impact on the Middle East and North Africa. Retrieved from International Banker: https://internationalbanker.com/finance/chinas-belt-and-road-initiative-and-its-impact-on-the-middle-east-and-north-africa/ Kamel, M. S. (2018). China’s Belt and Road Initiative: Implications for the Middle East. Cambridge Review of International Affairs, 31(1), 76-95. Küçükcan, T. (2017). The belt and road initiative and Middle Eastern politics: Challenges ahead. Insight Loayza, N. V., & Pennings, S. (2020). Macroeconomic Policy in the Time of COVID-19: A Primer for Developing Countries. Osman, R. (2017). China’s soft power: an assessment of positive image building in the Middle East (Master’s thesis). Overholt, W. H. (2015). One belt, one road, one pivot. Global Asia, 10(3), 1-8 Reardon-Anderson, J. (2018). The Red Star and the Crescent: China and the Middle East. Oxford University Press. Scobell, A., & Nader, A. (2016). China in the Middle East: the wary dragon. Rand Corporation. Shichor, Y. (2017). Vision, revision, and supervision: The politics of China’s OBOR and AIIB and their implications for the Middle East. In China’s Presence in the Middle East (pp. 38-53). Routledge. Xuming, Q. I. A. N. (2018). “One Belt One Road” Initiative and China and the Middle East Media Exchanges. Journalism, 8(5), 239-245.

FUTURE IMPACT OF BELT AND ROAD INITIATIVE IN THE MIDDLE EAST CHAPTER 4: FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION This chapter contains a discussion of the findings of the study alongside a critical discussion of the findings. The discussion of the study’s findings is designed to help link the findings to the literature as was reviewed and presentedRead more about We can work on FUTURE IMPACT OF BELT AND ROAD INITIATIVE IN THE MIDDLE EAST CHAPTER 4: FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION This chapter contains a discussion of the findings of the study alongside a critical discussion of the findings. The discussion of the study’s findings is designed to help link the findings to the literature as was reviewed and presented in Chapter 2. Overview of Research Aim and Objectives At this point, it is worth reiterating that this study aimed to comprehend the future implications of the OBOR initiative in the Middle East through the lenses of international relations and politics. Its objectives were (1) To examine the interests advanced by China’s One Belt One Road Initiative in the Middle East; (2) To assess the economic and political instruments used by China in the Middles East under the One Belt One Road Initiative; (3) To examine whether China’s responding to domestic and international political considerations under OBOR initiative; and (4) To use the realism school of thought to analyse whether China is advancing national interests using One Belt One Road Initiative and the likely outcomes as well as the political and economic roles that China is likely to play in the future of the Middle East. China’s Growing Role and Influence in the Middle East In order to better understand the likely impacts of OBOR on the Middle East has to be commensurate with appreciating the fact that through OBOR, China has significantly stepped up its presence and influence in the Middle East. This has the implication that even if OBOR achieves nothing else in the Middle, it will definitely help improve relations between China and various Middle Eastern countries. In fact, China’s OBOR has already begun having such effects, with several countries in the Middle East already having forged closer working ties with Beijing (Küçükcan, 2017). Therefore, the question no longer ought to be if China cab foster closer working relations with Middle Eastern countries but the nature of these relations and their implications for the specific countries concerned and the Middle East as a whole. In this regard, China has managed to develop working relations, both in the economic and political sense, with several countries in the Middle East some of which are on different sides of the regional political divide (Scobell & Nader, 2016). The expectation is that over time, China is likely to leverage on its OBOR projects to extent its presence deepen its influence in the region. At this point, it is important to mention that for many years, the Middle East has been one of the regions of the world where China has remained fairly inactive. This has been mainly because the US and to some extent Russia have been the main major powers actively involved in the Middle East (Küçükcan, 2017). This must have promoted or compelled Beijing to stay back in order to avoid unnecessary confrontation with these two powers and especially with the US. After all, there has not been much at stake for China in the Middle East at least until China emerged as a major economic and political power. With its newfound position of the world’s second largest economy, China has a lot to lose if it does not seek to become actively involved in the economic affairs of the Middle East. This could in turn explain why it has finally chosen to make the all-important move into the Middle East and sort of fight for its position in this geopolitically and economically important region. Rather than wait and hope for US influence in the Middle East to wane as it has been doing in the recent past, China may have decided to directly take on the US. After all, there can be no telling if US influence in the Middle East will in deed wane. While it may be true that the US – especially under Donald Trump, has become less involved and seemingly less interested in the Middle East compared to the years prior, this may represent personal choices by the Donald Trump rather than official US policy. No doubt understanding this, China has chosen to move into the Middle East and chart its own courser. OBOR is in this regard an important instrument being used to deepen Chinese influence in the Middle East. Economic Impacts of OBOR in the Middle East One of the areas where OBOR could have sig infant implications for the Middle East is the economy. In this regard, China has been able to use OBOR to foster closer working relations with Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and even Israel. Specifically, China’s investment and in and trade with these countries has increased significantly in the recent past and especially as a result of OBOR. This is in line with OBOR’s mission and objective which, at least from China’s perspective, seeks to foster greater connectivity between the Middle East and China, Africa, and Europe by boosting economic growth. In this regard, energy is particularly important in this relationship, and OBOR plays the role of facilitating energy cooperation and trade between the major oil producers in the Middle East and China (Küçükcan, 2017). This is where Saudi Arabia and Iran come into play. Although the two countries are sworn ideological enemies with Iran being an enemy of the US while Saudi is a close ally of the US, both are allies of China in this regard. This has created a somewhat complicated situation for the two countries with each one choosing to relate with China differently and independent of how China deals or relates to the other (Fulton, 2017a). Therefore, it can be argued that even though the entire Middle East is bound to benefit from OBOR, the greatest beneficiaries seem to be the major oil exporters which are using OBOR as the main channel to transport their oil and gas exports to China. This way, OBOR could be said to be a major boost for the Middle East’s energy security because it has effectively helped cement its market in China. This is especially so given that China is a large importer of oil and other energy resources required to furl its larger and growing manufacturing sector. Therefore, the major oil exporting countries of the Middle East namely Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait, and Iraq (among others) find OBOR to be a means of strengthening their energy security (Kamel, 2018). This is especially important at a time when oil prices have been declining especially in the wake of increased production of alternative sources of fuel in the US and the COVID-19 pandemic. The more the US has been able to produce its own oil largely from non-fossil sources the lesser its dependence on Middle Eastern energy has become in the recent past. As such, it has always been in the best interests of the major oil-producing countries in the Middle East to have another large market; and China has become that market (Shichor, 2017). As the world’s second-largest economy and one that is almost totally dependent on energy imports, China provides the Middle Eastern energy producer with a ready and fairly secure market that compensates for the loss of the US market. To get this oil to China, transportation by sea is required; and this is why OBOR comes in handy. The maritime roads envisaged by China offers the rich Gulf States and Israel the opportunity to safely transport their energy to China. Therefore, OBOR has both short-term and long-term energy security goals for both China and the energy-exporting countries in the Middle East (Kamel, 2018). This is in line with the realist school of thought that provides that states act in a self-interested manner (Ehteshami & Horesh, 2017). If it was not for their self-interests, most of the major oil-producing countries in the Middle East would not have agreed to support OBOR in the first place because many perceive China as a potential threat to their geopolitical security. China’s expansionist tendencies (especially in the South China Sea) and its claims over Taiwan have served portrayed nit as a country with regional and global hegemonic interests (Osman, 2017). Therefore, many Middle Eastern countries are possibly wary of China which to them could as well be using OBOR as a geopolitical tool to extend its influence in the Middle East and in doing so undermine other major powers in the region such as Russia and the US. However, their self-interests in terms of oil and economic issues have compelled them to embrace OBOR despite these concerns. Specifically, economic interests associated with a relatively secure energy market in China have made even the most sworn enemies of each other (such as Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar) support OBOR (Fulton, 2017a). This is a classic case of states setting aside their traditional differences and in favour of advancing their economic interests. As has just been noted, the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to have far-reaching implications for OBOR’s effects on the Middle East. Of interest is the fact that China’s economy has been negatively affected by the pandemic with China’s economic growth declining significantly (Ghazal, 2019). Among other issues, the lockdown announced by different countries in the world, including China, have significantly hampered (or restricted) normal economic activities. In China, air travel and manufacturing have been among the worst hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and this has led to reduced demand for oil in China. Therefore, the major oil-exporting countries from the Middle East have had their economies shrinking owing to reduced demand for oil especially by China (Fulton, 2017b). From Economic Interests to Security Issues For all the benefits that the aforementioned countries in the Middle East are getting – or are bound to get – from China, there is a cost to pay. The more China gets economically involved with Middle Eastern countries through OBOR the more likely it is that it will also use the opportunity to advance geopolitical interests (Osman, 2017). If anything, the economic narrative seems to be only advanced by China with most other countries, including those in the Middle East, considering OBOR to be just as much (if not more) about geopolitics as it is about economics. OBOR’s geopolitical effects in the Middle East is especially a significant issue coming at a time when US influence and role in the Middle East seems to be waning. For China, OBOR may just be the opportunity to fill in the geopolitical gap that is being created –inadvertently or deliberately – by the US (Ehteshami & Horesh, 2017). The exact manner in which this is affecting (or is likely to affect) Middle countries in the Middle East is not yet clear because it is not yet clear the extent to which OBOR will be implemented (Xuming, 2018). If fully implemented, the geopolitical implications for the Middle East will be greater than if OBOR is only partially implemented. However, it is evident that the economic interests that the Middle East derives from OBOR could overshadow any security concerns they may have. Moreover, several countries in the Middle East have over time become increasingly distrustful of the US and its security policies in the region (Harding, 2019). In the wake of the US’s reluctance to get actively involved in major conflicts in the region such as the Syrian Civil War and the blockade of Qatar by the so-called Arab Quartet, it is becoming difficult for countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar to rely fully on the US for their future security (Osman, 2017). Both the Saudis and the Qataris would have expected the US, as an ally, to support them in the crisis involving the blockade of Qatar as well as in the Syrian conflict. However, the apparent neural position of the US could be a cause for concern. Therefore, these countries may just be happy having China as another possible security partner. For them, it seems not to matter much the real identity of their security allies as long as they are powerful enough both militarily and economically. China just happens to be one such country that offers Middle Eastern countries with both economic and security benefits (Osman, 2017). As would be expected, Middle Eastern countries opposed to each other would have preferred that China related with them and not with their enemy states (Harding, 2019). For instance, Israel and Saudi Arabia would have wished that China’s OBOR did not include Iran while Iran and the Palestinians may have wished that OBOR left out Saudi Arabia and Israel. Qatar may also have wished that all the so-called Arab Quartet was left out of OBOR. This is mainly because these countries find themselves on different sides of the ideological and political divide in the region and some of them have sworn to annihilate others (Ghazal, 2019). In this regard, OBOR could be perceived as a unifying factor that effectively deescalates long-running political conflicts and tensions in the region such as that pitting Israel against the Palestinians, Iran against Israel, Iran against Saudi Arabia, and Saudi Arabia against Qatar. The fact that these countries have chosen to work with China through OBOR means that they consider economic interests to exceed and be of greater importance than their historical political and ideological differences (Osman, 2017). Iran, in particular, is bound to benefit the most from OBOR in that the project raises the profile and strategic significance of the Suez Canal. Therefore, Iran is likely to have significant bargaining power be in the region because any safe shipping via the Suez Canal and the wider Persian Gulf will greatly depend on Iranian security. This could, in turn, make more countries in the region to refrain from any actions that would upset Tehran lest their shipping jeopardised (Ehteshami & Horesh, 2017). Even the US and the EU may in the future want to reconsider their Iranian foreign policy because antagonising Iran in the future may prove costly to Western shipping throughout the Persian Gulf. Regionally, this may undermine Saudi Arabia’s legitimacy and position as the leader of the region, a position which has always been contested between the Iranians and the Saudis. A geopolitically weaker Saudi Arabia may, in turn, mean a more emboldened Qatar, Syria, and Yemen, and this could significantly alter the geopolitical and ideological landscape of the entire Middle East. It is also possible that as the strategic importance of the Suez Canal increases and that of other logistics hubs in the Middle East and Central Asia decline as a result of OBOR, Iran may become more aggressive especially in its development of nuclear weapons. This may increase tensions between Iran and Hezbollah on one hand and Israel and the US on the other. The Palestinians are most likely to align themselves with Iran; and this could explain why Palestinians are mostly in support of OBOR (Reardon-Anderson, 2018). At the very least, OBOR is set to reinvent even reignite the Israel-Palestinian conflict when Palestinians feel more empowered as a result of Iran becoming a more powerful and influential actor in the region. Therefore, it can be argued that to a large extent, OBOR is an effort to build and deepen mutually beneficial, positive-sum economic development ties. However, it could also be regarded as a vehicle through which China seeks to strengthen its security situation and political influence in the Middle East along its strategically important periphery (Xuming, 2018). Through OBOR the influence of the US in the Middle East is likely to decline while Chinese influence is likely to increase. This is in turn likely to have far-reaching implications for the Middle Eastern countries whose security has traditionally been defined by Washington. Through OBOR, China has been able – and will continue being able – to counter American influence in the Middle East because the project is more of a “China dream” that has been designed to help restore enthusiasm and optimism about the future of the country, especially among its younger generations. This “socialist China dream” strongly emphasizes the need to make China “powerful and strong” again and not necessarily economically prosperous and free (as espoused by the American dream) (Ferdinand, 2016). This is where the Middle East comes into play as it will be – or has already become – the battleground between China and the US in their endeavour to exert their hegemony and manifest their power. While the economic power has already been manifested in more overt ways, China’s political power is only being covertly expressed and displayed through what could be described as soft power (Dorsey, 2018). Countries in the Middle East may soon be compelled by circumstances to choose between aligning themselves with the US or China. So far, many of the countries have managed to embrace Beijing without letting go of the US. Even though this has often angered Washington, these countries do not have much of a choice. In the future, and especially as China’s OBOR project extends across the Middle East, many countries in the region may need to choose between China and the US if they have to continue enjoying the benefits that accrue from the OBOR (Ghazal, 2019). Therefore, strategic geopolitical realignments may become more common in the near future even as China’s OBOR projects became more pervasive in the region. This is in line with Overholt’s (2015) contention that China seeks to use OBOR for economic and geopolitical purposes. In the economic sense, OBOR is designed to help bring in Middle Eastern energy resources while in the geopolitical sense it is a means of expanding China’s shadow over the Middle East (Overholt, 2015). Possible Impact of the COVID-19 While most BRI projects in the Middle East are yet to start, several others have already begun in several countries in the region. In fact, there are countries where sections of the projects have been completed and operationalized. The repayment of loans associated with OBOR projects is likely to become a major challenge for many countries in the Middle East as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. This is mainly because, for most such countries, the pandemic presents an added economic burden that was not planned and budgeted for but that has to be funded (Loayza & Pennings, 2020). Specifically, the sharp decline in oil prices as a result of the pandemic is likely to push many of the major oil-exporting countries to the brink of economic recessions. This will, in turn, make it hard or even impossible for them to repay their OBOR loans or fulfil their other mandates regarding OBOR. Without the steady receive streams that these countries were used to before the outbreak of COVID-19, the situation is set to go from bad to worse. This debt burden may be the very undoing of those countries that are indebted to China because then they will have little choice but to agree to China’s demands. Unfortunately, China might just use such conditions to compel countries in the region to align themselves with it instead of with the US. With most OBOR projects put on hold and the operations of projects that have been completed suspended or delayed indefinitely, revenues are set to decline significantly (Chohan, 2020). In the end, these projects may make immense losses, and this may further make it harder for similar projects to be funded going forward. The result could be making more countries in the Middle East to become more dependent on China and its loans, a situation that could significantly and undermine their sovereignty.   References Chohan, U. W. (2020). Forecasting the Economic Impact of Coronavirus on Developing Countries: Case of Pakistan. Dorsey, J. M. (2018). China and the Middle East: Venturing Into the Maelstrom. Springer. Ehteshami, A., & Horesh, N. (Eds.). (2017). China’s Presence in the Middle East: The Implications of the One Belt, One Road Initiative. Routledge. Ferdinand, P. (2016). 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