Possibilities and Perils of China’s Presence in the Middle East

In recent years, US policymakers have evinced intense anxiety about China’s presence in the Middle East. From a proposed US security guarantee for Saudi Arabia, to the attempted exclusion of advanced Chinese tech from the region to the ballyhooed India–Middle East–Europe Economic Corridor, fear of China has lurked in the background of US initiatives in the Middle East. Since the explosion of the Israel–Gaza conflict, those fears seem to have only deepened, with some leaders even reviving the “Axis of Evil” moniker to speak of China’s ties with Iran and Russia. What are China’s interests and intentions in the Middle East? What are the prospects of Chinese diplomacy for advancing peace in Israel–Palestine or preventing a regional war? Are US efforts to contain or exclude Chinese influence prudent or misguided, and what are the possibilities for US–China cooperation in the region? To explore these questions, the Quincy Institute held a discussion featuring Yu Jie, senior research fellow at Chatham House, William Figueroa, assistant professor at the University of Groningen, and Trita Parsi, executive vice president at the Quincy Institute. Jake Werner, acting director of the East Asia program at the Quincy Institute, moderated.                                                                                                                                      


Yu Jie

Dr Yu Jie is senior research fellow on China in the Asia-Pacific Programme at Chatham House, focusing on the decision-making process of Chinese foreign policy as well as China’s economic diplomacy. She frequently comments in major media outlets such as BBC News and the Financial Times and regularly briefs senior policy practitioners from the G7 member governments and the Silk Road Fund in Beijing. She also advises major FTSE 100 corporates and leading European financial institutions on China’s political landscape. Yu Jie has testified on China’s foreign affairs at various UK Parliament committees. She was previously head of China Foresight at LSE IDEAS and remains as an associate fellow.

William Figueroa

William Figueroa is an Assistant Professor of History and Theory of International Relations at University of Groningen, where he teaches and carries out research on China in the Middle East and Sino-Iranian relations. He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s History program (Dec 2020) and formerly a Postdoc at the University of Pennsylvania Middle East Center. His dissertation, "China and the Iranian Left: Transnational Networks of Social, Cultural, and Ideological Exchange" is a historical survey of Sino-Iranian relations from the early 1900s to the foundation of the Islamic Republic, with a focus on the impact of Maoist politics on the Iranian left.

Trita Parsi

Trita Parsi is the Executive Vice President at the Quincy Institute. He was the 2010 recipient of the Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order and was named by the Washingtonian Magazine as one of the 25 most influential voices on foreign policy in Washington D.C. in both 2021 and 2022. Parsi is an expert on US-Iranian relations, Iranian foreign politics, and the geopolitics of the Middle East. He is the co-founder and former President of the National Iranian American Council. He received his PhD in foreign policy at Johns Hopkins’ School for Advanced International Studies.

Jake Werner (Moderator)

Jake Werner is the Acting Director of the East Asia program at the Quincy Institute. His research examines the emergence of great power conflict between the U.S. and China and develops policies to rebuild constructive economic relations. Prior to joining Quincy, Jake was a Postdoctoral Global China Research Fellow at the Boston University Global Development Policy Center, a Harper-Schmidt Fellow at the University of Chicago, a Fulbright Scholar at National Chiao Tung University in Taiwan, and a Fulbright-Hays Fellow at East China Normal University in Shanghai. He is a cofounder of Critical China Scholars, a network of academics engaged in public education on Chinese politics and society.