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Everyone’s Friend, No-One’s Foe: China’s Persian Gulf Hedging Strategy Since 1979

HOUGHTON, BENJAMIN (2024) Everyone’s Friend, No-One’s Foe: China’s Persian Gulf Hedging Strategy Since 1979. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Since Deng Xiaoping’s opening-up and modernisation reforms in the late 1970s, China’s approach towards the Persian Gulf has been characterised by prioritising cultivating positive and strong relations with all regional states irrespective of their governance traits and of rivalries or conflicts between them. Given that the Persian Gulf is a region in which mutual securitisation, conflicts, and hostilities between neighbours have been ubiquitous, this approach, defined in this dissertation as strategic hedging, could see China be viewed by regional states as unfavourable, according to conventional wisdom about the region.
Defining the Persian Gulf as a regional security subcomplex (which includes the US, the GCC states, Iran, and Iraq), this dissertation seeks to examine: The contours of China’s hedging strategy amid regional conflicts and rivalries since the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979; the efficacy of this strategy, which is taken as being whether China has succeeded in realising its interests in the region and whether its strategy has impacted upon this; and regional perceptions of its strategy. To achieve this, the dissertation explores Beijing’s Persian Gulf hedging strategy across four chronological time periods from the Iranian revolution to the Chinese-brokered Saudi-Iran deal. The first is from 1979-1988, incorporating the US hostage crisis and the Iran-Iraq war. The second is from 1989-1991, focusing on the Kuwait crisis from the Iraqi invasion to the US-led operation to liberate Kuwait. The third is from 1992-2003, examining China’s navigation of the US’ dual-containment strategy towards Iran and Iraq and the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. The fourth, and final, period is from 2004-2023, which analyses China’s navigation of the protracted Iran-GCC/US rivalry (amid the nuclear issue but also in terms of broader hostilities) and the GCC split.
The dissertation draws on constructivist and neoclassical realist insights to outline the regional security complex paradigm and to understand Chinese interests in the Persian Gulf so as to assess whether or not China has been successful in realising its interests in the region amid the deployment of its hedging strategy. The use of constructivist insights allows the exploration of normative and ideational interests, in addition to purely materialist interests. Drawing on secondary literature, extensive English, Arabic, and Persian primary sources, in addition to quantitative data from various sources, the dissertation ultimately attempts to unearth whether strategic hedging is conducive for an external power to achieve its interests in a regional security subcomplex characterised by deep divisions, tensions, and hostilities between its states.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:China; Persian Gulf; strategic hedging; Iran; Saudi Arabia; Iraq; conflict; great powers; international security; international relations
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Government and International Affairs, School of
Thesis Date:2024
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:12 Jun 2024 08:37

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