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Reciprocal Effects

The Implications of Asia's Strategic Transformations on the Gulf Region

25 March 2023

Reciprocal Effects

On March 1, 2023, the Future Center for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS), in partnership with the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs, held a workshop titled "Strategic Transformations in Asia and Their Impact on the Arab Gulf Region." This workshop aimed to bring together experts and researchers from the Abu Dhabi-based think tank and the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs, including Ambassador Dr Ezzat Saad, director of the council, Dr Mohamed Kamal, Professor of Political Science at Cairo University, Ambassador Magdy Amer, Former Assistant Foreign Minister of Egypt, Ambassador Mohamed Hegazy, Former Assistant Foreign Minister of Egypt, and Dr Mohamed Fayez Farhat, Director of the Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies (ACPSS).


The workshop focused on understanding and analyzing the strategic developments and transformations underway in Asia and their potential implications for the Gulf region. Four main topics were covered during the four sessions of the workshop, including the features of Asian transformations in the context of a changing global environment, the most critical security and political issues in Asia and their potential impact on the Gulf region, the elements of economy, energy, and technology as determinants of Asian-Gulf relations, and exploring the implications of Asia's strategic developments on the Gulf states.

The participants highlighted several key points during the workshop, some of which are:


1.    A significant role in shaping the international system:

The ongoing transformations in Asia represent a prominent pattern in shaping the international system. These include the rise of strategic competition between China and the United States, security and military developments, and the expanding role of Asian countries as influential military, economic, and technological powers. The rise of the Asian continent on the global stage is likely to become one of the most prominent features of the next stage. It should also be noted that the Gulf countries' influence in the process of making international decisions is increasing, representing one of the results of the Russian-Ukrainian war.


2.    US Influence in Asia:

The United States is seeking to develop a strategic alliance in the Indo-Pacific region. It is unlikely to be able to maintain its role in this region without enhancing the military capabilities of its allies. In this context, Japan's move to increase its defence budget can be understood. On the other hand, the US is concerned about the possibility of a military alliance forming between China and Russia in the aftermath of the Russia-Ukraine war and is also increasingly interested in the Taiwan issue.


3.    Arms race and alliances:  

An escalating arms race is taking place in Asia alongside a shift in the military doctrine of some Asian powers. Perhaps this trend was triggered by the formation of alliances like AUKUS, which includes the United States, Britain, and Australia, and the Quad alliance between the United States, Australia, Japan, and India.


4.    Challenges of Asia's entry into the "Third Nuclear Age":

The rise of Asian countries raises questions about the future of nuclear proliferation regulation in this continent. The "Third Nuclear Age" is characterized by the prevalence of nuclear technological capabilities, which pose a threat to previous patterns of limiting the spread of nuclear capabilities. In this context, the North Korean nuclear issue and the nuclear crisis in Iran stand out as significant challenges.


5.    Maritime competition in Asia:

The maritime dimension has become a priority in the national security strategies of Asian countries, with specific documents often devoted to it. Maritime security strategies aim to uphold the principles of freedom of navigation in key waterways and, consequently, preserve the stability of global supply chains.


6.    Rise of Asian economies:

Over the long term, the rise of Asian economies is expected to continue, with China becoming the world's leading economy and India projected to become the second-largest economy in the world. India has enough potential to be the fastest-growing economy, and forecasts indicate that it will surpass the United States by 2050. Indonesia is also likely to become the fourth-largest economy.


7.    Engaging in joint projects:

The Belt and Road Initiative and the Electronic Silk Road, which connect 25 countries including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, have direct implications for the Gulf countries and the wider Arab region's development plans, as well as the global economy and security.


 8.    Mutual interests with Gulf countries:

The strong relationship between Asia and the Gulf region has significant implications for the Gulf, where around 22 million people from Asian countries such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Indonesia work and reside. These communities play a significant role in the region's development plans. Moreover, the Gulf is vital to the development of rising Asian powers like China and India, as they depend on energy resources from the Gulf and receive financial remittances from Asian workers in the Gulf to their home countries.


9.     Growing technological cooperation:

Technology is a critical element in defining the relationship between China and the Gulf countries. Until the first decade of this century, there was a belief that Chinese industries were cheap and backward. However, the situation has changed since 2015 when the "Made in China 2025" strategy was launched, allocating up to $500 billion for research and development. Additionally, the digital Silk Road was launched to enable Chinese technology companies to invest overseas. China has become a technological force globally, with the Chinese digital economy's size increasing from $3.6 trillion in 2017 to over $6.4 trillion in 2021 and the contribution of the digital economy to China's GDP reaching about 40%.