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China-US trade war concept - Military facilities on the flag of China and the United States

Gulf security: China envisions continued US military lead

China envisions continued US military lead

If anything, the exercise, coupled with notional Chinese support for proposals for a multilateral security approach in the Gulf, suggests that China envisions a continued US lead in Gulf security despite mounting rivalry between the world’s two largest economies. That is the message China is sending by playing down the significance of the exercise and hinting that it would only contribute non-combat forces. China’s participation is expected to involve its anti-piracy fleet that is already in Somali waters to protect commercial vessels as well as peacekeeping and humanitarian relief personnel rather than specially dispatched units of the People’s Liberation Army. China’s preference for a continued US lead in maintaining Gulf security, even if it favours a more multilateral approach, was evident earlier this year in its willingness to consider participating in the US-led maritime alliance that escorts commercial vessels in the Gulf and seeks to secure shipping lanes and was created in response to several attacks on tankers in the Gulf of Oman. So far, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Britain and Australia have joined the alliance that started operations last month. Despite favouring a continued US lead, China sees a broadening of security arrangements that would embed rather than replace the US defense umbrella in the Gulf as a way to reduce regional tensions. China also believes that a multilateral arrangement would allow it to continue steering clear of being sucked into conflicts and disputes in the Middle East, particularly the Saudi-Iranian rivalry. A multilateral arrangement in which the US would remain the key military player would fit the pattern of China’s gradual projection beyond its borders of its growing military power.

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