China in the Persian Gulf

Mojtaba Mahdavi
Apr 24, 2024, 12:15 pm1:15 pm
Free, Open to the Public


Event Description



This presentation examines the complexity of China’s relations with the Persian Gulf countries within the current multipolar world. China seeks the Persian Gulf’s resources to secure its hegemony, while the regional states need China to diversify their global partners in the “post-American world."

Chinese reformist leader Deng Xiaoping famously argued that “it doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white; as long as it catches mice, it’s a good cat”! The Cat Theory suggests that the ultimate goal for China’s domestic policy is development, and it does not matter if it can be achieved by planned or market economy. This presentation examines the regional implications of the Cat Theory and three pillars of contemporary China-Persian Gulf relations. The first pillar pertains to President Xi’s signature foreign policy of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), serving China’s top priorities in energy, trade, investment, and arms deals. The second pillar is centered around Chinese policy of no military intervention, preserving the political status quo to ensure Beijing’s smooth trade relations with the region. The third pillar is pertinent to the “Chinese Model of Development” and what it means for the Persian Gulf states and societies. It examines whether this might reinforce autocratic capitalism and neoliberalism without democracy, or contribute to grassroots and egalitarian development and democracy in the Persian Gulf region.


Mojtaba Mahdavi is a Professor of Political Science and the ECMC Chair in Islamic Studies at the University of Alberta, Canada. He is the editor of The Myth of Middle East Exceptionalism: Unfinished Social Movements (Syracuse, 2023); and co-editor of Rethinking China, the Middle East and Asia in a "Multiplex World"  (Leiden, 2022), and of Towards the Dignity of Difference: Neither ‘End of History’ nor ‘Clash of Civilizations’ (London, 2012). He is the guest editor of The Many Faces of Contemporary Post-Islamism in Journal of Religions (2021), and of Contemporary Social Movements in the Middle East and Beyond in the journal of Sociology of Islam (2014). His articles have appeared in Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle EastIranian Studies; Middle East Journal; ReligionsReligious Studies and Theology; Review of Reading Religion; Sociology of Islam; and Studies in Religion, among others. Dr. Mahdavi is currently working on two book projects on Ali Shariati and Neo-Shariati Discourse; and a monograph on Problems and Prospects of Post-Islamist Democracy in Iran. A selected list of his publications is available at his website and his University of Alberta profile.

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Alison Cummins