“Selling” China in the Arab Gulf States 

Arab Gulf countries have emerged as major targets of Chinese investment as part of the Belt and Road Initiative, a multi-billion dollar infrastructure development program that seeks to extend China’s influence across Eurasia.  This paper investigates attitudes toward China’s growing economy among nationals of Arab Gulf societies. Using original data from over 13,000 survey respondents in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, I find that about one in five respondents believe that China’s growing economy is a good thing for their respective countries. Because data collection took place between 2018 and 2022 – a period that predates the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and continues through the easing of pandemic mitigation restrictions – I am able to explore how various constituencies were differentially affected by the global health pandemic. Positive attitudes toward China’s economic rise are higher for older respondents, men, and those with higher levels of education – all factors associated with more stable economic opportunities in Arab Gulf societies. I further find that attitudes toward China became more negative after the start of the global health pandemic, most so for economically vulnerable populations. This result is consistent with the idea that economic shocks exacerbate anti-Chinese sentiment among the economically insecure.

Lisa Blaydes is Professor of Political Science at Stanford University. She is the author of Elections and Distributive Politics in Mubarak’s Egypt (Cambridge University Press, 2011) and State of Repression: Iraq under Saddam Hussein (Princeton University Press, 2018). She holds degrees in Political Science (PhD) from the University of California, Los Angeles and International Relations (BA, MA) from Johns Hopkins University.

The discussant of Lisa Blaydes is Ildiko Kaposi, Associate Professor of Media Studies at GUST.

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Tuesday, March 7, 2023 - 18:00