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The emerging narrative of China’s rise in the Middle East as a counter to American power and influence rests on the skewed portrayal of a few very large investments, mainly involving state entities, and a few large contracts to build infrastructure — mostly centered in the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). In a public-relations success most Middle Eastern leaders would envy, Beijing has claimed the mantle of a great power in the region without a commitment to wider economic development or security.

The GCC, meanwhile, has been looking eastward, seeing in China a promising export destination for hydrocarbons, and a middle-class consumer base for a full cycle of energy-based products, from plastics to refined liquids. (This is also true of India.)

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