Asia’s New Pivot: Evolving Ties Between East and West Asia

ASPI Initiative

Globe - Asia

Over the next decade, the most interesting Asian pivot will have far less to do with ties between the United States and its Asian partners, but with deeper integration between economies on both sides of the Eurasian continent. While both East Asia and the Middle East have traditionally looked to the United States as their most significant economic and security partner, this dynamic is changing. Trade between China and the Middle East surged by a staggering 600% from 2000-2014, largely driven by increasing energy demands. Similarly, Indian exports to Gulf Cooperation Council countries have nearly doubled over the past decade. Going forward, it is clear both regions will increasingly look toward the other to achieve their strategic priorities.

Over the past year, several seminal events have highlighted the growing network of Middle Eastern and East Asian relationships. In February 2017, King Salman of Saudi Arabia launched an ambitious month-long tour of four Asian countries, concluding over $65 billion dollars of economic deals over the course of his visit. Salman’s visit provided the most obvious evidence of a growing “Look East” trend among Gulf nations, as they seek markets and partners that will enable their economic modernization and diversification.

Meanwhile, Asian countries are looking west. While Asian economic interests have historically been driven by the need for reliable access to energy resources, these relationships are now deepening and diversifying into new sectors, including technology, green energy, defense, and infrastructure development. The initiative with perhaps the most significant implications for East Asian-Middle Eastern ties over the next decade may be China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative. However, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India has also doubled down on engaging the Gulf region through its “Think West” policy.

The potential long-term implications of growing integration between the Middle East and East Asia present a number of challenges and opportunities that have yet to be fully understood or explored. This ASPI initiative will explore the strategic implications of emerging ties between major countries in East Asia and the Middle East. The project seeks to identify the most significant drivers and trends fueling closer East Asian and Middle East ties, and assess the geostrategic implications of these trends for the United States and for key regional players. It will also assess the challenges and opportunities that closer Middle Eastern-Asian partnerships could create for U.S. and regional policymakers over the next five to ten years.


Initiative Staff

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    Director of Political-Security Affairs, Richard Holbrooke Fellow, and Deputy Director of the Washington D.C. Office
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    Associate Director

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