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  • China's Relations with the Gulf Monarchies by Jonathan Fulton
  • Robert R. Bianchi (bio)
China's Relations with the Gulf Monarchies, Jonathan Fulton. Shiptown: Between Rural and Urban North India. New York: Routledge, 2019. 204 pages. $149.95 cloth; $54.95 ebook.

China's activities in the Persian Gulf are wider and deeper than commonly presumed. That is the dominant theme and principal contribution of Jonathan Fulton's recent book, which discusses the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), focusing on Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman. The comparison of the three major cases is well executed and supported with up to date empirical evidence.

In portraying Sino-Gulf relations as mutually beneficial, however, the author advances several questionable assertions. For example, he states that the GCC is a stabilizing force in an unstable region, that Saudi Arabia is a leading power in the Arab and Islamic worlds, that the GCC is a central component of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and that ties with the GCC contribute to China's stability and legitimacy.

On each point, one might well argue the opposite. The GCC is coming apart at the seams and members are increasingly at one another's throats. The Saudis have isolated and discredited themselves at home and abroad. The most important partners in the New Silk Road are Iran, Turkey, Pakistan, and non–Middle Eastern countries such as Indonesia, Nigeria, and, most recently, Italy. Chinese commentators are constantly assessing the dangers and negative feedback inherent in relations with all Persian Gulf societies.

A fuller appreciation of the debates surrounding these issues requires access to Arabic and Chinese sources, at least translations if not the original texts. Unofficial Ara bic and Chinese analyses are far more lively and informative than the feel-good rhetoric of government-sponsored reports and diplomatic proclamations.

The author's style is rather monotonous, displaying little personal involvement in what should be captivating arguments about the future of world politics. The publisher has set a very high price on the work, which will not encourage distribution to the global audience it addresses. [End Page 688]

Robert R. Bianchi

Robert R. Bianchi, University of Chicago Law School and Shanghai International Studies University



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