As China looks westward for energy security, it finds the United States in a dominant position in the Middle East. China faces fundamental choices as to how it will manage its own rise without either clashing with the United States or creating undue burdens for itself as the largest Asian power. As the United States seeks to commit more attention to the Pacific, it must decide how it will seek to shape the Chinese role in the Middle East and how much of a role it wants to reserve to itself. The challenges for both countries manifest themselves especially in the space between East Asia and the Middle East, a space that, from a U.S. perspective, is truly the other side of the world.
Jon B. Alterman is the Senior Vice President of the Zbigniew Brzezinski Chair in Global Security and Geostrategy and the Director of the Middle East Program at CSIS.