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Top UAE official warns on risk of ‘cold war’ between China, US

The UAE, a crucial U.S. ally in the Middle East, has been under pressure to reverse a push for stronger military and economic ties with China (REUTERS)Premium
The UAE, a crucial U.S. ally in the Middle East, has been under pressure to reverse a push for stronger military and economic ties with China (REUTERS)

A geopolitical rivalry between the U.S. and China is testing the loyalties of countries in the oil-rich Gulf. Despite decades of close cooperation with the U.S., including by hosting military bases, China has emerged as a major economic counterweight to America.

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A top official in the United Arab Emirates has sounded the alarm about escalating tensions between China and the U.S., delivering one of the starkest regional warnings yet about competition between the two powers.

“We’re all worried, very much, by a looming Cold War," UAE presidential diplomatic adviser Anwar Gargash said Saturday at a conference in the capital, Abu Dhabi. “That is bad news for all of us because the idea of choosing is problematic in the international system, and I think this is not going to be an easy ride." 

A geopolitical rivalry between the U.S. and China is testing the loyalties of countries in the oil-rich Gulf. Despite decades of close cooperation with the U.S., including by hosting military bases, China has emerged as a major economic counterweight to America. It’s now the biggest buyer of crude oil from the Gulf.

“This is going to be a big challenge for all of us," Gargash said. “For us here in the UAE, the United States is our predominant strategic partner but China is our number one or two -- with India -- economic partner."

The UAE, a crucial U.S. ally in the Middle East, has been under pressure to reverse a push for stronger military and economic ties with China, which is seeking increased influence in the region.

“China will continue to be extremely important," Gargash said. “While America’s direction is something you can glean from various readings and conferences and discussions, understanding China’s direction, I think, is more opaque."

The Biden administration is pressing the UAE to remove Huawei Technologies Co. from its telecommunications network and take other steps to distance itself from China, raising the risk that the country’s purchase of some $23 billion in F-35 jets and drones may be at stake, Bloomberg reported in June.

The U.S. is asking the UAE to remove Huawei equipment from its networks within the next four years -- before it’s scheduled to get the F-35 in 2026 or 2027 -- but Emirati officials have countered that they’d need longer plus an alternative that’s as affordable.

More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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