Exporting the Chinese Dream to Al Khaleej: An Examination of the Belt and Road Initiative and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank as China's Emergent Hegemonic Project in the Gulf

  • Muhammad Rakhmat

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis is a neo-Gramscian examination of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in the Gulf. Specifically, it investigates why China is implementing the BRI and the AIIB in the region, and why the Gulf state-society complexes are supporting and participating in the initiative. The thesis starts by identifying the existing theoretical approaches employed to analyse the initiative and argues that they primarily suffer from limitations in answering the research questions of this thesis, as they are unable to historicise the initiative, to investigate the influence of domestic dynamics that formed part of the project, to identify the roles of non-state actors, and to account the consensus-building efforts carried out to gain the consent of those who are impacted. This thesis turns to neo-Gramscian perspectives, specifically the concepts of hegemonic project and historical structures, which can resolve the limitations of orthodox literature. The concept of a regional historical bloc is then built as an analytical framework to answer the thesis' research question. By deploying this concept, the thesis is able to examine not only the historical and domestic contexts and the social forces behind the initiative, but also to analyse the consensus-building efforts deployed to attain the consent of the Gulf state-society complexes for the realisation of the BRI and the AIIB. This thesis' contributions are three. First, it will contribute to BRI/AIIB literature through deploying neo-Gramscian perspectives and by focusing on a region that has been relatively under-researched. It will also contribute to the debates within Middle East and Gulf studies on the power transition in the region by putting forward a new perspective on whether the transition is moving to China. Finally, it will contribute to academic and policy-making discussions regarding China's domestic and international behaviour by shedding light on its ideological and institutional aspects. There are three main findings of the thesis. First, the implementation of the BRI and the AIIB in the Gulf springs from four main historical trajectories: China's transition to capitalism, resulting from globalisation; the Gulf countries' integration in to the global economy; China's interaction with the Gulf states since the end of 1970s; and various economic problems presently faced by China. Secondly, the implementation of the BRI and the AIIB in the Gulf consists of an alliance of various social forces which have been galvanised by Xi Jinping around the idea of the Chinese Dream rather than being the "state-only" projects orthodox examinations have found them to be. Third, instead of being an automatic process, the implementation of the BRI and the AIIB in the Gulf involves consensus-building strategies to attain the consent of the regional state-society complexes. Notwithstanding several limitations, these strategies have been carried out by organic intellectuals who work to universalise the interests behind the initiative and through certain institutional arrangements embedded in it and designed to co-opt the Gulf state-society complexes into the framework of the BRI and the AIIB. The data used in this research are derived from literature analysis and interviews carried out with academics and other relevant stakeholders.
Date of Award1 Aug 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorElena Barabantseva (Supervisor) & Stuart Shields (Supervisor)


  • Gulf
  • Arab
  • Middle East
  • GCC
  • Xi Jinping
  • Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank
  • China
  • AIIB
  • BRI
  • OBOR
  • One Belt, One Road
  • Gramsci
  • Neo-Gramscian

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