Will Asia Ignite A Second Arab Spring?

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Zachary Zeck via The Diplomat,

One of the more interesting aspects of the Arab Spring is that it largely spared the Gulf monarchies. To be sure, the monarchies in Bahrain and Jordan had to contend with a degree of unrest. Still, the core of the Arab Spring protests occurred in the Arab Republics, some of which fell from power. By comparison, the monarchies in the region—many of which are located in the Persian Gulf—were spared the worst of the unrest.

Still, the past is often a poor indicator of the future, and the fact that the region’s monarchies were able to weather the Arab Spring does not necessarily mean they are stable. In fact, many fear that the violence in Syria will destabilize monarchies like Jordan, much as the civil war in Syria is already destabilizing countries like Lebanon and Iraq that had previously not witnessed much Arab Spring unrest.

Although this possibility cannot be discounted, the Persian Gulf and other Arab monarchies face a much graver threat to their stability, and that threat originates in Asia. Specifically, the economic slowdowns in Asia in general, and China and India in particular, could very well ignite a second Arab Spring, and this one would not spare the monarchies.

One of the major global developments over the past few decades has been the shift of economic power from Europe and North America to the Asia-Pacific. In few places has this shift been felt more intensely than in the Persian Gulf. In the span of a few years Asia has surpassed the West as the region’s largest trading partner.

Although this development is frequently discussed from the vantage point of Asia’s growing dependence on Middle Eastern oil, the flip-side of the equation—the Middle East’s growing dependence on Asia—usually gets short shrift. This is unfortunate, as the Middle East’s dependence on Asia is nearly as substantial. Take the six countries comprising the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), for example. Asia makes up no less than 57 percent of the GCC’s total trade. Asia also purchases an incredible two-thirds of the GCC’s most important export—oil. This figure will continue to rise substantially in the years ahead. According to the International Energy Agency, by 2035 Asian nations will purchase 90 percent of the Persian Gulf’s oil exports.


Asia’s willingness and ability to meet these projections are vital to the Persian Gulf’s stability. For the most part, Persian Gulf states like Saudi Arabia maintain stability by buying off their populations. They do this in at least two major ways. First, by maintaining excessively large bureaucracies that keep the population employed doing unproductive and unnecessary work. Additionally, many Persian Gulf states and Arab monarchies provide substantial subsidies to ensure low prices. For example, according to the Financial Times, Saudi Arabia subsidizes water to the tune of $50 billion a year.

The regimes use these subsidies of labor and goods to safeguard their rule, including by increasing wages and subsidies on various household staples when they fear potential unrest. For example, when unrest began afflicting Egypt in early 2011, Saudi Arabia quickly announced a $36 billion increase in subsidies. Jordan similarly authorized a $125 million subsidy package for its population, while Kuwait introduced both higher direct stipends and over a year of free food for its citizens.

This is a shrewd move, as it ties the population’s livelihood to the regime’s survival (much like the Chinese Communist Party’s 80 million person membership roll helps ensure support for the CCP). However, it is also prohibitively expensive to maintain these subsidies, and once they are so given, any government will find it difficult to eliminate them.

The Persian Gulf regimes, of course, use their extensive oil wealth to pay for these subsidies, which is what makes Asia’s slowdown so dangerous to the Persian Gulf states. Since Asia figures to purchase such a larger percentage of the Persian Gulf’s oil exports, if it proves unable to do so the price of oil is likely to plummet. Should this decline in oil prices persist for too long, depleting the monarchies’ treasuries, it would leave them unable to continue buying their populations’ loyalty.

China’s economic course in the coming years will be particularly crucial to Middle East stability. Not only does China directly purchase a greater proportion of Persian Gulf oil than other Asian nations, but China is the top trading partner of most of these other states.  Therefore, a significant downturn in the Chinese economy will greatly disrupt the economies of other important Middle East oil consumers like Japan and South Korea, further reducing petroleum demand.

Especially when combined with rising oil production in the Western Hemisphere, it’s hardly unimaginable that global energy prices could decline sharply in the years ahead. This would be disastrous for many Middle Eastern monarchies, particularly those in the Persian Gulf (as well as other so-called petrol states like Russia and Venezuela). Notably, this process could easily become self-sustaining as instability in the Persian Gulf is likely to cause a spike global energy prices. While this may temporarily help some of the Middle Eastern regimes, it would also further dampen the prospects of an economic recovery in Asia. This in turn would further soften global demand for oil.

Despite the perception in the West that the Arab Spring was largely a movement for greater negative freedoms like the right to vote and limited government, it in fact was principally driven by demands for greater positive freedoms like more economic opportunity. The second Arab Spring would be no different.


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NoDebt's picture

"Despite the perception in the West that the Arab Spring was largely a movement for greater negative freedoms like the right to vote and limited government, it in fact was principally driven by demands for greater positive freedoms like more economic opportunity. The second Arab Spring would be no different."

What a Boy Scout.

DumpsterFire's picture

My oppressive dogmatic Imam is somehow different/better than my oppressive dogmatic Monarch.  There will be blood.

AlaricBalth's picture

"as it ties the population’s livelihood to the regime’s survival (much like the Chinese Communist Party’s 80 million person membership roll helps ensure support for the CCP)"

And much like our current regime, which also gives out free food to 48 million people, and monthly stipends as well. Here it is called the Free Sh-t Army and it ensures our regime's (the DemoRepublicrats) survival. .

The writer obviously overlooked this one small detail. Zachary, it's the same playbook, just a different stadium.

ThirdWorldDude's picture

"To be sure, the monarchies in Bahrain and Jordan had to contend with a degree of unrest..." 

Well Zach, I'm pretty sure what happened in Bahrain looked pretty harmless from your high-rise Tokyo office. In fact, reality was much bloodier for those that took part in the peaceful protests. I bet that from your subservient frog perspective it looked pretty minor in scope only because there already is an Empire-friendly puppet regime in place in Bahrain, and so like every other Zionist corporate presstitute you've got strict orders not to inform about it.


The Dunce's picture

I live in Asia.  I don't see another Arab Spring happening.  Everybody is too busy shopping.  Word to your mother.

prains's picture



will NOT stand for this, he has the Faxts to back it up too!


ps. did you all know that shaved pigs float way better in the Yang She

KashNCarry's picture

Keep shopping. BTW, I'll see your macho derring-do and raise you a gallon of coke.

On bended knee,


Dr Benway's picture

"negative freedoms like the right to vote"



AlaricBalth's picture

From the Marxist Encyclopedia: Negative freedom means the lack of forces which prevent an individual from doing whatever they want; Positive freedom is the capacity of a person to determine the best course of action and the existence of opportunities for them to realise their full potential."

Well I'm glad that's cleared up. ????

Oh regional Indian's picture

Actually even more worrying and in our faces is the possibility of an Asian spring, which is what the move seems to be towards.

India is a tinderbox on so many vectors, 10 fingers are not enough. Add one of the most contentious political campaigns ahead of summer elections, religious stuff, Kashmir and the upcoming dis-tanglement of the US from AfPak (yeah right)....

Look to Thailand, the canary in the Asian coal-mine...general de-stabilization. I would not count on anything, per se, in 2014. 


disabledvet's picture

I absolutely agree with this. I was only allowed my one week into Burma...but it was very informative.

The Chinese were all over the place there and were instrumental in putting down the student uprising that happened just weeks after I left.

I also think there is a reason why Islam is "going easy on the USA." We never went over there to be the target...we now know we don't need the oil at all...there is a lot for the USA to talk with vis a vis the rest of the world.

We'll see what happens in Afghanistan but clearly they're not going to Moscow. That says to me China. Syria has been a real "odd duck" of a policy "thingy."

Interesting proposal of the Palestinians to join NATO as well!

BandGap's picture

You are correct, sir. The US and NATO have actually provided cover for China to move into Afghanistan.



BandGap's picture

No one here is mentioning Irish Spring. If that busts out, Asia just might start to care more about personal hygeine. This would be a big plus for the region as people would feel refreshed and invigorated. The Irish Spring will probably be kicked off right after the Burma Shave, which should be a close one.

Bangin7GramRocks's picture

Isn't it ironic, don't ya think. The countries with an arbitrary "king" backed by the hypocrites(and weapons) of the U.S. were saved. The elected leaders were all ousted. They certainly don't hate us for our freedoms.

IridiumRebel's picture

I believe C h I n A will be the catalyst.

Son of Loki's picture

I remember when one of those A-Rab Sheiks tore up the mountainside in Aspen to build his 22,000 sq foot Mansion with at least 2 dozen bodyguards where ever he went around town or on the slopes.

Very bossy little prick, he was, too.


Jim in MN's picture

Well if no one thinks losing Japan matters....carry on....




TEPCO Corrects Last Summer's Water Pollution Data to Record High

   Fukushima, Feb. 6 (Jiji Press)--Tokyo Electric Power Co. <9501> said Thursday it has corrected groundwater radioactive contamination data at the Fukushima No. 1 power station originally released in summer last year.
   Samples collected from an observation well close to the sea in early July contained a record 5 million becquerels of strontium-90 per liter of groundwater, the company said.
   When TEPCO announced the original data that month, the firm said the total amount of radioactive materials emitting beta particles, including strontium-90, was 900,000 becquerels.
   Strontium-90 usually accounts for about a half of all beta particle-emitting substances in contaminated water at the disaster-stricken power station in northeastern Japan.
   So, the total amount of beta particle-emitting materials in the samples in question are likely to be around 10 million becquerels, far higher than the previous record high of 3.1 million becquerels for the well.

lewietheparrot's picture


Please send this back to State and the CIA for a re-write.

They can do better than this

Asia is not the Balkans

chindit13's picture

No, Asia is certainly not the Balkans.  I mean China, all the way from Shenzen to Xinjiang, is a homogenous monolith.  Indonesia is pure Moslem, or Hindu, or Chinese, or whatever.  Malaysians just have different names and faces, but they're all Bumiputras at their core...or Chinese...or again, whatever.  Indians---you know, the original arrivals from that fifty thousand year march from Oldavai Gorge---never allowed any of the invading forces---not the Aryans, Kushans, Greeks, Afghans, Tamerlane, Moghuls, Brits---nor any of the visiting merchants from the Gulf or Portugal or wherever---ever to overstay their welcome, much less settle and breed.  Everybody's a Maharastran like Bal Thackeray was, so no problem there.  Oh, and like the BJP, everyone's a Brahmin Hindu, too, except for that 200 million person Moslem rounding error.  Also, we can all see now that Thai people, whether they're Chinese ethnics like Thaksin or the Hongsakuls or Sarasins, the city-dwelling Bangkok elite, Isaan farmers, or the "other Buddha" followers in the southern provinces, are all cut from the same cloth with no significant political or ideological differences.  Those 135 recognized different ethnic groups in 60 million person Burma just differ in how they cross their "t"s.  Rohingyas and Buddhist monks are like brothers, 969 be damned. Oh, and all that Sunni-Shi'ite stuff in South and Central Asia about killing Ali is just for sport.  No hard feelings between them.

There's no point in continuing, as you just nailed it.  You're an anthropologist, right?

janus's picture


yes, well, apart from all that nit-picking, have you anything relevant to say?

(i certainly hope i don't have to invoke the sarc tag with you of all people)

funnier still, it's far more complicated than all that -- and then some.

full disclosure: janus is no anthropologist, but i've been known to both lecture and demolish them in open debate. 


Pinche Caballero's picture

Bernese, Burmese

They're all the the same, aren't they?

joego1's picture

The price of oil will not go down in this world mainly because price is not longer a function of supply and demand. China will blow some day most likely from dead pigs in the river.

ebear's picture

I'd take the other side of that bet on a 2-5 year horizon.

Take a look at this:


Take the rise from 97/98, when the first cracks in the system were papered over, then note the way oil tracks the subsequent credit expansion up to the 2008/9 spike, where it then drops in line with the credit crash.

So, how much more money has been pushed into the system since then, and what are the results?  A bit better than a half retrace, then it starts to falter, no?  This looks like a chart that's sucking air and about to roll over.

I would not be surprised to see us return to the time (not that long ago) when VLCC tankers were used for storage because all onshore capacity was taken up.  And that might be just for starters.  I think people underestimate just how hard demand could drop in a severe global slowdown, which is what the road ahead increasingly looks like.


maskone909's picture

Yeah im sure they have asian operatives driving around crashing into shit. That should do the trick

suteibu's picture

Another thing for everyone to worry about.  It seems obvious that the world needs global economic planners (for fairness and sustainability), a global policeman (to protect the compliant kings and sheiks and petty tyrants), and global carbon taxes and regulations else the earth burn up to a cinder from human excesses. 

The Diplomat shows us all the things we should lose sleep over every night.  When are they going to promote these needed solutions?

Dr. Bonzo's picture

Your title is misleading and inaccurate and its obvious from the few comments, very few took even a half second to read your article. Your title really should be Will an Asian Slow Down Ignite a Second Arab Spring.

tony wilson's picture

all these fake springs needs juice.

rothschilds,soros monies.

jewish washington advisors richard pearle types.

strategy from mi6,cia and the mossad more funding from the gulf and hit teams from blackwater,navy seals,parachute regiment,sas and israel kidron types.

it is so easy read frank kitson book even you can start your own home spring takeover using old tired but effective british tried a fully tested techniques.

look up concepts like pseudo gangs.

every spring

has an israel,uk, usa back story.

kids if you do try this at home get permission  from a soros or even better a rockerfella skank.

do not expect a cut of the transit pipeline rights as they would of killed you off long before that was completed only deal with cash or gold with these folks.

up front obviously.

trentusa's picture

i miss the old zh. Yawn.

Joe A's picture

China’s economic course in the coming years will be particularly crucial to Middle East stability.

And to the petrodollar

fijisailor's picture

I prefer to ask when there will be an American Spring with the destruction of the middle class.

22winmag's picture

When the flow of drugs, porn, and iCrap stops.


It will be war in the streets within days.

smartknowledgeu's picture

If you really want to know what happend in Bahrain, watch Amber Lyon's documentaries about Bahrain and not the propaganda, manufactured news provided by the Al Khalifa royal Bahrain family that they paid CNN to run as "news".


ageofreason's picture

Now that Amerikkka has said F U to the EU....they will soon say F U to kung fu!

Red Lenin's picture

Correct me if I am wrong,  but are not most of the ME Monarchies Sunni dominated where as most of the ME Republics are predominantly Shia?   And is it not also the fact that most of the west's allies are in fact in the Sunni countries?  And that al-Quada is also a sunni grouping?  And that Israel (and therefore the USA) given a choice of one or the other prefers sunni al-Quada as opposed to shia Hezbollah and sunni Saudi Arabia as opposed to shia Iran?  And then there's oil & gas......................

SKY85hawk's picture

Thanks!  I've never seen an analysis of the middle-east nightmare like yours.

Can you suggest other readings to expand one's understanding of this strange society?


22winmag's picture

Time is running out to drink China's milkshake...

Herdee's picture

This morming on BNN a business news channel in Canada is reporting that Finance Minister Flaherty is saying that he wants Canada to be the major North American Center for Yuan trading.

kralizec's picture

Why is SA giving China oil...I tought they were Amerika's bitch?!  Oh, must be on orders, huh?

PTR's picture

Boogie-woogie days are here!