Past Event

Making Sense of Disorder: Shifting dynamics in the Middle East

June 2, 2019
2:30 PM - 4:30 PM
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Columbia Global Centers | Beijing, No. 26, 1F Core Plaza, 1 Shanyuan Street, Zhongguancun, Haidian District, Beijing

Convulsive events of the last two decades have shattered traditional power dynamics in the Middle East. Emboldened by petrodollars, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, and Doha have replaced historic centers of gravity in Cairo, Damascus, and Baghdad, with both regional and non-regional actors vying to fill a leadership void. Turkey and Iran, mobilizing both diplomatic and military efforts, seek to carve out a region that serves competing individual interests. Russia, benefiting from decreased U.S. involvement in the region, is re-establishing itself as a global super power. Volatile alliances and conflicting interests continue to shape the battlefields of Syria, Yemen, and Libya. President Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner are touting an "Ultimate Deal" as the solution to the Palestinian-Israeli crisis. Egypt is back in the throes of a military dictatorship that is a client state of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, all unified in an effort to isolate Qatar.

On June 2, Columbia Global Centers | Beijing invites you to the 2019 Columbia Beijing Summer International Relations series, "Making Sense of Disorder: Shifting dynamics in the Middle East". 

In this event, Professor Safwan Masri, Executive Vice President for Global Centers and Global Development at Columbia University, will discuss recent regional events and their implications, and how regional and global actors are vying to fill a leadership void.

He will be joined by Suolao WANG, Associate Dean of the Institute of Area Studies at Peking University, and Dong LIU, Deputy Director of the Middle East Studies Division at Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Bingbing WU, Deputy Director of Department of Arabic Language and Culture at Peking University, will serve as the moderator.



Safwan M. Masri

Professor Safwan M. Masri is Executive Vice President for Global Centers and Global Development at Columbia University, and a Senior Research Scholar at Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA).

A scholar of the contemporary Arab world, Masri is the author of Tunisia: An Arab Anomaly (Columbia University Press, 2017), which examines why Tunisia was the only country to emerge from the Arab Spring as a democracy. The book has received coverage in a number of media outlets, including the Financial Times, Le Monde, Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs, and the Journal of Democracy. His writings on education and current affairs have been featured in the Financial Times, Huffington Post, The Hill, and Times Higher Education.

Masri is an honorary fellow of the Foreign Policy Association and a member of the International Advisory Council of the World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies (WOCMES).


Suolao WANG

Professor Suolao WANG is the Associate Dean of the Institute of Area Studies and an Associate Professor of the Institute of Asian and African Studies in the School of International Studies, Peking University. He has been a faculty member of Peking University since 1989, and studied in Faculty of Arts and Faculty of Dar El-Ulum in Cairo University of Egypt, 1992-1994. He also did research works as visiting scholars in Department of Islamic & Middle Eastern Studies, Faculty of the Humanities, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 2001-2002; and in Department of Public Administration, Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, Leiden University of the Netherlands, 2007-2008.

His publications include Analysis of Egyptian Nationalism, The impact of 9/11 events on the Middle East peace process, Is Muslim the Provocateur of Wars in the Contemporary World?, The Recent Lebanon-Israeli War and America's Idea of "a New Middle East", and Egypt's Unique Position and its Effective Role in Sino-African Cooperation.


Dong LIU

Professor Dong LIU is the Deputy Director and an Associate Professor of Middle East Studies Division of Institute of West-Asian and African Studies (IWAAS), Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS). From Sept. to Oct. in 2013 and during Sept. in 2015, he served as a visiting scholar at Leiden University, Netherlands.

His major research fields cover the oil policies of resource rich countries and the economic development of Middle Eastern countries. His publications include The Behavior Logic of the Oil Cartel: OPEC Oil Policies and Its Impact on International Oil Prices, Constructions of Overseas Industrial Park and Capacity Cooperation between China and Arab Countries, and Empirical Analysis of the China-GCC FTA's Effects from the Perspective of Trades of Goods.



Bingbing WU

Bingbing WU is an Associate Professor and Deputy Director of Department of Arabic Language and Culture and Director of the Institute of Arab-Islamic Culture, Peking University.

His research interests focus on politics of contemporary Middle East, China-Middle Eastern relations, Shi'i Islam and Iranian studies, and Islamic culture. He is the author of The Rise of the Modern Shi'i Islamism (CASS Press, 2004), which is the first book written by a Chinese scholar on Shi'i Islam. He has also published a number of academic articles, including "China's Strategy in the Middle East: A Preliminary Reflection" (2012), "Change in the Middle East: Case of Egypt" (2011), "Saudi Arabia's Foreign Strategy" (2011), "Iran Nuclear Issue and Iran-US Relations" (2010), "Iran and the Shiite Crescent (2009), Iran and Central Asia" (2008), "The Politics of Political Factions in Iran and Iran-US Relations" (2008). He is currently a board member of the Chinese Society of Middle Eastern Studies, China-Arab Friendship Association, and China-Iran Friendship Association.


  • The event will be in Chinese and English.

  • Due to limited seats, registration will be verified through the QR code confirmation. Please present your QR code at the entrance. 

  • Registration begins 30 minutes prior to the program. Please plan to arrive no earlier than the registration time and no later than 20 minutes after the end of registration period.

  • If you are unable to attend the event, please inform us in advance. 

  • If you have any questions, please email [email protected]