Above and beyond, modern technology, precisely the internet, has been part of the reform agenda. The internet is a powerful political tool that made Arab collective action an absolute mode of resistance and a voice for their dissent. This, nevertheless, generates fear for Arab leaders as opposition groups can get organised through social networks such as: the use of Facebook by activists in both Tunisia and Egypt. Although the internet might be used by terrorists to get organised, regimes took advantage of this cause to impose a severe control over internet use in the Arab world as Hick (Hick et al. 2000: 248) supported: “Unfortunately, the anti-terrorist reason provided by some oppressive and authoritarian regimes is only an excuse for suppressing opposition and denying freedom of speech”. Saudi Arabia, for example, imposes severe control on websites inconsistent with religious beliefs while Iraq under Saddam Hussein was totally isolated . In this regard, regimes mainly depend on secret service and intelligence bureaus, most of them appointed from the military sector; Russia regained market share in the Middle East because of the lower cost of its weaponry.
A further method used by leaders is economic reforms. Oil is seen as the most significance factor which helped systems to grip on power especially in the Arab monarchs such as: Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Non-oil states depend on foreign aid to satisfy their publics and secure their status. Economists acknowledgethat oil corrupts states and the whole economic structure. In Algeria, for example, 89% of the national income derives from oil and natural gas exports. As a result, taxation system and real entrepreneurship are absent. Samuel Huntington (1991: 65) argues that: “Oil revenues accrue to the state: they therefore increase the power of the state bureaucracy and because they reduce or eliminate the need for taxation, the lower the level of taxation, the less reason for publics to demand representation. No taxation without representation was a political demand; no representation without taxation is a political reality”. In such case, there is a big possibility to the emergence of the so called “Dutch Disease” due to the massive dependence on oil and natural gas at the expenses of other economic sectors. Economic reforms, in this regard, supported both private sector and foreign investment. Yet, these reforms seem to advantage state supporters and military officials. Evidence from the MENA can be seen in Egypt and Syria with the privatisation of Coca-Cola and Syria Telecom . In this regard, it has been argued that the 1990s orchestrated economic policies directed by the IMF of neoliberal restructuring, including privatisation, helped the state and its business allies plunder the economy, while the majority suffered extreme conditions. Though government elites may control the economic field, they overlooked the possibility of the creation of a labour assembly that may, gradually, create a strong opposition. For example: textile trade union protests in Egypt in 2007.
An important phenomenon that deserves attention is the new developing relations between Arabs and Asians, despite the little shared culture and language. This strategy of gaining international ties is conducted to profit of development and foreign aid from Asian rising economies. For example: 2001 China-Arab Friendship Association and 2004 China-Arab Cooperation Forum . India, on the other hand, is increasing its relations with Arab states as in 2010, for instance, Syria and India signed a memorandum of understanding to develop phosphorus industry in Syria . Other non-oil states such as: Egypt and Jordan focus on getting deep ties with Arab monarchs. Egypt and Jordan , for instance, have been the conspicuous beneficiaries of Kuwait’s financial aid which has been designated either as military or budget support funds. Some see that Arab states, along with China, are working on isolating the west from this circle in order to repel western continuous demands for democratic changes. For example: Syrian-Chinese relations deepened after Al-Hariri’s assassination in stubbornness means to show the west that Syria is capable of conducting investment as usual, even with the isolation decision. China, to a certain extent, has become the model of a successful authoritarian regime for Arab states.
Many Arabs believe that colonialism played a role in establishing authoritarianism in the MENA. Mainly after decolonisation, publics were illiterate and weak and such regimes were established through coup d’états, creating “Revolutionary Military Regimes”, heavily affected by the Arab Nationalism Wave of the 1960s. Some argue that with the help of western countries, they managed to root their existence. In one of his speeches, Noam Chomsky addresses why the USA and its allies will do everything to prevent democracy in the MENA. He acknowledges that Arab populations consider the USA as their main enemy; therefore, any democratic government will reflect public’s opinion. In this context, the USA will lose its legitimacy and interests in the region. With Iran as a rival power in the region, it will maximise its power which is an intolerable result . It is also substantial to focus on China as a rival economic power. Thus, Arab-Chinese relations are seen as a bloc who aims to isolate the west from the MENA and guarantees the survival of Authoritarian hegemony in the region.