The new indicators of moving Saudi Arabia from the United States to China

From December 7 to 10, President “Xi Jinping” went to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to attend the first China-Arab States Summit and the China-Gulf Cooperation Council Summit, and paid a state visit to Saudi Arabia. The Saudi side said that this visit will strengthen the “deeper relationship” between the two countries. As follows:

Saudi Arabia is the largest oil exporter in the world, and China is its largest customer, which makes the relationship between them the key to the crude oil markets.  Both are looking to gradually diversify their energy mix.

China is aware of the importance of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as the only country in the Middle East within the Group of Twenty, as it is for the Chinese as an influential stabilizing factor in the OPEC oil export organization, which is the main engine for the growth of the international economy and global purchasing oil transactions, and this shows the status of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its international importance for  for china. Therefore, the Kingdom and China work in clear agreement towards coordinating their positions and assuming their positive role towards active participation in establishing international stability, in both its economic and political aspects.

Here, I refer to what the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz confirmed in his speech during his visit to the Republic of China in 2017 about his pride in bilateral relations and joint cooperation between the two countries, and the Saudi monarch’s affirmation of the economic transformations that the two countries are going through, as well as his praise for the work of the joint committee and cooperation  The strategy between the Saudi and Chinese countries in achieving international peace and security and the full strategic partnership, especially in economic, political and cultural relations and expanding the economic partnership in a way that enhances the consolidation of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and the Chinese vision (Belt and Road).

The Kingdom and China participate in the membership of a number of international organizations and economic blocs, such as the World Trade Organization and the Group of Twenty.  Asia and beyond, by investing in green infrastructure that reflects sustainability and innovation, in addition to strengthening regional cooperation and partnership in addressing development challenges.

 The economic relations between the two friendly countries witnessed the signing of many agreements in various fields, whether related to bilateral agreements between the two governments or agreements between businessmen in the two countries, as most of the Kingdom’s exports to China are based on oil.

 China occupied the center of the Kingdom’s first trading partner for the last 5 years, as it was the first destination for the Kingdom’s exports and foreign imports since 2018.

  •  There are some indicators that Saudi Arabia, once a close ally of the United States, is slowly moving “from west to east”, upon the following analyses:

Of course, I agree with the view that Saudi Arabia is heading east towards China, The visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Saudi Arabia embodies a new reality and a historical turning point for the region, which has long been seen as an exclusive focus of influence for the United States, especially through its military presence. However, in light of the tense relations between Riyadh and Washington, another picture of the American-Saudi rapprochement has emerged.  This visit is also an indication of the change taking place in international relations, for a multipolar world that China, Russia and other countries want.

Here, It must be highlighted that the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Saudi Arabia within the framework of the current Chinese-Gulf-Saudi summit has sparked American criticism and concerns, with the White House warning Saudi Arabia as their longtime strategic partner in the region, that Beijing is trying to expand its influence.  In the Gulf and the region, it “does not fit” with the international system that Washington is trying to dominate.

 On the other hand, China sees this Gulf Arab-Saudi summit as its “largest diplomatic initiative ever” with the Arab world, and it coincides with Riyadh’s endeavor to expand its international alliances beyond its long-standing partnership with the West.

If we’re analyzing the future of the relationship between Saudi Arabia and China stems from three areas, which are:

  • The first is strengthening the interdependence between development strategies, as China set the “14th Five-Year” plan for national development and long-term goals until 2035, and Saudi Arabia launched “Vision 2030” to diversify economic growth.
  • The second Is to deepen pragmatic cooperation to jointly develop vaccines and medicines, and continue to explore new growth points in the fields of energy, transportation, communications, housing, finance, technology, medical care, and industrial parks, and promote high-quality development of the “Belt and Road.”
  • The third of these areas Is strengthening regional multilateral cooperation, resuming free trade agreement negotiations between China and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, strongly supporting the multilateral trading system, and strengthening coordination and cooperation within the framework of mechanisms such as the Group of Twenty. 

 Thus, we are facing a bright future for innovation and a better future for bilateral economic and trade relations between the two countries, China and Saudi Arabia.

Dr.Nadia Helmy
Dr.Nadia Helmy
Associate Professor of Political Science, Faculty of Politics and Economics / Beni Suef University- Egypt. An Expert in Chinese Politics, Sino-Israeli relationships, and Asian affairs- Visiting Senior Researcher at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES)/ Lund University, Sweden- Director of the South and East Asia Studies Unit