The significance of China- Arab summit: Building a new world order

The significance of this China-Arab summit in Riyadh during last December 2022, as the largest and highest-level diplomatic action between China and Arab countries, which has strong and deeply impacts on the Saudi Arabia and the future of the whole Arab region as well.

What makes the summit extremely important, in addition to the agreements that will be signed, is its timing at a time when the world is witnessing changes, the transition to a multipolar world, the collapse of the unipolar policy, and stagnation in the global economy, and it also comes at a time when the conflict between Washington and Beijing is raging, and the arrival of US-Saudi relations  to their lowest levels, and the countries of the region diversifying their relations by strengthening their relations with China, Russia, India and others.

The summit comes after the outbreak of the Russian-Ukrainian crisis, and the start of building a new world order, as the Arab power is currently in a different international situation.

The Arab-Chinese Summit, which is being held in Riyadh, represents a quantum leap in the development of Arab-Chinese relations, and carries a large number of important economic and political implications.

 This Chinese-Saudi-Gulf Arab summit lays down an institutional framework for Arab-Chinese relations through which it delineates the goals, mechanisms and future of this cooperation, which contributes to the development of relations at all economic, political, security and cultural levels.  $36 billion to $330 billion in 2021.

 There are also many promising opportunities and joint investments that can be employed between the two sides, especially in the field of digital technology, renewable energy, labor-intensive industries and entrepreneurship projects.

The summit will also discuss many promising investment opportunities with China, in the presence of Egypt and a large number of prominent Arab and Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which have ambitious development visions and important investment opportunities such as giant national projects, perhaps the most prominent of which are the following projects:

  • The development hub of the Suez Canal and the new administrative capital in Egypt.
  • The NEOM project in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia within the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.
  • Ambitious development projects in the UAE, all of which represent an attractive and promising environment for huge Chinese investments.

 Here, China Is of great importance to the Arab side, by benefiting from the Chinese development experience, which was based on labor-intensive projects, as well as small and medium enterprises and entrepreneurship projects.

In recent years, Saudi Arabia has put forward the “Vision 2030”, the UAE has put forward the “National Development Strategy for the next 50 years”, and Oman has put forward the “Vision 2040”. So, the Egyptian researcher here has analyzed some impact of the Xi Jinping visit to the Saudi Arabia that may bring to Arab countries, as follows:

This summit comes in light of developments in the international arena, starting with the US withdrawal from the Middle East, passing through the war in Ukraine and ending with the Chinese-American tensions, in light of the latter’s efforts to contain China as the strategic enemy of the United States according to the recently approved US National Security Strategy.

 Beijing, for its part, sees the Arab region as geostrategically important to it, due to the location of trade routes there.  And also because it contains energy sources, especially since Beijing is the largest consumer of energy in the world.  In 2013, China overtook the United States as the largest importer of crude oil from the Middle East.  Since 2017, China has become the largest importer of crude oil worldwide, and the Middle East is likely to account for 70% of China’s energy needs by 2030.

 Beijing has sought to diversify energy sources. In 2021, it signed a strategic agreement with Iran worth $400 billion for a period of 25 years. It also signed a 27-year agreement to buy Qatari gas a few days ago, which is the longest agreement in the history of the liquefied gas industry in the world.

 In addition to all this, the Arab region is a large consumer market that encourages China to seek control over it, especially in light of the presence of large development projects such as the Kingdom 2030 project, the new capital in Egypt, and sea ports in a number of Arab countries, in addition to reconstruction projects in other countries which witnessed wars and destruction like Syria.

Additionally, China and the Middle East countries interact frequently and actively: China and Syria signed a memorandum of understanding on “Belt and Road” cooperation, and Syria officially became a new member of the “Belt and Road”. The foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Turkey, Oman, Iran, and the Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council increased China.  Intensively within one month.  As the only invited guest, China participated in the 48th meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation held in Islamabad, capital of Pakistan.

China has always supported the peoples of the Middle East in exploring their own development path independently, and the countries of the Middle East have also voted with confidence for China’s development initiatives and development concepts with practical measures, as more than ten countries from the Middle East have shown their intention to join the “Group of Friends of Global Development Initiatives”,  Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have successfully joined the New Development Bank, and many countries in the Middle East are discussing with China cohesion measures for the implementation of China’s development plan and their concern for development.  And unlike some Western powers that have long acted as hegemons in the name of allies in the Middle East, China’s role in the Middle East has always been constructive.

There is a Chinese-Saudi-Gulf consensus that efforts should be made to promote the formation of a free trade agreement between China and the GCC countries, which, if successful, will become the second largest regional cooperation agreement in the world after the Comprehensive Regional Economic Partnership (RCEP) in terms of size, countries and population, and will play a positive role in cooperation between the both sides in emerging fields such as the digital economy, renewable energy and artificial intelligence, accelerating economic transformation and upgrading in the Gulf countries and achieving industrial diversification.

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