China and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) have a history of mutually beneficial friendship. Friendship is based on the principles of mutual respect, non-interference, and regard for the sovereignty. Both countries also tried to support each on their core interest. For example, Saudi Arabia clearly supported the stance of China on Taiwan and Xinjiang, and never fell for the propaganda. China reciprocated by respecting the KSA’s interest and never gave any head to false propaganda. The relationship was summarized by Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman by saying, “We (Arab) have history thousands of years of relationship with China, but we never faced challenges or interference from China.”
The strong foundation of relationship helped both countries to enhance cooperation in multiple fields including economy and trade. Foreign Minister of KSA highlighted the importance of economic linkages by saying, “China is largest trade partner of Saudi Arabia and biggest export market for Saudi oil.”
According to statistics, total trade between China-KSA was US$ 87 billion in 2021. KSA is enjoying positive trade balance with US$ 56.96 billion export. Further, KSA was top exporter of oil to China with 17% share in total import of China. Now both countries are considering using Yuan for bilateral trade. It is big news, if it is materialized then KSA will be first major oil exporter to replace dollar with Chinese Yuan. Western media and think thanks are discussing it as a beginning of new ear for China and KSA’s relationship. Some experts believe, this news also contributed to push President Biden to visit Saudi Arabia.
Besides, in 2019, during the visit of Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman to China, both countries signed 35 agreements of US$ 28 billion. Aramco and Sinopec signed a deal of US$ 10 billion to cooperate in refining and petrochemical sector. In August 2022, Aramco and Sinopec signed another MoU to further strengthen the cooperation.
Apart from economic and investment cooperation, both countries are also enhancing security cooperation. It was reported by the foreign media that arm sale between two countries witnessed an increase of 386% during the period of 2016-2020. China also sold sophisticated arms like ballistic missiles and now is assisting Saudi Arabia to build local production line.
Building on the past success, China and Saudi Arabia are now working to further strengthen their friendship. In pursuance of this objective President Xi Jinping is planning to visit KSA during this week. It is expected that President Xi will be discussing a broad range of opportunities for strengthening friendship. The anticipated visit is dubbed as one of the most important visits of President XI due to multiple reasons.
First, it is first time that President Xi Jinping is leaving for international visit since the outbreak of the Covid pandemic. It shows that China gives immense importance to relationship with Saudi Arabia. Second, it is happening just after one month of visit of President Biden.
Therefore, some experts believe that the visit will consolidate position of KSA as regional leader. Third, right now world is going through economic crisis and Russia-Ukraine conflict has further aggravated the situation. World is struggling to find a way out. For that purpose, countries are trying to strengthen existing relationship and find new allies and avenues to combat economic crisis. The visit of President Xi can be quoted as practical example.
Fourth, energy market is going through transition, and it is quite volatile now. China and KSA being major consumer and producer, respectively, have high stakes and power to define the future of energy market. Therefore, any deal or agreement on energy will have direct relevance for global energy market. Thus, world is waiting for the outcome of the visit.
Apart from these factors, visit is also important in the context of future endeavors of China-KSA. As we know China-KSA are transforming, and they are looking for reliable partners. Saudi Arabia through the Vision 2030 has accelerated the process of transformation. Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman is trying to diversify economy and move away from dependence on oil export.
He is looking for new drivers of economic growth and industrialization. He is also pushing country to venture in technologies and services sectors. For that purpose, Saudi Arabia needs a reliable partner, who do not lecture on governance and so-called human rights.
On other hand, China is transforming into great power. By realizing the responsibilities of great power, China has launched multiple economic and technological programs including Belt and Route Initiative (BRI). China is welcoming all interested countries to join these initiatives and benefit from the emerging market of China. China also needs reliable partners, who can withstand western pressure. Thus, both countries are natural allies. That’s why, Vice Prime Minister of China, said that both countries need to work to create synergies between BRI and Vision 2030.
In this context, President Xi Jinping’s visit will be extremely important to define the future relationship and pave a way for win-win cooperation.
Therefore, leading global players, media and think tanks are keeping a close on the visit, even before the start of visit.
Lastly, the visit will be successful because President Xi and Crown Prince Muhammad attach high priority to bilateral relationship. Crown Prince Muhammad regards President Xi as true and trusted friend of KSA, as President Xi came forward to help KSA in 2017, when KSA was going through difficult times. Let’s hope for the best.
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