Saudi Arabia chooses China and multipolarity | Latest news The Moscow Post
01 February 2023

Saudi Arabia chooses China and multipolarity

Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Saudi Arabia. He was greeted as a dear guest. Summits dedicated to the development of China's economic ties with the Middle East region were timed to coincide with the visit of the Chinese leader.

30 leaders of Arab countries and organizations were invited to meetings in Riyadh. The visit was a key event for Chinese diplomacy this year, as well as a step for the countries of the Persian Gulf zone towards a multipolar world, details in the material of The Moscow Post correspondent.

The President of the People's Republic of China was shown unprecedented signs of attention. The guest was greeted by two princes - Foreign Minister Faisal ibn Farhan and Governor of Riyadh District Faisal ibn Bandar. The external attributes fully corresponded to the scale of the agenda of the visit, which was prepared for about a year and was also conceived as a region-wide one.

The United States said it does not require Saudi Arabia to choose between Washington and Beijing. The Saudi Foreign Ministry replied: partnership with the PRC does not mean refusal to cooperate with the United States. According to Al Arabiya TV channel, the Saudi Foreign Minister said on December 11 that "cooperation between Washington and the Gulf countries remains strong, despite disagreements."

Washington has failed to persuade Arab oil producers, including Saudi Arabia, to increase production to lower prices. Relations with Russia within the framework of ORES + are one of the factors shaping the interests of Riyadh. Relations with China, as the main buyer of Saudi oil, are another component of Saudi Arabia's interests.

Chief Regional Partner

Xi Jinping held talks with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. A comprehensive strategic partnership agreement was signed, the parties agreed to coordinate the Saudi Vision 2030 development program and the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative.

Issues of energy cooperation with China occupy a special place in the policies of Riyadh and other oil exporters of the Persian Gulf zone. Xi Jinping first traveled to Saudi Arabia in 2016. According to the Saudi news agency SPA, over the past six years, China has become the Kingdom's main source of foreign investment and leading trading partner. In 2021, bilateral trade exceeded $82 billion. Saudi Arabia's share of oil imported by China was about 17% in 2021. China buys more than 25% of all oil exported by Saudi Arabia.

In 2005-2020, Saudi Arabia accounted for a fifth of China's investments in the region, the country also entered the list of leading investors in the PRC economy and took 12th place in it. During the visit, Saudi and Chinese companies signed 34 investment agreements worth about $30 billion in areas such as transport, construction, information technology, and green energy.

China welcomed Saudi Arabia's role in maintaining stability in the global oil market. The Chairman of the PRC proposed to create a "new model of volumetric energy cooperation." As part of the Vision 2030 program, Riyadh is building the city of Neom, a center for advanced technology and innovation, on the Red Sea coast. China has a special role in this project.

It is important for Russia's interests that Saudi Arabia is ready to continue working to stabilize oil markets through dialogue, as announced on Sunday by the Saudi Foreign Minister in Abu Dhabi. According to the minister, "currently oil prices are fair and stable." The Foreign Minister also said that "relations between Riyadh and Moscow are good" and that they "should be built on the basis of dialogue," with the help of which the kingdom mediated a deal on the exchange of prisoners. "

China and the Persian Gulf region

Xi Jinping took part in the China-Arab World and China-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summits. It is a regional organization comprising Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Saudi Arabia.

During the first summit, the tendency towards multipolarity in international relations, the importance of the principles of mutually beneficial cooperation and the protection of the rights of developing countries were emphasized. Following the second summit, an agreement was reached on the creation of a joint investment council and a nuclear safety center.

Trade between China and Arab countries reached $330 billion. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman, Kuwait and Qatar are among the top ten oil suppliers to the PRC. Qatar and Oman are among the top 10 LNG exporters to China.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE), like Saudi Arabia, is among Beijing's leading regional partners. In 2020, the UAE accounted for more than half of Chinese investment in the region. China maintains large-scale economic ties with Iran and Syria. Damascus is connected to the Belt and Road projects.

Xi Jinping said that "China effectively cooperates with Arab countries, especially on food and energy security issues," plans to create business incubators with them, and implement projects in the field of the digital economy, e-commerce and telecommunications. Chinese IT giant Huawei is engaged in high-tech projects and cloud services in Saudi cities, working on 5G networks in the Gulf states.

The President of the People's Republic of China assured that "China is ready to cooperate with the GCC countries in the field of remote sensing and communications satellites, space equipment, aerospace infrastructure, selection and training of astronauts," invited Arab astronauts to the Chinese space station.

It's harmony, it's for a long time

The visit of the Chinese leader showed a high level of compatibility of the political interests of the parties. The final statement of the participants in the first Sino-Arab summit emphasizes "the firm commitment of the Arab countries to the" one China "policy, support for the PRC's efforts to preserve its sovereignty and territorial integrity," as well as support for the PRC's position on Hong Kong.

"China and Arab countries intend to act jointly to preserve the international order based on multilateral actions of the parties, to promote the principles of mutually beneficial cooperation, justice and honesty in international relations, to defend the interests and rights of developing countries," the final document says.

The declaration states that, "taking into account the latest events at the regional and international levels, the parties intend to work to deepen cooperation in various fields within the framework of the Sino-Arab Cooperation Forum."

China and Arab countries stated that "they will refrain from the use of force or the threat of its use in international affairs, adhere to the principle of good neighborliness and non-interference in the internal affairs of other states."

Participants in the summit in Riyadh advocated full membership of Palestine in the UN and reaffirmed the need to resolve the Palestinian issue on the basis of the principle of two independent states, including the Palestinian one with its capital in East Jerusalem. Beijing has always stood on the side of the Palestinian people, the President of the People's Republic of China assured during a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The summit participants "stressed the importance of concerted efforts to find political solutions to regional conflicts in accordance with resolutions with international legal force, in particular the crises in Syria, Libya and Yemen," as well as the "need to preserve the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity" of these countries.

The parties intend to contribute to the peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program, called on Iran to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency and comply with obligations under guarantees under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Beijing and Riyadh also intend to develop bilateral cooperation and coordination in the field of security and defense.

The Sino-Arab summit also reaffirmed "support for efforts to find a political solution to the Ukrainian crisis and restore peace and security in accordance with international law, the UN Charter, the principles of good neighborliness, sovereignty and territorial integrity of states in such a way as to guarantee the observance of the main interests of all parties."

Threats to petrodollar?

Energy ties serve as the basis for China's partnership with Saudi Arabia and other hydrocarbon exporters. Beijing plans to increase the volume of imports of oil and liquefied gas from the Persian Gulf region, take part in the development of oil and gas fields, and promote green technologies in the region.

Beijing is ready to promote settlements with the GCC countries on oil and gas trade in yuan to directly pay for Chinese imports. This was reported on December 10 by Reuters, citing a source in Saudi Arabia. The Shanghai Oil and Gas Exchange could serve as a settlement. It is possible that these are only plans so far, but ideas to increase the role of the yuan in international calculations are in the air.

In Riyadh, issues of creating a free trade zone between the PRC and the Gulf countries were discussed. Following the negotiations, the heir to the throne said that the process had reached the final stage. For the first time, the parties spoke about the creation of a free trade zone back in 2004.

China is becoming a major partner for the Gulf states thanks to the sustainability and growth of the economy, which is expected to continue to increase the use of traditional fuels. The countries of the region understand that China will strengthen its economic and political influence in the world, but does not intend to interfere in their internal affairs.

During the visit, Saudi Arabia's plans to join the BRICS and the SCO were discussed. Commenting on the visit on his Telegram channel, Russian Senator Andrei Klimov noted that the rapprochement between China and Saudi Arabia is a cause for concern in Washington.

Moreover, the last visit to the kingdom of Americans can be called a failure. If we compare the results, Klimov believes, then we can come to the conclusion that the world energy structure created by Washington and London, as well as the system of manipulation in the world oil market, are beginning to collapse.

Photo: Global Look Press/BBC News

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