China-Saudi Arabia’s strategic alignment | By Dr Nasreen Akhtar

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China-Saudi Arabia’s strategic alignment

THE recent visit of Chinese President, Xi Jinping, has marked the new history of strategic alignment in the ME region.

For decades, the US dominated the political and security environments of the Middle East politics.

Indeed, the ME states also drifted towards the US, particularly, KSA had very strong strategic ties with USA- regional conflicts- Syria and Yemen crisis, and the human rights issues gradually widened the mistrust and gap between the two old allies in the Middle East.

Biden Administration’s cold behaviour might have pushed the KSA to reorient its foreign relations and priorities in the changing world order.

Whereas, the USA’s lack of interest in the ME affairs pushed China towards the region to exploit the ‘new change’.

As we know the present Crown Prince, Muhammad Bin Salman, is a dynamic and progressive leader-he wants to change the KSA’s internal and external dynamics.

On 7 December 2022, MBS welcomed the Chinese president and established the new era by shifting the paradigm from West to Asia.

China is a rising and dominated power in the world politics. China and KSA, both established their diplomatic relations in 1990, but have had normal relations.

The new shift of their relations have strengthened strategic ties that would result in a regional and global connectivity.

President Xi’s meeting with “Gulf oil producers and Arab Leagues countries”, is the great indication that how China can engage the regional stakeholders. These countries are assured that China would keep importing oil and liquefied natural gas.

China’s foreign ministry has released the statement that “China looks forward to working with Saudi Arabia and Arab States to turn the two summits into milestone events in the history of China-Arab relations and China-Gulf Cooperation Council relations and bring these relations to new heights”.

President Xi suggested the use of Chinese currency, Yuan, in resolving oil and gas trade transactions.

This transaction policy of Chinese currency, if implemented, would weaken the American dollar in the international trade market and strengthen China’s currency.

China and KSA are promoting strategic ties when the relations between the US and KSA are not healthy.

Morever, China and the US have increased rivalry internationally. For China this is the best time to competing the US in “diplomatic and economic” manner.

Whereas, the KSA also needs a strong and potential ally in the Middle East. The new strategic alignment would have a great impact on international politics.

34 agreements have been signed between China and the KSA, these agreements would reshape the geopolitical environment- as the USA and China are struggling to dominate the world through strategic partnership- the breeze of alteration seems to be arriving tough.

As we know the US has already established QUAD, AUKUS to contain China’s influence in Asian-Pacific region.

China has expressed to support the KSA’s territorial security and stability and rejected any external attack targeting Saudi’s interests.

KSA also has reaffirmed its adherence to the “one China principle”. China and KSA highly applauded the ‘harmonization plan’ of the Kingdoms’ Grand Vision 2030 social reforms and economic diversifications and China’s Belt & Road Initiative.

President Xi launched the Belt & Road Initiative in 2013- which was known as One Belt One Road-later renamed as Belt & Road Initiative.

Interestingly, Belt Road Initiative shares the same objectives of boosting interconnectivity through cooperation in trade, investment, energy and technology as KSA Vision 2030 agenda, initiated in 2016 by the Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman.

China-Saudi Arabia, actually, have convergence of interests in the rapid changing world. They want economic growth and strategic stability in the region.

The newly emerging strategic partnership is a quid pro quo between China and Saudi Arabia to meet their regional and global challenges.

This new strategic realignment would determine the policy — behaviour — of India which sees China as a great hostile and the USA that takes China as a strong competitor in the world.

—The writer is working at International Islamic University, Islamabad.