Because China wants to do more business with Arab countries » La TV en Direct
Thirty billion dollars. This is the estimated value of the 34 trade agreements signed by Chinese President Xi Jinping with King Salman bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia during his three-day visit to Riyadh that ends tomorrow, December 10. The entire state was congratulated by the Saudi awards King and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, Xi scored another victory for China’s diplomacy in the Middle East. At the expense of the United States.
The United States is losing ground in the Middle East
Mohammad bin Salman (also known as Mbs) offers himself as a mediator between China and Arab countries in a region where the United States has trade agreements characterized by disagreements and sanctions on some countries in the region, such as Iran. Just this July, the Saudi crown prince hosted President Joe Biden in Riyadh amid deep differences over global energy policy, exacerbated by the outbreak of war in Ukraine. Since the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine, Riyadh has never condemned the Kremlin’s actions, expressing its interest in maintaining good relations with Russia, which is in fact part of OPEC+, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.
The latest clash between Washington and Riyadh concerns the decision of OPEC+ (in which Saudi Arabia is one of the main players) to reduce oil production by about two million barrels a day. A choice that did not please the United States, which tried to push Riyadh to increase its production to balance rising prices on the world market.
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Washington actually read the actions of OPEC+ as a political choice and to underline a now clear view of various countries in the Middle East: the United States is now considered a distant and unreliable partner. Clearly, the United States has not heeded China’s heavy presence in the Middle East, so it has called Beijing’s moves “attempts” to increase its influence in the Middle East. In other words, the United States does not want to leave a vacuum that can be filled by China, Russia or Iran.
The agreements between Beijing and Riyadh
It is in the rift between the United States and the Middle East that China has stepped in to strengthen its presence in the region and try to put the American presence in the background. China’s leader today celebrated 34 bilateral agreements mainly based on energy supply. Rich in fossil resources, the Gulf nation plays a key role in China’s energy diversification future, proposing ambitious projects aimed at diversifying China’s economy away from fossils fuel.
In the bilateral agreements, an area is reserved for transport, logistics, health, clouds, but above all for energy and hydrogen, as well as photovoltaics and information technologies. A cooperation and legal assistance agreement in civil and commercial matters, a memorandum for Chinese language teaching and a memorandum of understanding to encourage direct investment were also signed.
Agreements that appear as a gift that China is making to the Saudi crown prince, which already has a strong trade balance in Riyadh’s favor: 57 billion exports against 30.3 billion imports. The relationship between Beijing and Riyadh is mainly supported by oil. Saudi Arabia is China’s largest supplier of crude oil (81 million tons exported in 2021) and China is the Saudi kingdom’s largest trading partner. In the Gulf region, Riyadh topped the list of destinations for Chinese foreign investment over the past 20 years, with a total of $106.5 billion, ahead of Kuwait with $97.6 billion and the United Arab Emirates. with $46 billion, according to data from Janes IntelTrak.
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For Mbs, the Saudi Crown Prince, China is a great supporter of the Saudi economic development project “Vision 2030” and at the same time the Gulf country supports China’s mega infrastructure project of the Belt and Road. According to Xi, who inaugurated a “new era” in relations with Riyadh, China wants to actively participate in the industrialization of Saudi Arabia and its economic diversification, by strengthening trade policies in energy and oil.
nothing but oil
Returning to the world stage after a two-year seclusion from the country due to the coronavirus pandemic, Xi presented his regional vision. Today, December 9th, the first bilateral summit between China and Arab countries was held, with a dozen leaders from the region, including Egyptian Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Tunisian Kais Saied, Sudanese Abdel Fattah al- Burhan, Iraqi Mohammed Shia al-Sudani , Moroccan Aziz Akhannouch, Lebanese Najib Mikati and Palestinian Mahmoud Abbas.
Xi has had one success since the summit: increasing imports of crude oil and liquefied natural gas from Gulf countries to be paid in yuan, the Chinese currency, thus surpassing the US dollar. In addition to economic ties, the leaders of Arab countries have found support in the field of human rights: China does not support Western criticism of human rights violations.
The importance of the United States for the arms trade
While Arab countries are betting on oil to strengthen trade deals with the Asian giant, they are nevertheless careful to protect arms trade with the USA. In fact, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates rely on Washington for the supply of military equipment: in August alone, the Biden administration approved a sale worth three billion dollars of military equipment. Also, it’s hard to replace American hardware with what China has to offer.
But is it enough for Washington to take advantage of the weapons reports to keep on its side Arab countries that feel “abandoned” by the United States?