A Golden Period of China-Arab Relations under President Xi Jinping”

Written by: Mr. Khalid Taimur Akram Executive Director, Pakistan Research Center for a Community with Shared Future (PRCCSF), Islamabad.
The recent three-day visit of President Xi to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has uncovered many astonishing factors while building blocks for greater cooperation in many fields. Along with attending summits and meeting with leaders of Gulf countries, multiple MOUs have also been signed for deepening trade and investment ties with the region.

So far, 34 investment agreements in sectors such as energy (green hydrogen, solar), information technology, cloud services, transportation, logistics, medical industries, housing, and construction have been signed. A series of important events depict that a new era of greater collaboration will be started between China and Arab states. The joint collaboration in various fields, from economy to oil/gas trade, has been seen as a milestone development.

The establishment of multilateral engagement will benefit the whole region as China’s robust policies are known to the world. In this aspect, Gulf states have been opening borders to China and this will be a game-changer. It is noteworthy that President Xi has also received an honorary doctorate from King Saud University. This is a clear manifestation of the Arab world’s trust in the Chinese leadership. This greater cooperation will indeed enhance shared prosperity for all parties involved.

All these new initiatives uncover two major aspects. One is Saudi Vision 2030, which is a strategic framework aimed at reducing Saudi Arabia’s reliance on oil, diversifying its economy, and expanding public service areas such as health, education, infrastructure, recreation, and tourism. One of the vision’s main objectives includes promoting a softer and more secular image of the Kingdom, in addition to bolstering economic and investment activity. In this aspect, Saudi Arabia’s connectivity with China can be seen as a great gesture in its quest to achieve its aims and goals by 2030, including the creation of NEOM city with high-level expertise, the Red Sea project, and the Middle East Green Initiative.

The second imperative initiative is Saudi engagement with Belt & Road Initiative (BRI). The grand project of BRI and its success under China’s miracle has gathered attention and appreciation from the world. BRI states have fully shown their trust in Chinese leadership for socioeconomic development and shared prosperity. In this aspect, it can be asserted that Saudi Vision 2030 and China’s BRI naturally complement one another. The strategic objective of the BRI is to enhance logistical and infrastructure connections while promoting commerce and investment. On the other hand, Saudi Vision 2030 intends to create a diverse economy independent of oil trade. Thus, expanding collaboration between Saudi and Chinese businesses can give new impetus to diversify investment and trade linkages. This collaboration encompasses not just major infrastructure and utility building but also modern economic areas like digital innovation and new energy development.

It has been observed that Chinese businesses have progressively increased their presence in the Saudi petrochemical industry. However, this linkage must catch the pace under the new MOUs signed between the Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Saudi Aramco) and China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation (Sinopec). As per the agreement, both companies will jointly assess refining and petrochemical integration opportunities, including services, technologies etc. Other fields of BRI engagement include (but are not limited to):

  • Enabling energy transition
  • Engaging local capacity in renewable energy investments
  • Integrating hydrogen supply chains

Here, it is significant to mention that all new developments under President Xi will foster China and Saudi Arabia ties. His dynamic policies of openness and inclusive socioeconomic progress have made him the most popular in the world. The first China-Gulf summit was also held successfully during his 3-day visit. President Xi’s special plane was escorted by four fighter jets from the Royal Saudi Air Force after it entered Saudi Arabia’s airspace and by six Saudi Hawk jets from the royal aerobatic team after it entered Riyadh’s airspace. The grand and warm welcome of the Chinese President speaks volumes of his fame and respect.

The fruitful cooperation will touch new heights through the implementation of the signed agreements. This process will also increase the process of regionalism in a positive way to not only tackle joint challenges but also build a community with a shared future. Globally, the visit has attained massive coverage. All these new changes will potentially contribute to maintaining socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era and peaceful coexistence. Since the start, Pakistan enjoys brotherly and deep relations with the Arab world and China. Thus, it wishes all the best to its partners for future endeavours and extends support in the areas of mutual interests.