China and Russia have managed to do what seems impossible to the West: align simultaneously with Iran and Saudi Arabia, two rival powers vying for hegemony in the Persian Gulf. a trip Xi Jinping in Kingdom Saudi Arabia He proved it. Prince Mohammed bin Salman (known as Mohammed bin Salman: pictured, the two leaders) greeted him with full honors, despite the excellent relations between the People’s Republic and the regime of the ayatollahs in Tehran (the sworn enemy of the Saudis). Xi’s visit to Riyadh marked a new stage in the rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and China, under the banner of economic and energy interests that may take on a strategic military dimension in the future. Xi’s trip to Riyadh came at a time when Saudi Arabia was thriving with health thanks to oil. The state-owned energy company, Aramco, has seen its profits increase by 90% this year. Riyadh’s general budget has a surplus of $27 billion. Mohammed bin Salman is consolidating his authoritarian modernization, which shares some components with the Chinese political model.
Set slope west
Under the 37-year-old prince, Saudi Arabia has made real progress on women’s rights. It underestimated the power of the reactionary Wahhabi clerics. Arabia is trying to resemble Dubai or aim to outpace Emirates City, given that Mohammed bin Salman plans to invest 500 billion to build a city in the desert that must be a showcase of modernity. Islam as Mohammed bin Salman understands it is functional for an authoritarian regime but increasingly secular. There is no shortage of comparisons with Xi’s use of Confucianism. The two leaders share the same analysis of the decline of the West. Both, as Saudi expert Karen Elliott House writes, “see themselves as heirs to two ancient and proud civilizations that are superior to the West.”. Both want to play an increasing role in a multipolar world. They do not tolerate Western rhetoric about human rights, to the extent that Mohammed bin Salman endorsed the persecution of Uyghur Muslims perpetuated by the Beijing regime. Both use sophisticated digital spying systems on their citizens to suppress dissent.
New business for $29 billion
On a tangible level, Xi’s visit brought several successes: a raft of trade agreements with an initial value of 29 billion. HuaweiThe Chinese telecom giant whose expansion in the West is being held back will play an important role in cloud computing in the Arabian Peninsula. A Chinese company will build an electric car factory in Arabia. Another company will supply “green” hydrogen batteries for Mohammed bin Salman’s smart city in the future.
A challenge to the role of the dollar
Perhaps the most dangerous deal in terms of consequences is the monetary and financial deal involving a Saudi renewable energy company (ACWA Power) and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC). This deal appears to herald increased use by Saudi banks of the international payment system Cips, Swift’s Chinese competitor for interbank money transfers. The global dominance of Swift – which is based in Belgium and is effectively under US control – is seen by Beijing as a manifestation of the dollar’s supremacy. Cips has a small role so far compared to Swift. But engaging the Saudis in a China-centric, anti-American international payments system could also accelerate China’s use of the renminbi as payment for Saudi oil imports. This is part of China’s plan to undermine the dollar’s long-term leadership. Arabia is China’s largest oil supplier, and the People’s Republic is itself the single largest buyer of Saudi crude.
Pragmatism over fossil energies
The question of energy is important to explaining the great maneuvering between Beijing and Riyadh. Both Xi and Mohammed bin Salman understand that the world will need to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels to mitigate climate change. However, both share a pragmatic vision of the transition, and they know that fossil energies will still be needed for decades. As a result, when the Saudis speak to the Chinese, they do not hear the same extremist language of Western environmentalism. They understand that the relationship with China over oil will remain uncertain in the medium term. While they fail to make far-reaching and long-term programs regarding relations with the West.
Increased military exchanges
At this rate, China will sooner or later want to move from the economic sphere to the military sphere. At the moment, Saudi Arabia cannot do without the Americans to ensure its security. Nor is the Chinese Armed Forces able to replace the US fleets in the short term as the guarantor of freedom of navigation for oil tankers in the Gulf, Red Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Indian Ocean. But Beijing has already begun supplying the Saudis with drones and missile technology and contributing to Riyadh’s nuclear program. In the future, China will be interested in establishing a naval base in the Red Sea. The future comes soon.
December 10, 2022, 4:09 PM – Edit December 10, 2022 | 4:12 p.m
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