Saudi all countries in the region. In

Saudi Arabia is a very influential and powerful monarchy in West
Asia. It is considered to be a regional hegemon. It is the world’s largest
producer and exporter of oil and has around 16 per cent of the world’s total
oil reserves. Saudi Arabia is the land of Mecca and Medina, thereby making it the
custodian of the two holy places in the Muslim world. On the other hand, People’s
Republic of China is one of the  world’s
fastest growing economies. It believes in the five principles of  peaceful co – existence. China’s West Asia
relations is quiet evident from a historical perspective. The major trade route
that connected the two was the Silk route. Islam as  a religion was well received in China and
there is  the presence of a sizeable Muslim
population in the country as well. A large per centage can be seen in the
Xinjiang province, which has a significant Uyghur population.

China has maintained a  tri –
dimensional policy with the West Asian region which revolves around oil, trade
and arms sale. During the Cold War, Saudi Arabia was apprehensive about the
‘communist expansion’ in West Asia. However, China’s energy demands sowed the
seeds for the bilateral relations between these two. China has also been
an  aid receiver from the region. For
e.g., In May 2008, Saudi Arabia provided 50 million dollars in cash and 10
million dollars in goods to China’s South West Sichuan province after an
earthquake hit the country. China allowed individual workers, and then groups
and companies, to provide labour, participate in construction projects and
offer consultation services in West Asian 
markets. At present, China is pursuing a policy of  maintaining friendly relations with all countries
in the region. In 2004, China – Arab States Cooperation Forum was set up to
further these ties.   

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!


order now

Relations between Saudi Arabia and China at the very informal
basis took place when Muslim Chinese pilgrims started visiting the Kingdom’s
holy sites in mid-1950’s. Chinese Hajj pilgrims have travelled to Saudi Arabia
every year since 1955. Their number exceeded regularly with 6,000 in 1990 to
10,000 in 2003. A total of 11, 863 Chinese Muslims made organized pilgrimage to
Saudi Arabia during the year 2013. According to the Kingdom’s Central
Department of Statistics and Information (CDSI), Saudi Arabia’s population
stood at 30.8 million of which 33 per cent are expatriates in 2014. Although,
the official diplomatic relations began in 1990, the two had security cooperation
since 1985. Under the reign of Fahd bin
Abdulaziz Al Saud (1982 – 2005), Saudi Arabia purchased CH-4
intermediate-range ballistic missiles from China for the first time in 1985.

One of China’s intentions of its regional engagement is to
maintain a steady supply of oil for its economic expansion. Under the rule of
King Fahd, Saudi Arabia began exporting oil to China since 1993, when the latter
started running out of its energy resources. It’s growing domestic energy
consumption led to the rapid depletion of its oil reserves. In order to
secure  long term energy security, today China
has made investments in oil and gas fields and has also diversified it’s oil supply
sources. However, Saudi Arabia remains one of  the biggest oil suppliers to China.  Jiang Zemin was  the first Chinese head to visit the kingdom in
1999 where both the parties signed the Strategic Oil Cooperation Agreement.

Under the reign
of King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the year 2012 is important for Saudi Arabia – China relations for a reason.
An important development took place
i.e. on January 15, 2012 China and Saudi Arabia signed a deal to enhanced
cooperation in the development and use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes.
The deal set the stage for strengthening scientific, technological, economic
cooperation between these two countries along with maintenance and development
of nuclear power plants, research reactors as well as supply of nuclear fuel
components. According to the Wall Street Journal, Saudi Arabia intends to spend
more than 100 billion dollars on 16 nuclear reactors to be built by 2030. The Saudi
Arabia – China relations cannot be seen in isolation and countries like US has
played a crucial role in moulding the relation between the former two
countries. The 9/11 attacks shook the entire world and is seen as a major setback
for the Saudi Arabia – US relations. This incident eroded the trust factor
between the two countries and made Saudi Arabia adopt the ‘Look East’ policy
which gave China an edge. Although, US and Saudi Arabia have shared objectives
of regional stability and repression of Iran, they differed over the Iranian
nuclear deal with the Obama administration. Saudi Arabia was dismayed by the
lack of US support in the Yemen war in 2015. US provided Saudi Arabia with
arms, intelligence and aerial refueling to prosecute the war, but there
were underlying disagreements between the two. With such factors in
consideration, Saudi Arabia intended to look for other partners. It cannot be
said that Saudi Arabia would completely curtail its relations with US but
following the Arab awakening, it has shown deeper interest towards China.

The effects of  post – Arab Uprising  could also be seen in the Kingdom. Saudi
Arabia has taken these events as a warning call and has decided to pursue a
liberal attitude in its governance. Subsequently, Crown Prince Muhammad Bin
Salman on  25th April, 2016 laid down an
ambitious plan ‘Saudi Vision 2030’, intending to diversify and expand other
sectors of revenue and specifically attract the investment of Chinese companies
in the Jazan economic city which lies in the South West  of the country. While China laid its
ambitious  project of One Belt One Road (OBOR)
in 2014 that will connect it to major centers of trade, West Asia is central to
it. Thus the integrated policy of Vision 2030, National Transformation Program
(NTP) 2020 and OBOR together proves to be a significant link where the two
countries can ensure development and prosperity. Since the OBOR initiative has
been taken, Chinese leadership  has
maintained that OBOR is about free trade, nevertheless many countries see this
effort on part of China as  a covert try
to broaden its geopolitical relevance. Saudi Arabia is aware of the fact that
it can cash in by being involved in the OBOR project as it serves as  a central hub connecting three continents – Asia,
Africa and Europe.  

In mid –
2016, Saudi Arabia came up with the statement that it wanted to expand
investments in China’s energy industry. Saudi Arabia saw it as an opportunity
to boost cooperation with its top customer. It also wanted to enlarge its
market of hydrocarbon products  such as
petrochemicals. Both the countries share interest in crude oil storage, mining,
renewable energy and industrial development. Saudi Aramco and Saudi Arabian
Basic Industrial Cooperation (SABIC) have joint venture businesses in China.
Saudi Aramco and Chinese Petroleum and Chemical Corporation (SINOPEC) operate a
refinery in the Fujian province of China. 
Joint efforts were also made to expand the Yanbu oil refinery. Apart
from energy cooperation, Saudi Arabia is a significant market for Chinese goods
which include electronics, textiles and food. Thus, the growth of bilateral
trade between Saudi Arabia has reached to  51.7 billion dollars in 2015  under the reign of Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud
following the death of King Abdullah. To facilitate the expanding ties, China
has also opened a branch of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China in the
country’s capital Riyadh in 2015.

Thus, it is
vividly clear that in the near future, relations between Saudi Arabia and China
are going to grow more rapidly, as the two have agreed to upgrade the bilateral
relations into a ‘Comprehensive Strategic Partnership’.  Both the countries focus primarily on short
and long term economic gains. China is interested in improving ties with Iran
and has never explicitly picked any side whenever crisis struck the region.
However, inspite of the positive developments, fault lines exist in this
relation. For no reason, China is willing to sacrifice its economic growth by
playing the role of mediator in the volatile, sectarian war between Saudi
Arabia and Iran. However as all these concerns exist, the Saudi Arabia – China
relations will have to maneuver and grow beyond the sectarian and geostrategic  interests that are seen in the region.