Analysis: China and Saudi Arabia: Reinvigorating ties

Analysis: China and Saudi Arabia: Reinvigorating ties
King Salman receives warm welcome upon his arrival in China on Wednesday. (SPA)
Updated 16 March 2017

Analysis: China and Saudi Arabia: Reinvigorating ties

Analysis: China and Saudi Arabia: Reinvigorating ties

At the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman is paying a state visit to China. The visit by the monarch, arguably the most strategically significant leg of his month-long Asia tour, comes as Riyadh has boosted its efforts to diversify the economy away from oil dependence, and broaden the Kingdom’s foreign partners.
Although energy and trade will likely occupy an important place in the talks between the two leaders, the relations between both countries have expanded in various fields, especially in defense and security.
Energy cooperation remains the foundation of relations between Saudi Arabia, the world’s top exporter of crude oil, and China, the world’s biggest importer. China’s oil consumption has risen dramatically from 2.9 million barrels per day (mbpd) in 1993 to 11.90 mbpd in 2016. Thus, oil imports have also rapidly increased, rising from zero percent in 1993 to more than 66 percent of China’s total oil supply, or around 7.6 mbpd last year.
Importantly, the International Energy Agency (IEA) expects China’s appetite for crude oil imports to remain strong over the next decade, growing at an average rate of 2.4 percent over 2017-2022 to around 9.4 mbpd in 2022, with a possible additional 1.5-2 mbpd by 2030. In this context, Saudi Arabia will fight very hard to protect its growing energy interests in China.
Beyond oil, China also offers important economic advantages to Saudi Arabia’s sizeable downstream and petrochemicals sectors. Saudi Basic Industries Corp. (SABIC) already holds a stake in a polycarbonate complex in Tianjin with China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation (Sinopec Group), while Saudi Aramco holds a stake in the Fujian Refining & Petrochemical Company.
Against this backdrop the main concern for Riyadh is the future trajectory of China’s economy and the uncertainty over its oil demand. Growing competition is also an emerging challenge as Saudi Arabia is now facing competition for Chinese market share from Russia, Iraq, Iran, Venezuela and even Brazil.
Russia last year overtook Saudi Arabia to become China’s biggest crude oil supplier for the first time ever, shipping some 1.05 mbpd compared to Saudi Arabia’s 1.02 mbpd. Meanwhile, China’s petrochemical capacity is also projected to grow significantly over the coming years, while the yuan devaluation is reducing production costs and raising the price of imports. This situation would inevitably reduce the country’s reliance on imports.

Top trade partner
China’s rapid economic development over the past three decades contributed to a significant increase in its oil imports. In the process, Saudi Arabia become China’s top partner in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Looking forward, HSBC projects that China will remain the number one export market for Saudi Arabia to 2030, and will increase its dominance given its still relatively fast growth and demand for energy.
Today, more than 160 Chinese companies are operating in several sectors of the Saudi economy and the number of Chinese projects in the Kingdom reached around 175. The Chinese economic footprint in Saudi Arabia is most pronounced in the telecommunication and construction sectors. Huawei Technologies has a prominent presence in Saudi Arabia and represents one of the major success stories of Chinese companies in the Kingdom.
Yet China-Saudi relations are still transactional in their nature and have been restricted mainly to energy exports (oil, petroleum products and petrochemicals), Chinese manufacturing goods and limited cross-investment. To be sure, the trade between the two countries has dropped significantly to $42.4 billion in 2016, a decline of almost 18 percent from the previous year and nearly 40 percent since 2014, when the oil prices started to decline.
In this context lies the importance of the Saudi king’s visit to China, especially to attract more Chinese investment to the Kingdom and the use of Chinese expertise to contribute to the diversification of the Saudi economy away from oil.

Growing defense ties
Developing strategic relations with China is one of the most important foreign policy goals of Riyadh in the coming years. In January 2016, during President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Saudi Arabia, the two countries established a comprehensive strategic partnership.
From the Saudi perspective, Beijing could be regarded as a valuable source of political support as Saudi Arabia continues a path of selective economic reforms whilst also seeking to deflect Western pressure in the political arena. For example, last October China backed Saudi Arabia’s sovereign immunity and criticized the so-called Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA).
Counterterrorism is an emerging area of cooperation between the two countries. Last November, Riyadh and Beijing revealed a five-year plan for security cooperation including counterterrorism cooperation and joint military drills.
There is potential for Chinese companies to win more Saudi defense procurement over the next decade, particularly as Riyadh is seeking to diversify its military sources, and receive technology transfer as Riyadh aims ambitiously to localize over 50 percent of military equipment spending by 2030.
All in all, and despite several obstacles, Saudi-Chinese relations will be strengthened steadily in the future. Or as Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Hua Chunying, during her regular press conference on March 13, put it: “We stand ready to take King Salman’s visit as an opportunity to take China-Saudi Arabia comprehensive strategic partnership to a higher level.”
• Dr. Naser Al-Tamimi is a UK-based Middle East researcher, political analyst and commentator with interests in energy politics and Gulf-Asia relations. Al-Tamimi is author of the book “China-Saudi Arabia Relations, 1990-2012: Marriage of Convenience or Strategic Alliance?” He can be reached on Twitter @nasertamimi and e-mail: [email protected].


Saudi health minister: COVID-19 vaccines will be available at pharmacies for free

Saudi health minister: COVID-19 vaccines will be available at pharmacies for free
Updated 03 March 2021

Saudi health minister: COVID-19 vaccines will be available at pharmacies for free

Saudi health minister: COVID-19 vaccines will be available at pharmacies for free
  • Part of efforts to expand the ongoing inoculation campaign

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia will provide coronavirus vaccines at pharmacies across the kingdom for free, the country’s Minister of Health Dr. Tawfik Al-Rabiah told Al Arabiya.

This comes as part of efforts to expand the ongoing inoculation campaign and facilitate access to vaccine cites, he added. More 100 vaccination facilities have opened around the country since Saudi Arabia began its nationwide vaccination campaign on December 17.

Saudi Arabia’s Food and Drug Authority is currently evaluating a number of COVID-19 vaccines in a bid to expand the vaccination process in various regions of the Kingdom, which are taking place at a high rate.

The Ministry of Health indicated that the vaccines currently approved in Saudi Arabia or those currently being evaluated are approved for use starting from the age of 16 or 18 years.

Saudi Arabia has announced on Tuesday plans to expand vaccination centers across the Kingdom, health spokesman Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly said.

However, pregnant women and children will still not be permitted to receive the coronavirus vaccine as further studies have not been completed yet, Al-Aly added.

The Minister of Health also announced that COVID-19 vaccines will be a pre-requisite for applicants wishing to perform the Islamic pilgrimage, or Hajj, in 2021.

 

“A vaccination committee must be formed for the Hajj and Umrah season, on which they have adopted the compulsory reception of the COVID-19 vaccine for participating healthcare workers,” he said.

Saudi Arabia has recently launched drive-through vaccine centers in Riyadh, Makkah, Madinah and Abha. Individuals wishing to receive the jab must first register through the official Sehatty app.

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Preventive measures, Tawakkalna app help slash Madinah COVID-19 cases by 86%

Preventive measures, Tawakkalna app help slash Madinah COVID-19 cases by 86%
Updated 03 March 2021

Preventive measures, Tawakkalna app help slash Madinah COVID-19 cases by 86%

Preventive measures, Tawakkalna app help slash Madinah COVID-19 cases by 86%
  • Tawakkalna was launched last year to help track coronavirus infections

RIYADH: Strict health and safety measures and a dedicated app to stop the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are being hailed for helping to push down the number of virus cases in the Madinah region by more than 86 percent.

Officials said the implementation of precautionary and preventive rules alongside the effective use of Saudi Arabia’s official Ministry of Health-approved Tawakkalna app had been major contributors toward combating the outbreak.

“Digital applications and artificial intelligence proved to be one of the most successful approaches both regionally and globally (in tackling COVID-19),” said ministry spokesman, Dr. Mohammed Al-Abdulaali.

The app was launched last year to help track COVID-19 infections and has since been developed and updated to function as a COVID-19 passport that users produce to confirm their health condition in order to gain access to workplaces, shops, and malls.

In the space of two months, it had played a key role in slowing the spread of the virus in the region, Al-Abdulaali added in report by state news agency SPA.

He pointed out that the Madinah region had been going through a critical period in which the number of infection cases had significantly increased.

“This came as a result of some public negligence in observing the preventive measures and precautions; particularly, the lack of adherence to quarantine in addition to social gatherings,” the SPA report said, adding that this had led to a sharp rise in the number of daily cases, prompting the rollout of the Tawakkalna app.

Following two months of strict enforcement of preventive measures and the promotion of the app, infection rates in Madinah fell significantly.

Al-Abdulaali urged the implementation of preventive measures in all regions as a “collective community response” to fighting COVID-19 and encouraged citizens to use Tabaud, a bluetooth-based app that notifies individuals if they come into contact with other infected people.

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Arab coalition destroys Houthi drone fired towards southern Saudi Arabia

Arab coalition destroys Houthi drone fired towards southern Saudi Arabia
Updated 03 March 2021

Arab coalition destroys Houthi drone fired towards southern Saudi Arabia

Arab coalition destroys Houthi drone fired towards southern Saudi Arabia

DUBAI: The Arab coalition fighting the Houthi militants in Yemen said it has destroyed a drone launched by the Iran-backed group towards the southern region of the kingdom, state news agency SPA reported on Wednesday.
“The joint coalition forces were able this morning to intercept and destroy a ‘booby-trapped’ drone launched by the Iranian-backed terrorist Houthi militia in a systematic and deliberate manner to target civilians and civilian objects in the southern region,” the statement said.

 


Saudi cabinet once again condemns attacks on the Kingdom by Houthis

Saudi cabinet once again condemns attacks on the Kingdom by Houthis
Updated 03 March 2021

Saudi cabinet once again condemns attacks on the Kingdom by Houthis

Saudi cabinet once again condemns attacks on the Kingdom by Houthis
  • Ministers also briefed on King Salman’s recent call with US President Joe Biden, and the latest COVID-19 developments

RIYADH: Saudi authorities have again condemned the continuing cross-border attacks on the Kingdom by the Houthi militia in Yemen.

The comments came on Tuesday, during the weekly meeting of the Saudi cabinet chaired by King Salman. The latest Houthi assault took place earlier in the day and left five civilians injured.

“The council appreciated the efficiency of the air-defense system in confronting and thwarting the threats made by the Iran-backed terrorist Houthi militia, and its violations of international laws by launching ballistic missiles and drones at civilians and civilian objects in the Kingdom in a deliberate and systematic manner,” said Minister of Information Majid Al-Qasabi.

The cabinet was also briefed on King Salman’s telephone conversation with US President Joe Biden last Thursday, during which both sides stressed the depth of the relationship between the two countries, and the importance of strengthening the partnership to serve their interests and achieve regional and international security and stability.

The Council of Ministers hailed a second consecutive year of progress made by the Kingdom in the Women, Business and the Law 2021 report recently published by the World Bank Group, which ranked Saudi Arabia among the leading countries in the MENA region for empowerment of women.

Initiatives implemented as part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 have helped to support the introduction of legislative reforms designed to enhance and expand the role of women in the economic development of the nation, and make the Kingdom more competitive regionally and globally, the cabinet said.

Ministers were briefed on the latest developments in the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and reviewed reports from new vaccination centers that have opened in several regions, Al-Qasabi told the Saudi Press Agency.

The cabinet also congratulated Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the successful surgery he underwent last week, wishing him health and wellness.

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Saudis pay tribute to engineer for his services to the Zamzam well

Saudis pay tribute to engineer for his services to the Zamzam well
An undated photo of Yahya Hamza Koshak, who died at the age of 80. (Supplied)
Updated 03 March 2021

Saudis pay tribute to engineer for his services to the Zamzam well

Saudis pay tribute to engineer for his services to the Zamzam well
  • Yahya Hamza Koshak was considered an authority on the architecture and history of the ancient site

JEDDAH: Saudis on Tuesday were mourning the loss of Yahya Hamza Koshak following his death at the age of 80. An engineer by profession, he became famous for his services to the Zamzam well.

Koshak, also known as the “father of engineers,” was a former director general of the National Water Company and member of the Okaz Organization for Press and Publication.
He was born in Makkah, where his father, a merchant, worked during the Umrah season, serving as chairman of the Establishment of Motawifs of Pilgrims of Turkish Muslims of Europe America and Australia.
His mother was a close friend of the wife of the late King Faisal, Princess Effat, whom she met at the Makkah’s Grand Mosque.
Koshak studied in one of Taif city’s first schools after it was founded by King Faisal and Princess Effat.
He studied engineering at Ain Shams University in Cairo, but completed his degree in Riyadh. He later continued his education in the US, where he obtained a Ph.D. in engineering sciences.
His nephew Nabeel Koshak told Arab News that the late engineer was dear to those who worked with him.

FASTFACTS

• Yahya Hamza Koshak was born in Makkah.

• Koshak studied in one of Taif city’s first schools.

• He studied engineering at Ain Shams University in Cairo, but completed his degree in Riyadh.

• He later continued his education in the US, where he obtained a Ph.D. in engineering sciences.

• He led the cleaning team of the Zamzam well four decades ago.

• Koshak wrote a book, ‘Zamzam: The Holy Water,’ in which he recorded his observations inside the well.

“He was very social, close to people, and always kind and did not like to hurt anyone. He was light hearted — these were the characteristics that distinguished his personality.”
Koshak “was like a father to me,” and the family remained proud that he earned the trust of the Kingdom’s leadership, his nephew said.
“He greeted and received the king every year during the last 10 days of Ramadan.”
Koshak held a number of government positions in Makkah over a long career, including undersecretary for technical affairs at the Makkah Municipality.
He led the cleaning team of the Zamzam well four decades ago and wrote a book, “Zamzam: The Holy Water,” in which he recorded his observations inside the well.
“Cleaning the Zamzam well was one of his most important projects, a huge task under the direction of the late King Khalid,” his nephew said.
In his book, Koshak outlined the history of the well and its water sources, and also documented the archaeological objects found during the cleaning project.
The late engineer said: “By observation, it became clear that there are only two main sources of water, one toward the Kaaba, and the other toward Ajyad. As for the third source, which historical narratives said is on the side of Jabal Abu Qubays and Al-Safa, I found instead 12 small holes between building stones.”
Koshak’s interests included alternative medicine, which led to him establishing a specialist center in Jeddah.