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 Arabia's National Cultural Awards winners to be announced at closing ceremony

Saudi Arabia's National Cultural Awards winners to be announced at closing ceremony
Updated 38 min 45 sec ago

Saudi Arabia's National Cultural Awards winners to be announced at closing ceremony

Saudi Arabia's National Cultural Awards winners to be announced at closing ceremony

RIYADH: Governor of Riyadh Prince Faisal Bin Bandar will patronize on Monday the closing ceremony of the National Cultural Awards Initiative.

The ceremony, organized by the Ministry of Culture, will take place at the Culture Palace in the Diplomatic Quarter in Riyadh.

Winners of the initiative awards will be announced in the various categories of cultural activities. 

The initiative includes 14 cultural awards: the Cultural Personality of the Year Award, Youth Cultural Award, Cultural Institutions Award, as well as Film Award, Fashion Award, Music Award, National Heritage Award, Literature Award, Theater and Performing Arts Award, Visual Arts Award, Architecture and Design Award, Culinary Arts Award, Publishing Award, and Translation Award.

The Ministry of Culture organized the National Cultural Awards initiative as part of the initiatives of the Quality of Life Program, one of the Saudi Vision 2030 programs.


Yemeni conjoined twins ‘Yousuf and Yassin’ to fly to Riyadh under King Salman’s orders for medical examination

Yemeni conjoined twins ‘Yousuf and Yassin’ to fly to Riyadh under King Salman’s orders for medical examination
Updated 19 April 2021

Yemeni conjoined twins ‘Yousuf and Yassin’ to fly to Riyadh under King Salman’s orders for medical examination

Yemeni conjoined twins ‘Yousuf and Yassin’ to fly to Riyadh under King Salman’s orders for medical examination
  • King Salman ordered a speedy transfer
  • The conjoined twins are expected to arrive within the next few days

DUBAI: Yemeni conjoined twins “Yousuf and Yassin” will finally get the necessary medical examinations they need after King Salman ordered for their direct transfer from Yemen to Riyadh for the possibility of a separation surgery.
King Salman ordered a speedy transfer for the twins and their parents, the General Supervisor of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center and renowned pediatric surgeon Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al-Rabiah said.
The conjoined twins are expected to arrive within the next few days, state news agency SPA reported on Sunday.
King Salman has previously ordered the transfer of conjoined twins from Mauritania to travel to Saudi Arabia to separate them. Their father, who accompanied them, said the procedures for transferring the twins to Riyadh were carried out easily.


Saudi Arabia offers condolences over Egypt train accident

Saudi Arabia offers condolences over Egypt train accident
Updated 19 April 2021

Saudi Arabia offers condolences over Egypt train accident

Saudi Arabia offers condolences over Egypt train accident
  • The train accident left 97 wounded after it derailed off its tracks

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia said on Sunday it expresses its deep sorrow for the train accident north of the Egyptian capital Cairo.
A passenger train derailed earlier on Sunday in the city of Toukh in Qalyubia province, injuring around 100 people.
“The Kingdom expresses its sincere condolences and sympathy to the families of the victims, and to the Egyptian leadership, government and people, wishing the injured a speedy recovery,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
Four train wagons ran off the railway while the train was traveling to the Nile Delta city of Mansoura from Cairo, Egypt’s railway authority said.
(With AP)


Saudi crown prince meets British PM’s envoy to the Gulf region

Saudi crown prince meets British PM’s envoy to the Gulf region
Updated 9 min 42 sec ago

Saudi crown prince meets British PM’s envoy to the Gulf region

Saudi crown prince meets British PM’s envoy to the Gulf region

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met with the special envoy of the British prime minister for the Gulf Region, Edward Lister, early Monday in Jeddah.
During the meeting, they looked into ways to enhance Saudi-UK bilateral relations and discussed regional and international issues of common interest.
The meeting was attended by Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan, the Kingdom's ambassador to the UK Prince Khalid bin Bandar bin Sultan, Minister of Commerce and Acting Minister of Information Majid Al-Qasabi, as well as Britain's ambassador to the Kingdom Neil Crompton.


‘We must cooperate’ to curb virus, avoid tough measures, Saudi Ministry of Interior warns

‘We must cooperate’ to curb virus, avoid tough measures, Saudi Ministry of Interior warns
A Saudi woman walks on a social distancing marker at a shopping center, as preventive measures against the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia May 3, 2020. (REUTERS)
Updated 19 April 2021

‘We must cooperate’ to curb virus, avoid tough measures, Saudi Ministry of Interior warns

‘We must cooperate’ to curb virus, avoid tough measures, Saudi Ministry of Interior warns
  • Makkah police arrest 13 people for violating isolation, quarantine instructions

RIYADH: The Saudi Ministry of Interior (MoI) announced on Sunday that authorities have detected a surge of “worrying” behaviors in the Kingdom since the beginning of Ramadan, warning citizens to avoid ignoring anti-coronavirus health measures.

At a joint press conference between the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Health (MoH) and the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, MoI spokesperson Lt. Col. Talal Al-Shalhoub warned that the rising number of coronavirus cases in the Kingdom could potentially lead to citywide lockdowns, as well as the banning of certain activities.
“We must cooperate and not trivialize the dangers. We do not want to have to resort to tough measures,” he said.
Al-Shalhoub added that the Kingdom was continuing to crack down on rule-breakers and those who violate safety precautions, including people using social media to spread misinformation about safety measures and ways to circumvent them.
Meanwhile, Makkah’s regional police spokesman said that 13 people were arrested in Jeddah and Taif for violating isolation and quarantine instructions after they tested positive for coronavirus.
Preliminary legal procedures were taken against them and their cases were referred to the Public Prosecution. The MoI previously warned that violators will face up to a two-year prison sentence, a fine of up to SR200,000 ($53,300), or both.
Ministry of Health spokesman Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly revealed that the Kingdom has seen a slight rise in the percentage of women contracting coronavirus, warning that the number of women coming forward to be vaccinated was lower than expected.
“We have also seen a rise in the number of female cases that become critical and end up needing intensive care. Women also make up 55 percent of the overall number of cases in the Kingdom,” he said.
The MoH announced that 917 new coronavirus cases were reported on Saturday, raising the total number of cases to 404,970.
There are now 9,445 active cases, 1,044 of which are in critical care.

INNUMBERS

404,970 Total cases

388,702 Recoveries

6,823 Deaths

Of the new cases, 402 were in Riyadh, 203 in Makkah and 131 in the Eastern Province. Baha and Jouf reported the lowest cases on Saturday, with just six cases each.
Al-Aly said that appointments for second vaccine doses would be automatically updated, following news that some appointments had been canceled. The Saudi strategy aims to immunize the largest number of people possible with at least the first dose, Al-Aly added.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah announced that more than 15 million people have benefited from its Eatmarna app.
The ministry said that only people who have taken at least the first dose of the vaccine will be permitted to perform Umrah, or pray at either the Grand Mosque in Makkah or the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah.
Violators will be prosecuted for attempting to perform the pilgrimage without the proper permissions, officials said, adding that authorities are encouraging safety precautions in order to ensure safe, smooth, and seamless pilgrimages for all visitors.
There were 907 new recoveries reported in the Kingdom, raising the total number of recoveries over the course of the pandemic to 388,702. The Kingdom’s death toll rose to 6,823 after 13 new coronavirus-related deaths were recorded.
Almost 7.1 million coronavirus vaccines have been administered in Saudi Arabia so far.

The Kingdom is now delivering vaccines at a rate of about 1.32 per second, or 114,471 each day. About 20.3 percent of the Saudi population have now been vaccinated.

The last day saw the completion of 51,225 PCR tests, bringing the total number of tests conducted in the Kingdom to 16,174,957.