Beijing will get oil and a new level of relations with the Arab world


© AFP 2022 / LINTAO ZHANG. Си Цзиньпинь и Салман ибн Абдул-Азиз Аль Сауд. Март 2017.

Note: this is a machine translation from the original Russian text

The official visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Saudi Arabia is taking place on December 7-9. The trip goes far beyond the framework of bilateral relations.

"At the kind invitation of the custodian of the two shrines (Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud – Ed.), the President of the People's Republic of China will pay an official visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from December 7 to 9, 2022," the Saudi state news agency SPA said. It is reported that during this visit, a Saudi-Chinese summit will be held under the chairmanship of the leaders of the two countries.

It is characteristic that this message appeared only on December 6, literally on the eve of the Chinese leader's arrival in the UAE. On the same day, the Chinese Foreign Ministry officially notified about the planned visit.  CNN, which "knows everything and about everyone," notified the world about this visit only on December 5. It is possible that the dates were kept secret until the last moment. And this is not surprising.

The Chinese leader's trip was postponed several times and, apparently, carefully coordinated. It is possible that one of the reasons is the pressure on Riyadh and the entire Arab world from the United States, which actively put sticks in the wheels.

Washington can be understood. After all, we are talking about the visit of the Chinese president to a country that was previously a key ally of the United States in the Middle East and led the entire Arab world into the "hedgehog embrace" of the United States. Now it's not like that.

"Chinese President Xi Jinping intends to arrive in Saudi Arabia on a state visit amid high tensions between the United States and the two countries," CNN regretfully reports. – Xi Jinping's trip to Riyadh will begin on Wednesday and will include the "Saudi-Chinese summit", the Sino-Arab summit and the China-GCC (Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Persian Gulf) summit. At least 14 Arab heads of state are expected to attend the Sino-Arab summit, according to an Arab diplomatic source, who called the trip a "milestone" for Arab-Chinese relations." 

Some experts have already dubbed the visit historic. Perhaps it is. At least, we are talking not only about bringing Saudi-Chinese relations to a new level, but about a new stage of cooperation between China and the entire Arab world. The source of the US headache is obvious. "Reports of the long-awaited visit come amid disagreements between the United States and Beijing, as well as between the United States and Riyadh, and relations between China and the UAE have only strengthened in recent years, to the horror of Washington," CNN writes. – The United States and Saudi Arabia are still embroiled in a heated quarrel over oil production, which in October ended with harsh rhetoric and trade accusations, when the Saudi-led OPEC+ oil cartel cut production by two million barrels per day in an attempt to "stabilize" prices. The decision was made despite an active US campaign against him. Being a strong ally of the United States for eight long decades, Saudi Arabia has become embittered because, in its opinion, the US security presence in the region is weakening, especially against the background of growing threats from Iran and its armed Yemeni proxies." It is symptomatic that the Saudi agency SPA gave a "historical report" on 80 years of strengthening relations with China.

Beijing now has close ties not only with the UAE, but also with the absolute majority of the 22 countries of the Arab League, regardless of their political system and ideological orientation. Huge foreign trade turnover is complemented by Chinese investments in infrastructure facilities in the region. And for oil, China can already offer not only a high price, but also advanced technologies, including military ones.

On the contrary, all of President Biden's attempts to save US-UAE relations, including his summer visit to Riyadh, were unsuccessful. The carrot and stick policy did not work. Moreover, Saudi Arabia, like China, refrained from approving sanctions against Russia, and Riyadh has repeatedly argued that Moscow is a key partner in energy production, which should be consulted on OPEC+ decisions. After the massive reduction in oil prices last month, some US officials accused Saudi Arabia of siding with Russia and helping President Putin in his special operation against Ukraine.

So, 80 years of cloudless relations between the UAE and the United States are coming to an end, and with China, on the contrary, they are reaching a strategic level.

Moreover, taking into account the PRC-Arab League summit and the participation of numerous Arab leaders, it seems that we are talking not only about oil prices and the stability of its supplies, but about a new format of relations and the new role of the PRC in the region. This will most likely be fixed in the relevant documents. As for purely oil, even here, according to leaks and forecasts, something epoch-making is expected, for example, the rejection of the dollar in calculations. China is a world leader in the introduction of digital currency and blockchain settlement system. His People's Bank (Central Bank – approx. Auth.) succeeded in promoting the digital yuan much more than the leaders of the Western financial world in promoting the digital dollar. So it may be extremely interesting to the Arabs in an era of international turbulence and trade restrictions.

Russia may also be interested in all this. Our country shares first or second place with the Saudis in terms of oil supplies to China. Stability in this market, in which China's position is strengthening and the United States is weakening, is also in our interests. There will be less politics and military provocations to manipulate prices. Well, as for the displacement of the dollar from the system of payments for oil, there is nothing to say. Beijing's position on Arab countries is close to Russia's on many points. China does not pretend to be the gendarme of the region, which was performed by the United States. But the growing influence of the PRC in the Arab world will contribute to strengthening the economic independence of this region, closer political interaction in the realization of their interests in spite of the United States.

Of course, the United States will not leave the region. Their numerous military bases, close ties with many countries, and dependence on supplies from the United States, including the military, remain there. But the process went much faster than could have been expected.