China, Saudi, and the Future of Cross-Regional Investments

  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

Jess Diez
Director of Educational Programs & Managing Editor

December 13, 2022

On Wednesday, December 7, Chinese and Saudi Arabian leadership met for a bilateral visit. The two countries signed 34 deals totaling an estimated $30 billion in transport, green energy, and other areas of focus. Both leaders expressed interest in future cooperation, showcasing a new era of relations between the Asian and Arab countries. While the United States has expressed concern towards this growing Chinese influence, many Arab countries are optimistic of this enhanced intercontinental collaboration.

The deals reflect growing economic trust and collaboration between the two nations. Written in Al Arabiya, the agreements cover “several sectors in the fields of green energy, green hydrogen, photovoltaic energy, information technology, cloud services, transportation, logistics, medical industries, housing and construction factories.”

One major investment focus hoovered on power generation. Highlighted in Zawya, “Saudi Arabian ACWA Power has signed agreements with nine Chinese entities that will lay the ground for financing, investment and construction of the utility provider’s global clean and renewable energy projects in Saudi Arabia, as well as in the Belt and Road Initiative countries.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping signed these investment agreements during his three-day visit to the Kingdom, and in the presence of Saudi Minister Investment Eng. Khalid bin Abdulaziz Al-Falih, alongside various Saudi government representatives. Expanded in Saudi Press Agency, Investment Minister Al-Falih stated thatthis visit reflects the keenness of the leaderships of the two countries to develop and strengthen relations and partnership between the two countries in all fields, including economic and investment, adding that the visit will contribute to raising the pace of economic and investment cooperation between the two countries.”

Al-Falih also explained that Saudi Arabia and China have experienced growing cooperation over the past years, as mutual visits between the countries are becoming more frequent and mutual trade is at an all time high. Dissected in The Indian Express, “China is Saudi Arabia’s largest trading partner, with bilateral trade worth $87.3 billion in 2021. Chinese exports to Saudi Arabia reached $30.3 billion, while China’s imports from the kingdom totalled $57 billion. Below are a few areas where China and Saudi Arabia share close ties.”

Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Saudi Minister of  Foreing Affairs, eased concerns that collaborating with China means Saudi is turning away from the US. Written in Arab News, Prince Farhan stated: “The Kingdom is a member of the G20 and is aiming to become one of the top 15 economies globally. We have to be open to cooperation with everyone. There is no doubt that working together with the second largest economy in the world is vital to Saudi Arabia’s growth, but that does not mean that we cannot continue to work with the world’s largest economy.”

Other Arab countries have expressed optimism towards the future of Saudi-Chinese relations. UAE Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan praised the Chinese President’s vision of the future and outcomes of the China-GCC Summit for Cooperation and Development. Explained in Emirates News Agency, Sheikh Mansour said that the UAE, “building on its status as a major trade partner of the People’s Republic of China in the region, seeks to extend bridges of cooperation between the government and private sectors in the two countries to pave the way for more initiatives that drive trade growth, enhance infrastructure, facilitate knowledge exchange, and leverage advanced technology, in line with the UAE leadership’s vision to boost its economy and achieve leadership in various sectors.”

Bahrain and Iraq have also expressed enthusiasm in China’s growing role in trade within the Arab world. Notably, two days following the deals, the first China-Arab States Summit was held in Saudi’s capital Ridaydh. With both parties on the same page, it is clear that this collaboration is bound to grow. Written in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, the summit “announced that China and Arab States agreed to make all-out efforts to build a China-Arab community with a shared future in the new era.” 

  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

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