On Wednesday, December 7, Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for a multi-day state visit.
The countries signed a joint statement expressing their commitment to prioritizing bilateral relations and strengthening energy and defense cooperation.
Chinese and Saudi leadership also signed a comprehensive strategic partnership agreement, outlining a number of agreements and memorandums of understanding, pertaining to hydrogen energy, the coordination of the Kingdom's Vision 2030, China's Belt and Road Initiative, and more.
Ultimately, the countries signed 34 deals totaling an estimated $30 billion “in green energy, information technology, cloud services, transport, construction and other sectors.”
They also reportedly shared discussion on “comprehensive strategic partnership relations” as well as the Iranian nuclearization threat.
Background on Chinese Saudi Relations:
In the past 30 years, bilateral relations between Saudi Arabia and China have grown significantly. Notably, Saudi Arabia is China’s top oil supplier and trading partner, with 18% of China’s crude oil purchases being imported from Saudi Arabia.
Crude oil exports to China increased by $23.5 billion from 2000 to 2010. This number has continued to grow.
China has invested more than $5.5 billion in Saudi Arabia via this initiative, with many of these deals involving energy resources.
Implications on U.S.-Saudi Relations:
Although Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir argued that the Chinese-Saudi and US-Saudi relationships are not “exclusive” of one another, NSC Communications Coordinator John Kirby made no comment on the visit other than that the U.S. is “mindful” of China's growing influence in the region.
Experts state that, amid a new era of U.S. involvement in the region, Saudi Arabia may be shifting towards partnership with China. Others have expressed concern that this visit marks the “continuing decline of American influence in the region.”
The U.S.-Saudi relationship remains strong in areas of security and intelligence, with continued cooperation on issues like combating ISIS and the Iranian threat.
Testifying to this cooperation, a joint UAE-Saudi statement asserted that the two states led recent negotiations leading up to the release of WNBA star and U.S. citizen Brittney Griner.
Even so, other experts assess China to be the natural usurper of the formerly “monogamous” U.S.-Saudi relationship due to a number of factors. Principally, this includes similar laissez-faire attitudes on human rights and tendencies toward less democratic governance that China and Saudi Arabia share.