23.12.2022 Author: Viktor Mikhin

The results of Xi Jinping’s visit to Saudi Arabia

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Saudi Arabia in early December received widespread acclaim and highly positive publicity in numerous countries around the world. First and foremost, it was a successful state reception in Riyadh, the likes of which have not been organized for any statesman from the West, not to mention the hostile meeting with US President Joe Biden that took place this summer. This fact quite clearly showed an evident shift in regional alliances, which indicates a new alignment of forces in the new multipolar world. As a result of this visit, an unprecedented number of contracts, agreements and treaties in civilian areas were signed, which sharply distinguishes this trip from, for example, Donald Trump’s visit, when many contracts were also signed, but all of them were only in the military field and were aimed at pumping out huge sums from the budget of Saudi Arabia and creating military hysteria in the region.

The Chinese leader held a series of summits with Saudi partners, the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and leaders of nearly every Arab country, including many that have been close US allies for decades. Against the backdrop of these alliances, which are now in the past, the Chinese president established new friendly ties with his Arab counterparts, which could later play a cruel joke on the so-called “American influence” in the Persian Gulf.

Hossein Askari, professor emeritus of business and international affairs at George Washington University, sees Xi Jinping’s “high-profile visit” to Saudi Arabia as an attempt to “reduce the power and presence of the United States in the Persian Gulf” by capitalizing on the “uneasy relationship” between the US and Saudi Arabia. In an interview with Tehran Times, Askari noted that China’s presence in the Persian Gulf at the same time “makes it difficult for the United States to turn to the Pacific.”

Speaking at the beginning of the China-GCC summit, the Chinese leader said bluntly and clearly: “China will continue to resolutely help GCC countries maintain their own security… and build a collective security system for the (Persian) Gulf.” He was also quoted as saying: “China will continue to import a large amount of oil from the Gulf countries on an ongoing basis.”

The joint statement adopted at the end of the Arab-Chinese summit expressed support for China’s position on Taiwan and the rejection of Taiwan’s independence. The Chinese leader expressed his gratitude for the “important efforts” made to care for minorities from both the Arab and Chinese sides.

 In general, the visit of the Chinese President and his high-level meetings with the leaders of Saudi Arabia, the Gulf countries and the Arab states directly proved that China is committed to strengthening its presence and expanding its role in the Middle East and the Gulf regions. Last year, China signed an ambitious and long-term strategic agreement with Iran without getting into a direct confrontation with the US. On the Arab side, the leaders of the Gulf states and the Arab states expressed their political will to promote all-round cooperation with China, while maintaining some of their alliance with the US and not questioning the “partnership” that binds others to Washington. However, they no doubt understand that this can be a difficult balancing act, and most likely it will be revised in the near future, and not in favor of Washington.

A spokesman for the US State Department commented on the Chinese President’s visit to Saudi Arabia, stressing that the US “remains deeply committed to security in the Middle East and the Gulf region.” He added that “America’s comparative advantage in this is our ability to build coalitions, our partnerships and our ability to integrate defense structures. All of these things are unmatched.“ Roughly referring to fighting terrorism, protecting freedom of navigation and countering threats in the region, the spokesman also said that “there is simply no comparison to the value the United States can provide.”  The US message of containment, though diplomatically articulated, regarding the limits of wider Arab-Chinese cooperation will reverberate throughout the Middle East and the Gulf region. But what will be the limits of Washington’s influence on the GCC, apparently, will be clear in the near future, and it is unlikely that the United States will be able to maintain its former overwhelming influence in this region.

The summit in Riyadh formulated a common vision of a strategic partnership between the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf and China. But it should not be seen as negatively affecting the GCC’s relations with regional allies, its close partnerships with the US and the UK, or its prospective strategic cooperation with the EU. In search of regional and global security, stability and prosperity, the GCC states individually and collectively will take advantage of all relationships to achieve these goals. And the partnership with China is an important building block along the way.

In any case, whatever the outcome of the Chinese leader’s visit to Saudi Arabia and his meetings with representatives of many Arab countries, it should be clearly stated that the unipolar world with US hegemony is becoming a thing of the past. It is being replaced by a new era with a multipolar world, with the interested participation of all countries of the world, not just the nations of the West. And one should agree with the opinion of Russian President Vladimir Putin that new times bring new trends and changes, including the restructuring of all international relations taking into account the arrival of a multipolar world to replace the obsolete unipolar one.

Viktor Mikhin, corresponding member of RANS, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.

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