Chinese president Xi Jinping visited the Saudi capital Riyadh this week for a long-awaited three-day visit to his regional ally Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. Saudi Arabia has traditionally been an American ally, and Washington is watching the visit, which should lead to a “strategic agreement” between the two autocrats, with argumentative eyes.
During his visit, Xi Jinping will meet more than thirty heads of state and business, the reception that awaits Xi is said to be of the same order of magnitude as that which Donald Trump received. The welcome contrasts sharply with Joe Biden’s low-key and largely fruitless visit to Jeddah in August.
Biden then visited Saudi Arabia in the hope of getting guarantees on global oil prices. However, Saudi Arabia refused to reduce production, which kept those prices high. Biden left with the tail between his legs, since then relations between Riyadh and Washington have not improved. Not least because Saudi Arabia seemed to support the Russian war in Ukraine.
That Biden caught flounder comes as no surprise; relations with the traditional ally and other players in the region have been subject to erosion for years. For example, the US not only limited arms sales to its allies, the US did not speak out enough explicitly against the attacks of Yemeni Houthi rebels on targets in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Biden’s promise at the start of his administration to consider Crown Prince Bin Salman a pariah, after US intelligence concluded that he had ordered the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey.
While Biden promised during his failed visit to Bin Salman in August that the US would not lose its influence in the Middle East to China, that promise now appears to be inflationary. The bilateral trade between Saudi Arabia and China now amounts to 90 billion dollars and it looks like both countries will strengthen their ties. Beijing is already Riyadh’s largest trading partner, and Saudi Arabia is a member of China’s Belt and Road project, The New Silk Road.
“We’ve Long said there are more people to dine with than Washington,” a senior Saudi official told The Guardian. “That message will be very clear when this visit starts. The Chinese do not teach us and are not disrespectful. They know how to do business. The Americans, on the other hand, want us to take sides. We won’t.’
About the author: Wesley C Waldo
Wesley C Waldo, a promising writer who is preparing to publish his first novel in 2023. Travels a lot and collects the clues for a new book. He writes on social topics, sometimes describes an event or two.