As readers will be aware, this Column seeks to rectify the imbalance in Western coverage of China related developments. Sometimes the imbalance is distortion, sometimes omission and sometimes straightforward factual inaccuracy. Today, the focus is on omission and the failure of the Western media to comment on the significant change in political relationships between China and Saudi Arabia triggered by the visit of President Xi Jinping to Riyadh – a visit which will boost technology co-operation between the two countries, and continue the importation into China of ‘large’ amounts of oil from the Gulf.
The visit occurs against a backdrop of deteriorating relationships between the US and Saudi Arabia that fell to a new low earlier in 2022 when OPEC cut oil production very much against the wishes of President Biden’s administration. . During his three-day visit, President Xi met Saudi Arabia’s leaders, attended a Gulf states summit and an Arab summit. Both China and Saudi Arabia referred to a new chapter in the relationship in which Beijing has grown into the Kingdom’s largest trading partner, and Riyadh as China’s biggest oil provider.
The two countries signed a comprehensive strategic agreement in addition to more than two dozen deals, in the construction sector and, significantly, a broadband contract with China’s Huawei – the same Huawei from which the UK Government has made much noise recently about “de-coupling”. At the same time in Beijing, a Chinese foreign ministry official confirmed at a recent briefing that the two sides had conducted their first transaction in renminbi.
The world is changing. Politics does not standstill. The rise of China continues to be the single most important long term international development. And in the ebb and flow of Middle East politics in particular, the visit of President Xi may not sit comfortably with Washington or London. But change is a given fact of life in world affairs.
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