Saudi Arabia and China: 30 Years of Economic and Strategic Integration and Cooperation

At an accelerating pace, the Saudi-Chinese relations are moving towards more integration and economic and strategic cooperation that extends for about 30 years.

Regional and international developments and mutual desire have contributed to the development of relations between the two countries since they signed an agreement in 1990 to establish full diplomatic relations and exchange ambassadors.

In the past three decades, the Saudi leadership has strengthened the pace of rapprochement with China as a rising global power that requires building relations with it at the strategic level, while China considers the Kingdom the first regional and Arab economic and trade partner, as it is the main source of oil in the region.

In the 1990s, relations developed significantly, when the late Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz visited China when he was crown prince in 1998, which the late described as “Saudi Arabia’s best friend” before it was followed by a visit by former Chinese President Jiang Zemin to Saudi Arabia 1999 year.

While the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz visited China twice, the first in 1999 when he was Prince of the Riyadh region, and the second in 2014 when he was crown prince.

In early 2016, Chinese President Chen Jinping visited the Kingdom, and King Salman held a session of talks with him in Riyadh, during which he confirmed that the friendship between the Kingdom and China has witnessed steady growth over the past 25 years, and they strive together for stability and the promotion of peace and security in the world.

During the visit, 14 agreements and memoranda of understanding were signed between the governments of the Kingdom and China, including the memorandum for strengthening joint cooperation regarding the economic belt of the Silk Road, the Maritime Silk Road Initiative for the 21st century, and cooperation in production capacity.

The volume of trade between the Kingdom and China reached 63.3 billion dollars, according to 2018 statistics, an increase of 26.3% year-on-year.

Saudi Arabia’s investments in China exceeded $ 12 billion by the end of 2018, as the number of national companies invested in Chinese sectors reached more than 290 companies, concentrated in industry, trade, scientific research, and technical services.

China is Saudi Arabia’s biggest oil customer, and Saudi Arabia, in turn, is the largest oil provider to China, meeting about 20% of Chinese demand.

In 2001, Aramco Overseas Corporation of Saudi Aramco signed an agreement with both Fujian Petrochemical Company Ltd. and ExxonMobil China Petroleum and Petrochemical Company Ltd.

The year 2006 witnessed a historic visit by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud – may God have mercy on him – to the People’s Republic of China, and was received by President Hu Jintao at the time, and they held together with a session of official talks, followed by the signing of five agreements between the two countries on cooperation in the field of Oil, natural gas and the mining sector.

In 2012, Chinese companies signed 100 contracts with a number of government agencies to implement a set of development projects, the total costs of which amounted to about 44 billion riyals, including the construction of railways and the development of some ports.

The same year also witnessed the signing of a cooperation agreement for the peaceful use of nuclear energy between the governments of the two countries.

In 2014, the two countries held a memorandum of understanding between the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology in the Kingdom and the Chinese National Space Administration for cooperation in space science and technology.

In conjunction with the holding of the Saudi-Chinese Investment Forum in Jeddah in 2017, the Saudi Cabinet approved the establishment of a joint investment fund with China, according to media reports that the value of the fund’s investments will reach $ 20 billion.

And at the beginning of last year, the Saudi-Chinese Investment Forum, in the capital, Beijing, was crowned with the signing of 35 joint bilateral economic cooperation agreements between the Kingdom and China, estimated at more than 28 billion US dollars, and the delivery of 4 licenses to Chinese companies specialized in a number of fields.