Online magazine highlighting research, news and analysis covering the European Neighbourhood

Tighter cooperation emerges between China and Saudi Arabia

Dr. Samuel Ramani, a researcher in international relations at Oxford University, RUSI associate fellow and author of “Russia in Africa” discusses whether Saudi Arabia is abandoning the West. In particular, he comments how “Saudi Arabia is set to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization”, as this means that “the most immediate consequence is tighter cooperation between China and Saudi Arabia. This will extend to the technical and vocational spheres, as King Salman already confirmed, and likely also to Red Sea security. This will lead to institutionalised engagement with Russia in the security sphere.”

He adds:

“Russia’s Ambassador in Riyadh says security cooperation expanded in 2022 but there have been no arms sales and few concrete results. Symbolism will likely prevail again. Saudi Arabia pledged in September 2022 to enhance economic cooperation with Central Asian countries. This followed 13 agreements between Saudi Arabia and Kazakhstan in July 2022, which strengthened commercial and investment links. The Saudi Arabia-Iran dialogue on security issues will be enhanced, which will likely lead China and Russia pushing their Gulf security plans. A Saudi normalisation with Syria in 2023 would further streamline cooperation. Saudi Arabia’s SCO membership encapsulates MBS’s commitment to a multipolar world order and strengthen normative bonds with fellow autocracies. The UAE might also see similar value in the SCO. Substantive impacts will be limited, aside from changes in bilateral relations.

Separately, it also emerged over the last few weeks that Saudi Aramco will start building a huge refining complex in northeastern China as soon as next month, while India is working with Saudi Arabia to create an investment bridge emphasizing greater economic interconnectedness. Furthermore, there was the role played by China in the Iranian-Saudi rapprochement.

A debate has begun on whether this all undermines the position of the U.S. Dollar as the global reserve currency.


Picture: Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia