Saudi Arabia is turning east because of difficult relations with the West, following the Jamal Khashoggi murder. The two countries plan to build an oil refinery and a petrochemical plan in Liaoning. Riyadh is silent over the fate of the Uyghurs.
Beijing (AsiaNews) – Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) met today with Chinese President Xi Jinping, reiterating a relationship that "traced back a very long time in the past" in which "we have never experienced any problems”.
The Crown Prince arrived yesterday, after visiting Pakistan and India. Their foreign ministers, Adel Al Jubeir and Wang Yi, noted the two countries shared a common purpose on the economy, the fight against terrorism and non-interference.
China will continue its Belt and Road Initiative (the New Silk Road), bringing in Saudi Arabia, which in turn is committed to its Saudi Vision 2030, a programme spurred by MbS to modernise and diversify the economy.
To smooth cooperation, Saudi oil company Aramco signed a US$ 10 billion deal to build an oil refinery and petrochemical plant in Liaoning.
The Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority also announced the signing of 35 non-binding memorandums of understanding, including deals related to energy, mining, transportation and e-commerce.
However, the two sides have remained silent about the fight against terrorism.
Saudi Arabia is suspected of supporting many extremist groups in the world. Out of friendship with China, Riyadh has never condemned Beijing’s violence against the Uyghurs.
At least a million Muslim Turkic Uighurs are being held in forced labour camps in Xinjiang.
Both countries reiterated the principle of non-interference in a country’s internal affairs by outside forces.
For China it is clear the reference is the US and the trade war that is causing problems for its economy.
For Saudi Arabia, the United States is also a problem because of the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, an incident MbS wants to put behind him. The crown prince is suspected of being the instigator of the killing.
For its part, Europe wants to put Saudi Arabia on the money laundering black list for doing too little to curb financing of terrorist groups and organised crime.
According to some observers, MbS’s visit in the East is designed to counter anti-Saudi headwinds in the West.
He is seemingly trying to make Saudi Arabia China’s preferred oil partner, a role currently held by Russia.
At the same time, Riyadh is trying to develop alliances to isolate or contain Iran. However, just the day before MbS’s arrival in Beijing, Xi met with Iranian Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani.