At the China-Arab Summit and the China-Gulf Cooperation Council Summit in December 2022, China and the Gulf States formed a new strategic partnership based on President Xi Jinping’s vision of win-win cooperation and a community with a shared future. These summits, attended by 10 Arab leaders, marked a milestone in Sino-Arab relations, with a focus on sustainable cooperation, solidarity, and economic development.
The ancient Silk Road has historically connected the Arab States and China, and the Belt and Road Initiative now presents an opportunity to strengthen cultural engagement, trade, innovation, and inclusive peace and development. President Xi’s vision sees the BRI as a means of creating a stronger China-Arab community with a shared future. The BRI partnership priorities align with the PRC-Gulf States relationship, aiming to improve infrastructure, logistics, energy supply, and investment. This multilateral partnership is a game changer, with the whole Gulf region set to benefit. “China’s “Economic Diplomacy” aims to grow trade and economic ties without political interference.
The cooperation between Gulf Cooperation Council’s States and Beijing is based on economic interdependence.
China has been working to strengthen its relationships with the six member countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, with particular reliance on China’s imports of oil from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Oman. Similarly, China relies on the Gulf countries for its energy security, with Saudi Arabia accounting for a significant portion of its crude oil import to China in recent years. Trade between China and the GCC has increased significantly over the years, with energy and markets for Chinese goods being the main drivers. The GCC states also offer investment opportunities for China in infrastructure, digital economies, manufacturing, and construction. Technology and facilities have further strengthened the ties between the Gulf region and China’s BRI.
The Gulf Cooperation Council is seeking foreign direct investment to meet local demands and integrate their economies into global supply chains, with recent summits offering the best opportunity for this. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are also investing in new technologies to diversify their economies and create more jobs. In this pursuit of post-oil economic diversification, the Gulf States are increasingly turning to the East, with China being the most sustainable choice promoted by the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The strategic engagement of the Gulf States with China is becoming more important in light of the dynamic international and regional situation.
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) provides a comprehensive framework for cooperation in the economy, trade, energy, and security between China and Saudi Arabia, supporting Saudi Arabia’s 2030 Vision.
This has ushered in a new era of economic interdependence and an inclusive strategic partnership between the two nations.
Furthermore, based on reports from Saudi state media, China and Saudi Arabia recently inked agreements worth approximately $30 billion. One of the agreements is expected to introduce high-tech complexes, cloud computing, and data centers to Saudi cities through Huawei Technologies. Saudi Arabia has been the primary beneficiary of China’s BRI investments in the Gulf region, amounting to $5.5 billion in deals, demonstrating Beijing’s long-term commitments and ambitions in the Middle East while limiting its investments in other countries due to geopolitical risks.
Since the announcement of the Belt and Road Initiative, Saudi Arabia has experienced consistent growth with Chinese foreign direct investment inflows and investments averaging $654 million in 2019. The Kuwaiti government also included a China-Kuwait BRI partnership in its Vision of Development.
China’s success story has influenced other Gulf countries to rely on Chinese support for socioeconomic growth and mutual progress.
During the China-Gulf Cooperation Council summit, President Xi Jinping urged GCC states to cooperate on advanced technologies such as 5G and 6G communication, artificial intelligence, big data, and high-tech start-ups. As a result, 20 Arab states have signed Belt and Road initiative cooperation agreements with China, Some joined the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and supported China’s GDI.
By virtue of the Belt and Road Initiative, the Gulf States have supported China’s Global Development Initiative (GDI) and Global Security Initiative (GSI) as proactive approaches to boost their autonomous development capacity, socioeconomic progress, and the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The BRI has the potential to improve the China-Gulf partnership and mutual learning, providing benefits for both sides. More Arab countries are recognizing the chances offered by the BRI due to China’s reputation as a dependable Asian partner, leading to a new direction for this ambitious initiative. These opportunities will strengthen China’s relations with the Arab world, promote joint growth and security, foster future cooperation, and encourage civilizational dialogue.
The author is a student of International Relations, Having an interest in the Geopolitical landscape of the Indo-pacific Region. He tweets @MwaliJan1