Does China stand in Biden’s way to improve Washington’s relations with Riyadh?

A report by the American magazine Politico sheds light on the development of Saudi Arabia’s relations with China and its impact on the nature of the historical relations that Riyadh connects with Washington, and the extent to which US President Joe Biden’s visit to the country has succeeded in restoring it. to its previous era.

The newspaper said China was in the way of Biden’s communication with Saudi Arabia, noting that strained relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia had given Beijing sudden diplomatic gains.

She added that Biden, who arrived in Saudi Arabia on Friday, will try to rectify the strained relationship that threatens to create a vacuum in the region, which could fill China.

And she notes that Biden does not hide his concern about the threat posed by China, as he emphasizes in an opinion piece published in The Washington Post last week that the improvement of US-Saudi relations is necessary for the United States “to be placed in the best possible position”. to beat China. “

Relations between the US and Saudi Arabia have been strained since Biden came to power, promising during his election campaign to make Saudi Arabia a pariah state over the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi and accusing him of killing Yemeni children .

These remarks, along with the Biden administration’s move to revive the nuclear deal with Tehran, upset Saudi Arabia and its de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to the newspaper.

Doubts were also raised in Riyadh about the credibility of the United States, which has strengthened China’s efforts to position itself as a rising alternative to the great power.

The newspaper quotes former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia Robert Robert as saying that “the US role in Saudi Arabia has been somewhat lacking recently.”

He added that “describing it as a pariah state, and talking about Washington’s focus on Asia, sent messages that it wanted to move away from the Middle East.”

Jordan believed that these data “made the Saudis turn to China, which is their largest trading partner and a country with great influence, and China has an added advantage of not giving them human rights lectures.”

China and Saudi Arabia entered into a “strategic partnership” in 2016 linked to “long-term stable energy cooperation.”

The value of bilateral trade transactions between the two countries amounted to $ 65.2 billion in 2020, compared to about $ 19.7 billion with the United States during the same period.

Relations between the two countries took an additional step last March, with Riyadh announcing its intention to abandon US dollar transactions for some of those oil sales and convert them into China’s currency.

Beijing lured Saudi Arabia in 2021 to become a “dialogue partner” in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a China-led regional security and development group that includes Kazakhstan, India, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan.

The Chinese also worked for access and influence not only in Saudi Arabia, but in the Gulf as a whole.

David Satterfield, director of the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University, says that “the Chinese are investigating the situation in a particular country and looking at where they can be useful or have access and about whom they are moving.”

The newspaper notes that China also plays a long-standing role as a supplier of military equipment and technology to Saudi Arabia by supplying equipment that the United States refuses to sell to Riyadh over fears of provoking a local arms race.

That relationship began with the sale of medium-range surface-to-surface missiles in 1988 and culminated in December with the CIA’s revelation that China had sold equipment and technology that would enable Riyadh to launch its ballistic missiles. manufacture.

However, despite Beijing’s diplomatic breakthroughs, the newspaper believes its relationship with Saudi Arabia could be affected by China’s relations with Riyadh’s number one enemy, Iran.

Beijing’s purchases of Iranian oil provide the sanctions-stricken Tehran regime with a major economic lifeline.

China and Iran have also signed a 25-year strategic cooperation agreement aimed at promoting bilateral trade and cooperation.

The newspaper believes that these developments in the relationship between Tehran and Beijing raise much doubt in Riyadh, which considers Iran as its first existential threat.

The paper concludes by saying that Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia may succeed in easing some of the tensions in bilateral relations with Saudi Arabia, but it is unlikely that this will change Riyadh’s willingness to take advantage of its deep ties with China to put pressure on the United States. his alliance with Saudi Arabia exceptional.

Biden met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on his arrival in Jeddah on Friday, at the start of a crucial visit to discuss energy issues, politics and relations between the Gulf and Washington, which were a refuge from his promise during his election campaign. to turn. the kingdom in a “pariah” state.

Video footage broadcast by official media shows Prince Mohammed, the de facto ruler of the country, welcoming Biden at one of the entrances to the royal palace in the west coast city, before each of them clenched his fists with the others’. baled and walked side by side. with a smile.

Washington wants to persuade the world’s largest crude oil exporter to open the door to rising oil production to lower high fuel prices against the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which threatens Democrats’ chances in the November election.

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