Monday, December 12, 2022

So, I guess it will be "Sino-Saudi" as "Saudi-Sino" is Even Harder to Say

This was only a matter of time given the events and personalities in the last couple of years. The foundation has been built over the last decade for something much larger to be built. 

It is a cliché, but it is true; nations don't have friends - they have interests.

Saudi Arabia is rich in two things; hydrocarbons and problems. They have a human capital problem, a religious problem, and a Persian problem - not to mention their troublesome neighborhood. All both support and threaten the power of thee House of Saud.

They need good friends who will help them on the outside with trade and military assistance, but will not interfere with their delicate domestic concerns.

In parallel with a lower level of reliance on hydrocarbons from the Middle East and a weariness from over three decades of fighting low-level wars in the area, the United States is openly trying to decouple. To encourage this decoupling - or to virtue signal - our established chattering classes take almost hostile positions in the open against the Saudis, from their human rights acts against opponents, to their ongoing conflict in the civil war in Yemen.

There is one global power who is more than happy to buy oil at market prices and has zero interest in Saudi internal affairs - the People's Republic of China.

As we are insulting the Saudis, the PRC is courting them. 

The Smartest People in the Room™ didn't give the Saudis much of an option

Xi landed in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Wednesday for a multiple-day visit to the oil-rich kingdom and received a lavish welcome from MBS and other Saudi dignitaries on Thursday. Saudi military jets accompanied the Chinese president’s aircraft, a purple carpet was rolled out upon his arrival and canons were fired. On Friday, Xi invited Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud to visit China, according to Saudi state TV.

Xi’s visit includes his attendance at a “Saudi-Chinese summit,” a China-Arab and a China-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit, SPA reported.

On Thursday, China and Saudi Arabia signed a comprehensive strategic partnership agreement that includes a number of deals and memoranda of understanding, including on hydrogen energy, on coordination between the kingdom’s Vision 2030 and China’s Belt and Road Initiative, and with regards to direct investment, SPA reported, without providing details.

Low hanging fruit for the PRC, and the Saudis have been carefully keeping this option open - as you'll note there have been little to no protests from the Islamic world over the PRC's actions against the Uyghurs. We all know what would be happening if France, Britain, Germany, or the USA did such things against their Muslim minority.

For a nation who spent much of the last quarter of the 20th Century exporting one of the most extreme forms of Sunni Islam to the world, the 21st Century Saudi leadership seems to have different motivations - mostly survival in an increasingly divergent future.

I don't blame the PRC here at all, and we're making this an easy call for the Saudis. Heck, were I Saudi, I would do the same thing. If I were a PRC supporter, I would just smile.

Saudi's MBS rolls out the red carpet for China's Xi, in a not too subtle message to Biden.

Xi’s warm welcome stood in stark contrast to the frigid atmosphere surrounding US President Joe Biden’s visit to the kingdom earlier in the year.

Biden, who previously vowed to turn Saudi Arabia into a “pariah” after the murder of Khashoggi, in October said the US needs to “rethink” its relationship with the kingdom after the Saudi-led oil cartel OPEC+ slashed oil production.Washington has also been at odds with China over Taiwan, a democratically governed island of 24 million people that Beijing claims as its territory despite never having controlled it, and China’s expanded influence in the Middle East.

The world is constantly in motion. Friends and alliances change. The Middle East is ripe for change, and the PRC is there to help them.

If you pour a fresh cup of coffee and play this out for the next 5-10 years, some very interesting - and radically different - worlds emerge. 

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