China aspires to fill US space by forging ties with Saudi Arabia

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A Chinese flag flutters in front of the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, May 27, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee

As the US appears to withdraw from its political and strategic commitment from the Middle East, China wishes to fill that void as countries such as Saudi Arabia have expanded their search for potential security partners.

In recent years, pushed by its growing economy and its increasing need for oil, China has deepened its political, economic, and security partnerships with various nations in the Middle East as Beijing’s longstanding position of indifference to domestic political conditions–giving it flexibility in its engagement, according to National Interest.

In a recent meeting, Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe and Saudi deputy Defence Minister Khalid bin Salman pledged to expand their “practical cooperation” and continue “strengthening solidarity.

The Sino-Saudi connection has expanded considerably over the past decade. Although Saudi Arabia remains a valuable US ally, its top trading partner is now China. And while the kingdom continues to buy most of its military from the United States, it has increasingly turned to Beijing in some areas. For example, Saudi Arabia recently purchased Chinese drones for use in its military intervention in Yemen, Trevor Filseth for the National Interest.

China has also played a key role in the regional “cold war” between Saudi Arabia and Iran through its participation in the “P5+1” negotiations over Iran’s nuclear programme.

On the other hand, Beijing will be forced to do some balancing acts as it has forged closer relations with Iran also.

Further, China also backed Iranian efforts to revive the latter is 2015 nuclear deal with major powers that the US unilaterally walked out of in 2018.

Meanwhile, China and Iran both subject to US sanctions signed the 25-year agreement in March 2021, bringing Tehran into China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

On the other hand, military relations with Iran will be tempered by China’s simultaneous efforts to build bridges with other Arab governments, especially with Saudi Arabia. – (ANI)