China’s Gulf Connection
A new book offers a helpful primer on Beijing’s deepening relationships in the Gulf.
Saudi Arabia made plenty of front-page news in 2018, from the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents in Istanbul to the bloody ongoing war in Yemen. These developments have strained its ties with the United States—at least with Congress—and with some European countries, who have since cut arms sales to the Kingdom. But the Chinese government has yet to utter any negative words about Saudi Arabia. And beyond the headlines, cooperation between the Middle Kingdom and the Oil Kingdom has been quietly taking off.
China’s gluttonous need for fuel makes the Gulf indispensable. Chinese oil imports are expected to reach 80 percent of total consumption by 2030, and more than 35 percent is already imported from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries—all while the United States is reducing its imports and becoming self-reliant through fracking. The trading relationship goes beyond oil, too: In 2016, China became the Saudis’ largest trading partner, with $45 billion in annual trade. This is a consequential relationship, and one worth exploring.