The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia looks to the East

It seems that in the 21st Century, we will see a shift toward Asia and the Pacific Rim

Faisal Al-Shammeri
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It seems that in the 21st Century, we will see a shift toward Asia and the Pacific Rim. The first speaks specifically of the Asian Far East and the second refers to the Americas. Geography, demographics and the economic output of the various countries which sit on the Pacific Rim are best suited to enjoy the benefits of the dynamic economic activity that one can reasonably see beginning to rise.

In the western Pacific Rim, there is room for long-term dynamic growth. In short, perhaps the largest middle class yet to be formed is just beginning to start its process of rising in society. The countries of Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, The Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam alone account for some 679,000,000 people.

Excluding Japan, those countries combine a total of 5.78 trillion in yearly GDP. The two giants in the region are Japan and China. Japan has a population of some 127 million people while China has around 1.38 billion. Japan’s GDP is some 4.83 trillion while China has an estimated GDP of 19.39 trillion. When one then includes Japan and China into the western Pacific Rim, then this includes some two billion people with a combined yearly GDP of $30 trillion.

As a regional bloc this is larger than both the United States and the European Union, and in fact dwarfs both in population and yearly GDP. Obviously there are many important differences between the United States, the European Union and the Asian countries in the western Pacific. For example, the US is one country within a constitutional republic, while the EU is somewhat uniform in that there is a European Parliament where a regional representation exists for its members within a loose federation of nation-states. To date, nothing like exists in Asia.

So, why should the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia look to Asia and the western Pacific Rim nations? Well, one only has to take a look at the recently released Saudi Arabia Vision Statement 2030, under the stewardship of His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al-Saud, to see not only the aim, but the means of implementation for this vision. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is best situated to be at the table of outside regional players participating actively in the 21st century pivot toward Asia, the Americas and western Pacific Rim countries.

Infographic: Saudi-China relations: A strategic partnership

Saudi China relations infographic
Saudi China relations infographic

In short, the vision 2030 is brilliant in its marriage of simplicity and acknowledgment of the strengths the nation brings to the table at the onset of this journey into this new century.

First, we must talk about Islam. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the center of the Muslim world and has the two Holy Cities of Makkah and Medina. This will always merit the Kingdom a central place in the Muslim world and a leadership role. When it comes to the likes of countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia, it allows Saudi Arabia unique access to the western Pacific and the South and East China Seas. Some $5trillion of commerce passes through the South China Sea each year. In many cases, ships also pass through the waters of Malaysia and Indonesia prior to reaching the South China Sea. Our sound relationships with Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta already gives us a place at the business table here.

Secondly, geography is an important factor to consider. Saudi Arabia sits at the very crossroads of Europe, Africa and Asia while having a position at the very heart of the Middle East itself. Furthermore, it sits on two of the world’s most important water routes for international trade in the Arabian Gulf and the Red Sea. It also occupies a balcony into the Arabian Sea, also a vitally important trade route for international commerce today because it provides the first step toward a link with India, Southeast Asia and onwards to the Asian Pacific-Rim nations as well. It is to be remembered that the nation-states of the western Pacific also have interests in our region too. Who better is there to be the bridge for Asian commerce in the Middle East? These countries we speak of will not have the access to oil, natural gas, copper, ferrous metals or ores in their own sovereign lands. To grow an economy, you need all of these. With a market of some two billion people and 30 trillion in GDP why shouldn’t it be up to us to aid current and future business partners?

The Saudi royal was greeted at the airport by China’s Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Chao. (SPA)
The Saudi royal was greeted at the airport by China’s Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Chao. (SPA)

We are uniquely situated to not only be a dominant player in the Middle East, but the bridge for Europe into the region and the springboard for the region into Asia. There is no other nation-state on the planet that can currently be a bridge to Europe, the Middle East and Asia like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Third and lastly, our access to the availability of natural resources is important. Yes, oil is, and always will be, an important part of Saudi Arabia but with the emergence of ferrous and non-ferrous metals, ores, precious minerals, petrochemicals, copper, gold and silver, the country is provided with a strategic base for the massive expansion of our economy and the ability to actively be a partner in those parts of the globe which will need this the most in the medium and long-term.

The trip by government officials to Japan and China is a step toward implementing the goals inherent in the Vision Statement 2030. It is sound, simple and brilliant all at the same time. We are currently growing as a global player and will continue to do so. This new century is perfectly set up for Saudi Arabia. In short, if our friends in The United Arab Emirates can become the new Hong Kong of the 21st Century, then why not us? The art of doing good business is being a good middle man and bringing people together. This trip is about bringing the dynamic human and commercial potential of the Kingdom to those countries in Asia and the western Pacific.

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