China is our future
China and India are two countries that might play a crucial role in the near future of Saudi Arabia
China and India are two countries that may play a crucial role in the near future of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries in general. One fundamental factor can change the equation because these two countries represent the largest growing markets in the world at a time when other major markets are becoming saturated or shrinking in terms of oil imports. It is obvious that Riyadh is turning toward these markets, as revealed by the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s two successive visits to China, trying to cope with changes and keep up with the development of economic resources.
There are also many other industrial and oil-producing countries that are setting their sights on the Chinese and Indian markets - they are all seeking a share of these markets. However, what distinguishes Saudi Arabia is that the latter is the largest, cheapest and most equipped oil reservoir in the world and there are no obstacles or sanctions that would impede its progress, unlike Iran for example.
Will Saudi Arabia be able to successfully adopt a strategy of shifting toward the East after decades of relations with the West? At this stage, the restrictions that marked the Cold War era no longer exist. Back then, the countries that were lucky enough to make the shift used to take risks when trying to change their political approach. Turning toward the Chinese and Indian markets is not purely a political project as relations with the West will remain strong, especially as Westerners are still the most politically influential people in the region. Special relations with both China and India will enrich Saudi influence and its strategic importance in the West mainly on both the regional and international levels.
A whole new world
Investing in a large-scale economic project with China and India is not an easy task - it opens up a whole new world to Saudi Arabia. It requires a huge leap to be taken, with great governmental potential. Companies, banks, funds, chambers of commerce, bilateral partnerships, businessmen, research and university centers and dedicated governmental institutions will all play a major role in it. China is mainly represented by one company, therefore, it is more organized as its governmental devices and official institutions are the actual bodies managing foreign relations and transactions. As for India, it mainly relies on the private sector to manage its affairs.
Our region has lived on the existing oil trade model in its relations with major consumer markets like Britain and, later on, the US. It is still the main factor in our dealings with China and India, but today we are aiming for wide-ranging relations.
China and India are the only countries that can compensate for shortages in Western markets, such as the decline in oil demand in the US marketAbdulrahman al-Rashed
China and India are the only countries that can compensate for shortages in Western markets, such as the decline in oil demand in the US market. The two countries offer a great opportunity for the objectives of the government to boost the country's economic trade which requires more creative thinking and a greater dependence on the flexible and fast-moving private sector to play an augmented role.
Both China and India do not mix politics with trade, although China is one of the major arms exporters in the world and Saudi Arabia had a positive experience with China in the 1990s. As long as the two Asian countries do not get involved in the continued regional wars and alliances, they will preserve their special ties with major countries.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Sept. 3, 2016.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed