Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman reached Beijing on 21st February. He is on a two-day visit to China in order to improve the international image of his nation that got tainted and tarnished over some recent controversies. Moreover, he is looking forward to strengthening economic ties. However, the path to improved ties between China and Saudi Arabia has been infested with political obstacles.
China has spent the last few days reassuring Iran, a political rival of Saudi Arabia, that the visit of the Crown Prince would not alter its program to the Middle East. On Wednesday, Chinese President Xi Jinping told visiting Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani that his intention to create an all-inclusive diplomatic partnership with Iran will remain unaltered.
Saudi Arabia, a Sunni nation, and Iran where most people belong to the Shia Muslim cult have been engrossed in a long-standing clash for power in the Middle East.
For Beijing, it’s a fragile balancing act between Saudi Arabia, which is believed to be a close ally of the U.S., and Iran, which is openly judgmental of Washington. Beijing needs backing from both wealthy Muslim countries at a time when it is involved in a trade battle with the U.S. and a gradual decrease in its economy. It also needs the support of Saudi for the Belt and Road program, which has not yet prospered in the west of Pakistan.
Beijing’s own relationship with Riyadh has not been a smooth one. On the other hand, the Saudi leadership needs to worry about its image in the Muslim world and maintaining a close relationship with China holds a lot of risks.
Even though political facets may pose an obstacle, China and Saudi Arabia are supposed to make some progress in economic areas. There is an endeavor to associate Saudi Vision 2030 with China’s Belt and Road program. Saudi Vision 2030 targets at transforming the nation from an oil-based economy to one that it becomes a producer of exportable goods and services.
While China dreams to win more oil projects such as the Yanbu refinery in Saudi Arabia; whereas Riyadh aims to attract Chinese investment in housing, infrastructure construction, and tourism development.