China’s relationship with Saudi Arabia is growing as the country’s Cabinet has agreed to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The diplomatic move made by the kingdom began with a memorandum of understanding in September, and at the end of March, Saudi Arabia’s Cabinet approved the decision to become a dialogue partner. The Cabinet’s decision followed Saudi Arabia’s resumption of its relationship with Iran in a deal brokered by China.
Riyadh Joins China’s SCO; Kingdom Ends 7-Year Breakup With Iran
China, a member of the BRICS bloc, has been strengthening its relationship with Saudi Arabia recently. Several reports indicate that the Cabinet in Riyadh has approved a decision to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The SCO is a union of Eurasian states established by China, and it is the world’s largest political, economic, and military alliance. Members include India, Russia, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, among others. In September 2022, Oilprice.com author Simon Watkins was the first to report that Saudi Arabia initiated a memorandum of understanding to join the SCO.
Amid Saudi Arabia’s Cabinet approval to join the SCO, the country revealed a renewed relationship with Iran and plans to reduce daily oil production. Senior Saudi and Iranian diplomats recently met in China to restore the two countries’ relationship. Iran reported that it would reopen embassies and consulates, and the two regions would revive trade deals. However, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director Bill Burns emphasized in a report published by The Washington Post that the United States feels “blindsided” by Riyadh’s moves to work with Iran.
On April 6, Saudi and Iranian officials met in Beijing and resumed flights and visa issuance for citizens between the two countries after a seven-year breakup. Iran is also among nine dialogue partners, including Turkey and Qatar, as an SCO observer member. The United States’ request to become an SCO observer was denied in 2005. The SCO is led by Secretary-General Zhang Ming and is headquartered in Beijing. While China and Saudi Arabia’s relationship has grown deeper, the Kingdom’s bond with Russia has strengthened during the same period.
Six days ago, Bitcoin.com News reported that Saudi leaders had announced oil production cuts with members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). The Russian Federation also said it would participate in oil production cuts, joining hands with Riyadh, and has been collaborating with Saudi Arabia in this manner since December 2016. The following year, Saudi leaders and Russia grew closer when king Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud visited in 2017. The bond between the two nations has also grown stronger since Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman coordinated a deal to release ten prisoners of war in September.
BRICS Countries Increase Political Maneuvers
The BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) have significantly increased the pace of their political maneuvers over the past month. For instance, China settled a bilateral deal with Brazil to purchase Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) in their respective national currencies. At the same time, the BRICS bloc has emerged as the world’s largest gross domestic product (GDP) group. India has announced that it will facilitate international trade settlements in rupees under the latest foreign trade policy framework enacted on April 1. Russia’s deputy chairman of the State Duma, Alexander Babakov, revealed that the BRICS bloc plans to meet and discuss a new reserve currency issued by BRICS.
When the United States was denied observer status by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in 2005, Russia and China expressed concern about the U.S. presence in Central Asia. At the time, SCO members believed that the U.S. had not shown sufficient commitment to the organization’s principles and goals to justify granting observer status. Over the past 17 years, the relationship between the United States and China and Russia has deteriorated significantly.
While China has been seeking to form new alliances in Africa, U.S. vice president Kamala Harris visited Africa last week, according to a New York Times report. The meeting, the NYT reported, was “intended to send a simple message to its governments and people — China is not your friend. The United States is.” Russia, too, has been working with several African nations, and it has been suggested that Africa’s relationships with China and Russia could lead to a cold war with the United States.
What do you think the implications of Saudi Arabia joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as a dialogue partner will be for the region and the world? Share your thoughts in the comments below.