Gulf broadens partnership with China

08 May 2022
In addition to being a major oil consumer and importer of Saudi oil, China is increasingly engaged with Riyadh on project work across a wide range of industries

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Riyadh turns to China as US relations strain

Saudi Arabia has long been aware of the commercial opportunities in the Far East

In his 2016 autobiography, former Saudi oil minister Ali al-Naimi described how when he was CEO, Saudi Aramco first explored developing business in China.

“As we mapped opportunities for growth, there sat China, a virtually untouched blank space," Al-Naimi wrote. "So in 1989, I sent two of our people, our Marco Polos, off to explore that possibility.”

The initial feedback was not encouraging.

“Our team didn’t think there was much future for cars there or much growth potential in consumer spending,” Al-Naimi wrote. Despite these warning signs, he decided Aramco should take a long-term view on China, and it paid off.

During the three decades that followed, China has grown to become the world’s second-largest economy and is poised to overtake the US in the mid-2020s. China is also the world’s second-largest consumer of oil behind the US, with 13 per cent of global consumption. Saudi Arabia is China’s top oil exporter, supplying about 2 million barrels a day of crude – or about one-fifth of the total that Saudi Arabia exports.

The already significant trading relationship could develop even further if China starts paying for its Saudi crude in Chinese yuan. In mid-March, it was reported that Riyadh is considering the idea as relations between Saudi Arabia and the US continue to appear strained. Read more


This package on the Gulf's relations with China also includes:

Read the May 2022 MEED Business Review
Riyadh turns to China as US relations strain
The region’s project partner

Treading east carefully

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