31 January 2016
President Xi Jinping went from Riyadh to Iran this month to become the first foreign leader to do so following the lifting of international sanctions against the Islamic republic. Saudi leaders could not have been pleased. China and Saudi Arabia (and Egypt) signed $55bn worth of cooperation agreements during Xi’s visit, including a nuclear cooperation pact. Yet Xi’s determination to gain a first-mover advantage in Iran, at a time that Saudi Arabia is seeking to increase rather than reduce the Islamic republic’s international isolation, suggests that more than commerce is at play here.
Xi’s visit to the kingdom was accompanied by talk of brotherly relations and strategic cooperation. The rhetoric, however, did little to mask serious differences on issues ranging from the conflict in Syria to Saudi Arabia’s propagation of Wahhabism, a puritan interpretation of Islam that many fear breeds jihadism, and a relative decline of Chinese reliance on Saudi oil.
… James M. Dorsey is a Senior Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore and co-director of the Institute of Fan Culture of the University of Wurzburg, Germany.
RSIS / Online
Last updated on 01/02/2016