Beijing, Saudis agree to boost oil exports to China
China and Saudi Arabia will increase their cooperation in the oil sector, including in Saudi oil exports to China, the two countries said in a joint communique issued on Saturday at the end of Saudi Arabian King Salman’s visit to Beijing.
The world’s largest oil exporter has been looking to cement ties with the world’s second-largest economy.
After losing market share to Russia last year, Saudi Arabia has sought to boost oil sales to China, the world’s second-largest oil market, by working mostly with China’s top three state oil firms.
“Both countries are willing to raise their level of cooperation in the oil sector, including supplying Saudi oil to the continuously growing Chinese market,” the two said in a statement issued by China’s state-run Xinhua news agency.
“Both sides stress the importance of stability in world oil markets to the global economy ... China appreciates Saudi Arabia being a safe and dependable oil supplier to the world market and the role it plays in ensuring the stability of the global oil market,” it said.
Salman oversaw the signing of deals worth as much as US$65 billion on the first full day of his visit to Beijing on Thursday.
China has traditionally played little role in Middle East conflicts or diplomacy, despite its reliance on the region for oil. However, it has been trying to get more involved in efforts to end Syria’s six-year-old civil war,where Riyadh supports rebels battling President Bashar al-Assad.
Chinese defence manufacturers are also targeting potential clients in the Middle East. At an Abu Dhabi defence exhibition in the United Arab Emirates last month China signed a memorandum of understanding with Saudi Arabia worth US$65 billion, including setting up a production line for China’s new generation aerial drone, Rainbow 4 and other collaborative projects, according to local media reports.
The Rainbow 4, which is able to carry two satellite-guided bombs, was developed by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation for reconnaissance and military strikes.
China last year also offered support for Yemen’s government, which is backed by a Saudi-led Gulf Arab coalition in a war against the Iranian-aligned Houthi movement that controls much of the country.
China has had to tread a careful line as it also has close relations with Iran. China’s President Xi Jinping visited both Saudi Arabia and Iran in January last year.
The joint statement said both China and Saudi Arabia stressed their support for Yemen’s legal government.
China’s renewed diplomatic push with the Middle East continues next week when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits China.
Diplomatic sources say China is trying to play the role of “honest broker” in the Middle East as it lacks the historical baggage of the Americans or the Europeans.
Additional reporting by Minnie Chan