https://www.theepochtimes.com/saudi-arabia-gets-closer-to-china-while-moving-away-from-us-gregory-copley_4937822.html

With the growing closeness between China and Saudi Arabia, the U.S. sees the deterioration in its relationship with the Gulf country, according to Gregory Copley, president of the International Strategic Studies Association.

“It is the most significant setback which the United States and the West has seen since perhaps the middle of the Cold War period,” Copley told the “China in Focus” program on NTD news.

He pointed to the relationship between the West and the Middle East under the administration of President Richard Nixon.

“What we saw in the early 1970s was that under President Nixon, the United States and the West achieved a great friendship with all of the states of the Middle East, including Israel and the Arab States and Iran,” he said.

“There was no real threat of mutual hostilities, there was a lot more positive growth and stability in the region,” he added.

In 1973, the Nixon administration succeeded in securing a ceasefire between Israel and Egypt, and Syria.

“And basically, what we saw under President [Joe] Biden was the absolute, under President [Barack] Obama in his term earlier, the destruction of that balance in the Middle East,” Copley opined.

He singled out the Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s trip to Saudi Arabia in early Dec.

“The objective of the People’s Republic of China was to go in and say, ‘We are a friend to all, and we will guarantee peace in the region,’ which is something only the United States had been able to do in the past few decades,” he said.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning characterized Xi’s visit as the “largest and highest-level diplomatic event between China and the Arab world since the founding of the People’s Republic of China.”

“So what we have is President Xi achieving something which had not been achieved since President Nixon’s accomplishments in the early 1970s, up to 1974,” Copley noted.

Different Receptions

According to Copley, there existed an enormous difference between the lavish welcome of Chinese leader Xi Jinping to Saudi Arabia versus the cold reception of Biden in his July visit to Riyadh.

“There were no ministers at the airport to meet him. There was nothing special about his reception, the discussions centered around very, very minor and ongoing details,” he said referring to Biden’s visit.

“Whereas when … Xi Jinping arrived, recently, in Riyadh, he was greeted with all of the trimmings of a full state visit, including flypasts, Royal Saudi Air Force fighter and trainer jet aircraft, with all in the colors of the People’s Republic of China flag and the like,” he added.

Copley attributed the decline in U.S.-Saudi Arabia relationships to Biden’s criticism of  Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as he had been accused of orchestrating the murder of the Washington Post’s columnist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 after Khashoggi went into a Saudi embassy in Turkey.

“You have a situation where much of the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia was becoming alienated toward the U.S. Biden administration, because of the basically the disruption of the [Abraham] Peace Accords, which had been achieved with so much difficulty and hard work,” he added referring to the peace agreement made between Israel, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates in 2020, under the mediation of the Trump administration.

The Epoch Times has reached out to the White House for comment.

China–Saudi Arabia Progress

Copley further pointed out the progress in the economic relationship with the Gulf nation that Beijing had made, marked by Xi’s latest visit to Saudi Arabia.

“The People’s Republic of China was making significant progress in negotiating oil sales from the Middle East, in currencies other than the U.S. dollar, the petrodollar,” he said.

“Saudi Arabia has been toying with the idea of selling oil and gas to the PRC in yuan as well.”

During his visit, Xi reportedly focused on China’s continued efforts to have the yuan used in place of the dollar as the currency denomination for the Chinese-Saudi oil trade by utilizing the Shanghai Petroleum and National Gas Exchange as a payment platform.

“So what we’ve seen is this great break in the dominance of the U.S. dollar in the Middle East, it’s by no means complete,” Copley noted.

Xi’s visit included Saudi-Chinese negotiations, a China-Arab meeting, and a China-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit.

“The deals which Xi Jinping has done, in the Middle East, [are] very important geopolitically, because it also links the Beijing dominated Eurasian bloc of states—a strategic alliance between Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Iran,” he said

“In particular, it gives them the link now down through Saudi Arabia, down to Africa,” he added.

According to the expert, this linkage would help Beijing avoid sailing its shipment of goods “through the Indian Ocean in the South China Sea up to Chinese ports,” which he said, can be “vulnerable to interdiction by Western powers, whether it’s the United States or the Europeans, or the Japanese and Australians.”

No Long Run Remedy

In Copley’s opinion, as China’s economy continues to be in decline, the deals that Beijing struck with the Middle East would not be a remedy for the regime in the long run.

Due to Beijing’s zero-COVID policy, China’s economy is hit by weak consumer demand, particularly in the property sector. The sluggish real estate market has caused a significant decline in local governments’ fiscal revenue and significantly increased expenditures, resulting in a severe fiscal deficit.

He said, “it’s really a dramatic point of change for Beijing. Either, they will make a dramatic breakthrough, and the West will subside, or they will fail and collapse within the next decade.”

Hannah Ng is a reporter covering U.S. and China news. She holds a master’s degree in international and development economics from the University of Applied Science Berlin.

Tiffany Meier

Tiffany Meier is a New York-based reporter and host of NTD’s “China in Focus.”

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