Coronavirus emergency reinforces ties between Gulf nations and Beijing
A harmony between the authoritarian nature of the Chinese regime and that of the area's monarchies. Riyadh praises the Chinese management of the pandemic and forgets the guilty silences of Beijing. The Sauds' aggressive policy on the oil market in an anti-Russian key. Egypt sent medical material and hoists the Chinese flag over monuments.
Riyadh (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The emergency triggered by the new coronavirus pandemic has led to a strengthening of relations between the Middle East and China, which continues with the plan to supplant the United States (and Russia) as a hegemonic power in the region.
Analysts and experts point out that the path of rapprochement, already present in recent years, is favored by the authoritarian nature shared by the Chinese regime and the monarchies of the Arabian Peninsula.
Riyadh has repeatedly praised China's management of the Covid-19 crisis in recent months, silencing Beijing's role in the spread of the epidemic. At the most critical moment, the Saudis sent medical material and signed a $ 256 million contract between the two nations for the supply of tests and swabs and the sending of doctors.
The confirmation also comes from the tones used by the Saudi media, including al-Arabiya who went so far as to say that "China is the only country that has been able to manage this crisis well". A diplomacy of money and words, which allowed Beijing to develop the "soft power" policy in the region, strengthened today by the supply of medical materials and by the proclamations of renewed proximity to the Gulf nations.
The coronavirus emergency is also compounded by the oil crisis between Saudi Arabia and Russia in March, in the context of the collapse of demand from China, the world's leading importer. To Moscow's refusal to regulate market shares, Riyadh responded with a further increase in production which led to a drop in prices that fell below $ 20 a barrel.
The Wahhabi kingdom has adopted an aggressive policy, with lower prices and favorable conditions especially for Asian customers. The national company Aramco has made large investments in Chinese refineries, laying the foundations for a lasting relationship in terms of energy.
Finally, this is joined by the project of the Saudi leadership to diversify its economy in the context of the Vision 2030 plan, while Beijing wants to increasingly extend its influence in Europe, passing through Africa and the Middle East in the "new silk road".
Furthermore, the authoritarian profile of regional governments is better suited than Europe and to strengthen economic and commercial relations in a critical context such as the current one.
Recently Beijing has been careful not to comment on the murder in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul of the journalist and activist Jamal Khashoggi, or the intervention of the Saudi-led Arab coalition in Yemen.
And Riyadh, which presents itself as the leader of the Muslim world, has not addressed half the criticism of the Chinese for the treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang by China. On the subject, the Saudi crown prince said that Beijing "has the right to take anti-terrorism measures" which it deems most appropriate.
In addition to the Gulf countries, other nations including Egypt have taken advantage of the pandemic to find new ways to trade with China. In the early stages of the crisis, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi sent medical material, while Cairo hoisted the Chinese flag on some symbolic monuments in Cairo and in the Nile valley. This mobilization did not stop even when the pandemic brought countries in the region such as Iran to its knees: when a Tehran official "dared" to criticize Beijing for the management of the pandemic, he had to retract a few hours later on the orders of the religious and radical leadership linked to the Ayatollahs.