Foreign ministers from 4 of the GGC’s 6 members – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain – as well as GCC secretary general Nayef Falah al-Hajraf will visit China from January 10 to 14 at China’s invitation, foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin announced on Saturday.
Further details of the visit have not been disclosed but the 2 sides are expected to seek common ground amid potential disruption to global energy supplies.
Zhou Chenming, a researcher from the Yuan Wang military science & technology institute in Beijing, said China hoped a closer relationship with the GCC states could secure supply chains after the violent unrest in Kazakhstan saw mass protests and Russian troops being sent in to help restore order.
- Kazakhstan is the key energy supplier for Beijing’s West-East Gas Pipeline programme in Central Asia
- The current political unrest in the country may affect China’s future energy supply chain, which President Xi Jinping will not allow to happen
- If any energy crisis happens because the West-East gas pipeline is forced to halt, only the Gulf countries can act as a replacement
Washington and Beijing have also been exploring energy cooperation despite the heightened tensions between the 2 sides.
During Xi’s virtual summit with Joe Biden in November, the United States asked China to take part in a coordinated release of oil reserves to stabilise soaring prices.
The US has the world’s largest reported strategic petroleum reserve at 727 million barrels while China has about 200 million barrels and is by far the world’s largest importer of crude oil.
Any joint action by the 2 countries would have a major impact on global oil prices.
Observers said this proposal had prompted the GCC to approach China as a way of balancing their over-reliance on the US market.
Yin Gang, a Middle Eastern affairs specialist with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said:
- The GCC countries have accumulated tremendous of foreign currency reserves by exporting crude oil and natural gas
- They have been doing a lot of business with the Americans but now see it as a problem and want to find a new way and a safe market for their capital
- The Chinese market could be an ideal option for the GCC, which could balance their overreliance on the US, and their relationship with Iran
Yin Gang noted:
- After the 5-day tour, I believe that China and the GCC states may sign a document designed to strike a balance between the GCC, Iran and China, because Beijing and Tehran also signed a 25-year agreement on economic and security cooperation last year
The deal also covers a wide range of economic, security and military projects, including oil, gas and nuclear energy.
Eagle Yin, a research fellow at the China Foundation for International Strategic Studies, said China would look for other areas of cooperation with the GCC.
He said the 6 member states are driven by their economic interest in the energy business, but this has pushed them to explore collaboration in other areas such as defence and security.
- The Gulf states see China as a real global power, a better relationship with Beijing will only benefit their domestic economic development
Author: Minnie Chan