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World

State-owned Chinese company lands US$54 million surveying contract with Saudi Arabia

  • A state-run Chinese organization has landed a US$54 million surveying contract in Saudi Arabia, bringing Beijing a step closer to a key energy supplier and furthering their strategic interests in the oil-rich region; a sign of their gradually warming relations with Riaydh.
Updated 20 Oct 2020

As reported by the South China Morning Post, a state-run Chinese organization has landed a US$54 million surveying contract in Saudi Arabia, bringing Beijing a step closer to a key energy supplier and furthering their strategic interests in the oil-rich region; a sign of their gradually warming relations with Riaydh.

In a statement during the signing ceremony on Sunday from Zhong Ziran, President of the China Geological Survey, he mentioned that “it is the beginning of a great cooperative relationship between the two sides and will surely open up new cooperative areas for both countries”. Ziran added that “we have full confidence all-round China-Saudi cooperation on geosciences in the future”, as the project is meant to assess the distribution of mineral resources for future mining operations. This contract is part of a six-year long project, which comprises comprehensive surveying and mapping of 600,000 square kilometers of the Arabian Shield - a region in the west of the country, and bordering the Red Sea - which will require the state-owned Chinese company to carry out a geochemical survey.

At the crux of this complicated bilateral relationship between China and Saudi Arabia, energy remains the focal point, as the Kingdom became the largest supplier of foreign oil to the economic behemoth in 2019 (higher than that to Russia) - supplying over 83 million tonnes over the course of a single year. However, China’s strategic role in the country has also grown, with reports emerging in August, that Saudi Arabia was using Chinese assistance to expand its nuclear program - especially in extracting yellow cake uranium.

While the State Department has yet to comment on these developments directly, its ramifications on the long-held strategic relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia could reshape the geostrategic dynamics of the Middle East, as China continues to expand its global outreach in the midst of American isolationism.