The Saudis enter as partners in the political-military forum led by Beijing and Moscow. Despite Chinese mediation, the regional rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran promises to continue. However, China incorporates into its orbit an ally of Washington. The Chinese have a harder time in their own “backyard.”
Rome () – Saudi Arabia’s entry into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is another diplomatic coup by Xi Jinping. On March 10 came the announcement that China had mediated the signing of an agreement between the Saudis and the Iranians for the resumption of diplomatic relations after seven years of interruption.
The “Southern Hemisphere” is the area of the planet most affected by Chinese diplomatic action, in an effort to counteract the maneuvers of the United States and its allies to contain the geopolitical rise of Beijing
With their March 29 decision, the Saudis enter the SCO as dialogue partners, the first step towards full participation. Led by China and Russia, the political-military consultation forum brings together former Soviet republics and countries including India, Iran, Pakistan and Turkey with varying degrees of affiliation.
In reality, the presence of actors with interests that are not only “divergent” but also “opposite” makes the group less effective. The arrival of Riyadh adds another element of uncertainty. Common membership in the SCO has not helped detente between China and India, which have been at odds along the disputed Himalayan border for nearly three years. The same can be said of the ongoing tensions between Delhi and Islamabad over Kashmir.
Chinese mediation between the Saudis and the Iranians indicates a growing diplomatic awareness on the part of Beijing, which is willing to take on responsibilities that could also lead to ugly numbers. It is indisputable that China’s weight in the Middle East is increasing, but achieving concrete results in the region is a very different matter.
The exchange of diplomats between Iran and Saudi Arabia, like their mutual membership in the SCO, will not, of course, put an end to their regional rivalry: at best, it will become “more predictable.”
As for the deal with the Saudis, Xi’s real success is having succeeded in attracting into the Chinese orbit what should be a solid ally of the United States. More adept at foreign policy than domestic economic policy, the Chinese president continues to score points in the world South to offset the difficulties in his “backyard.”
China is trying to move the sphere of American influence away from the Western Pacific, but so far the results have been meager. Southeast Asian countries do not want a conflict between Beijing and Washington, but neither do they want Chinese hegemony, and they accept the balancing role provided by the United States.
Japan continues to arm itself in an anti-Chinese way. Tokyo has also confirmed today that it will limit the export of microchip production equipment, a measure in line with US demands to curb Chinese technological advance, and South Korea is moving in the same direction.
On March 13, the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom revealed details of AUKUS, the military pact signed in September 2021 to give Canberra nuclear powered submarines.
Xi also fails in his old attempt to “unstuck” Europe from Washington. Yesterday, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, declared that the evolution of relations between China and Putin will be the “determining factor” for the future of Sino-European relations.