Over the past two years of his presidency, Joe Biden has completely reshaped American foreign policy in the Middle East — and the consequences have been predictably dreadful.
On Friday, Chinese dictator Xi Jinping and Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and de-facto leader Mohammed bin Salman signed a series of economic agreements totaling $50 billion, marking a major step in the countries’ growing relations.
According to a joint statement released after Xi’s multi-day visit to the kingdom, the two countries have agreed to enhance collaboration on a wide range of issues vital to their respective economic and security interests, including energy, trade, and terrorism, among others.
“The two sides held an official session of talks and exchanged views regarding ways to reinforce and develop comprehensive strategic partnership relations between the Kingdom and China, and all international and regional issues of common interest,” the statement reads. “Moreover, they stressed the importance of continuing joint action in all fields … and reaching new and promising horizons.”
Both sides also reaffirmed commitments to avoid interfering in one another’s internal affairs, claiming they will “support each other in maintaining their sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
While China and Saudi Arabia have maintained ties for decades, economic exchange between the two nations has increased exponentially in recent years. In 2021, the countries’ bilateral trade totaled $87.3 billion, with “Chinese exports to the Kingdom reaching $30.3 billion and China’s imports from Saudi Arabia totaling $57 billion.” Government officials from each nation also regularly partake in joint “business council” forums to find ways to boost economic relations.
“You name it, we are doing it with China,” a Saudi government adviser told The Wall Street Journal last year. “China is a strategic partner.”
Growing Sino-Saudi relations represent an alarming trend of growing Chinese influence in the Middle East. In addition to Saudi Arabia, China has heavily invested in Arab nations such as Oman, Iraq, Syria, and others in recent years as part of its Belt and Road Initiative, a global infrastructure project launched by Xi in 2013 that seeks to expand China’s “economic and political influence” throughout the world.
As the Asia Times noted, China’s investments in the Middle East have allowed its “New Silk Road” to connect “from Iran through Iraq to the eastern Mediterranean.”
In Walks Joe Biden
China’s desire for greater global influence isn’t the sole factor driving increased Sino-Saudi relations, however. U.S. President Joe Biden, whose foreign policy is comparably worse than former President Barack Obama’s, deserves a great deal of credit for helping foment the two countries’ blossoming relationship.
Over the past few years, Biden has taken a notably antagonistic stance on America’s ties with Saudi Arabia. Before he became president, the then-candidate pledged during the 2020 Democrat presidential primary to make Saudi Arabia “the pariah that they are” for the kingdom’s role in the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. While Saudi Arabia is certainly no champion of human rights, asserting the nation’s government has “very little redeeming value” isn’t exactly a great way to establish relations before taking office.
Since assuming the presidency, Biden’s attacks have continued, specifically over the recent decision by the Saudi-led OPEC+ to cut oil production. During an October interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, the president openly threatened the Saudi government, claiming there “will be consequences” for the country’s reduction in energy output.
“I’m not going to get into what I’d consider and what I have in mind,” he said.
When further pressed on whether he thinks the U.S. should reconsider its ties with Saudi Arabia, Biden responded with an unequivocal, “Yes.”
But it’s not just Biden’s off-the-cuff criticisms and threats that have further strained the U.S.-Saudi alliance. The president’s Middle East foreign policy has often prioritized courting regional vagrants such as Iran (a major Saudi rival) at the expense of strategic U.S. allies.
In his bid to revive the horribly negotiated Iran nuclear deal, Biden has authorized his administration to waive numerous sanctions on the regime to coax Tehran into returning to the negotiating table. Earlier this year, for instance, Biden’s State Department notified Congress that it had “restored so-called ‘civ-nuke’ waivers,” on Iran, which would allow for “non-American companies to work on civilian nuclear projects” in the country without retaliation from the United States. Iranian entities “involved in the military missile programs” have also had sanctions waived by the administration.
Coupled with his lackluster performance as a diplomat, Biden’s appeasement of Iran has been nothing short of disastrous for U.S.-Saudi relations. In less than two years, the Democrat commander-in-chief has shattered many of the strong ties established under former President Donald Trump, which, in addition to increasing regional stability, united the Middle East against Tehran.
By placing his personal legacy and glowing media coverage over the larger goal of stymying Iranian aggression, Biden has pushed a crucial U.S. ally further into the arms of the same Chinese government seeking to overtake America as the world’s hegemon. Barring a dramatic shift in U.S. policy toward Saudi Arabia, China’s influence in the region will likely continue to grow, while America’s fades.