第五，習近平話鋒一轉，談到未來幾年的具體合作領域，包括2021年9月中國在聯合國提出全球發展倡議，以及如何落實2030年可持續發展議程。 事實上，全球發展倡議對減貧、公共衛生和性別平等的重視，緊扣2030 年可持續發展議程。因此，中國和海合會國家在維護可持續發展方面的合作具有共同利益。中國所強調的顯示習近平和他的外交政策智囊，如何巧妙地利用全球發展倡議作為統戰工作的工具，以贏得海合會國家的人心。
事實上，在12月8日習主席與穆罕默德王儲會談時，雙方同意建立戰略性夥伴關係，每兩年輪流舉行一次高層領導會議。 雙方簽署了通過司法、教育、投資和住房合作建設「一帶一路」倡議的協議。 中方將通過汽車、能源、石化、礦業、科技等領域合作，幫助沙特阿拉伯建設綠色中東。
China’s New Foreign Policy Toward the Gulf States
The first Sino-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit held in Riyadh on December 9 was a turning point in the relations between China and the Middle East. For the first time in China’s relations with the Gulf states, the Chinese President Xi Jinping reached out to various leaders of the Arab world, and he has conducted a highly successful presidential foreign policy with significant implications for Sino-Gulf collaboration.
President Xi on December 9 attended the Summit with Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud of Saudi Arabia, Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani of Qatar, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah of Bahrain, Crown Prince Sheikh Meshaal Jaber Al Ahmad Al Sabah of Kuwait, Deputy Prime Minister Sayyid Fahd bin Mahmoud Al Said of Oman, Ruler Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammad Al Sharqi of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and GCC Secretary-General Nayef Al Hajraf.
The content of the keynote speech delivered by President Xi deserves our attention.
First, he diplomatically expressed his gratitude to Saudi Arabi for hosting the Sino-GCC Summit, emphasizing the two millennia in the historical relations between China and the Gulf states. President Xi pointed to China’s initiative to establish contacts with the GCC once it began in 1981 on the basis of solidarity, mutual aid and win-win cooperation.
Second the President skilfully stressed the respect of each other’s sovereignty, independence, non-interference in domestic affairs, developmental path, equality, and the defence of multilateralism. The concept of multilateralism has been frequently used by the Chinese President in his foreign policy speeches and contacts with various countries.
Third, President Xi alerted the Gulf leaders to the vast Chinese market so that both sides can and will forge closer cooperation and embrace economic diversification – an important incentive to the Gulf states given the vastness of the Chinese market and given the need for some Gulf states to adopt a more independent foreign policy.
Fourth, he reminded how China and the Gulf states have been cooperating with each other in dealing with financial crises, the Covid-19 pandemic, and other natural disasters.
Fifth, the Chinese President turned to concrete areas of collaboration in the coming years, including China’s Global Development Initiative (GDI) that he unveiled in the United Nations in September 2021 and how the GDI can match the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In fact, the GDI’s emphases on poverty alleviation, public health provision and gender empowerment match the 2030 Agenda. As such, China and the Gulf states have the common interest in forging collaboration in maintaining sustainable development. The Chinese emphases show how President Xi and his foreign policy advisers skilfully utilize the GDI as a tool of united front work to win the hearts and minds of the Gulf states.
Sixth, as China under Xi Jinping era has widened the definition of security from traditional to non-traditional areas, like public health, the President’s emphasis on the need to maintain peace and security in the Gulf region could easily appeal to the Gulf leaders and win their support.
Seventh, President Xi’s foreign policy has been emphasizing cultural exchanges between China and the Gulf states. His speech on December 9 pointed to the “rich values of Eastern civilizations” so that both China and the Gulf states can and will contribute to the development of human civilizations. The choice of cultural bonds to enhance civilizational development has become strategic in the foreign policy of China under Xi Jinping. He also added that China would cooperate with three hundred universities, middle and primary schools in the Gulf states to enhance Chinese language education. There will be cultural and language forums on both sides to deepen cultural exchanges and mutual learning.
After many Confucian Institutes were criticized by the anti-China media and politicians in the Western world for propagating the Chinese cultures and values in the past several years, President Xi Jinping’s new foreign policy toward the Gulf states is to repackage the Chinese language and cultural education in another form through cultural exchanges and mutual learning.
Eighth, on the practical side, President Xi remarked that China would continue to import large quantities of crude oil from GCC states and purchase more Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), apart from the need to strengthen mutual cooperation in engineering services, storage, transportation and the refinery of oil and gas.
Most importantly, President Xi stressed that the Shanghai Petroleum and Natural Gas Exchange platform will be used for Renminbi settlement in oil and gas trade. China will also cooperate with the Gulf states in developing clean and low-carbon technologies that involve hydrogen, energy storage, win and photovoltaic power, smart power grids, the production of new energy equipment, and the peaceful use of nuclear technology.
Hence, the Chinese President adopted a two-pronged strategy to win the hearts and minds of Gulf states: using Renminbi (RMB) as an exchange currency that will lead to the internationalization of RMB and utilizing technological development as a glue that will bind China closer to the Gulf states.
Ninth, President Xi mentioned that China and GCC countries would cooperate on financial regulation, set up a joint investment commission, support sovereign wealth funds from both sides, and facilitate the Arabian entry into the Chinese capital market. Cooperation will also be forged in the areas of digital economy, green development, and digital currency.
Tenth, in the realm of high-tech and aerospace cooperation, the Chinese President emphasized that China is ready to build big data and cloud computing centres with the Gulf states, strengthen 5G and 6G technological innovation, the develop e-commerce and communications network in Gulf states. New breakthroughs in aerospace cooperation can be seen in China’s outreaching efforts and projects with the Gulf states in dealing with remote sensing, communications satellites, space utilization and aerospace infrastructure. The China-GCC joint centre for lunar and deep space exploration will be established, according to President Xi’s plans. All these Chinese efforts are attractive to the Gulf states in terms of the co-development of space exploration and aerospace technology – a win-win situation that earns the support of Gulf states.
The responses of the leaders of Gulf states to President Xi’s speech were warm. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said that the risks and challenges in the world require the solidarity of all parties and countries concerned. He praised President Xi for making China to achieve great progress in its development and becoming “a progressive force” in leading global governance. Prince Salman said that the Gulf states look forward to cooperating with China in all areas, including infrastructure development, public health, energy, food security, the maintenance of “a more just and reasonable international order,” and the promotion of regional peace. At the end of the Summit, both sides issued a joint declaration to approve an action plan for the strategic dialogue of both sides from 2023 to 2027.
President Xi’s high-profile visit to the Middle East appeared to raise the alarm of the US, whose relations with Saudi Arabia have recently affected by their opinion difference over the question of oil production and the issue of human rights. John Kirby, the strategic communications coordinator at the National Security Council, said: “We’re mindful of the influence that China is trying to grow around the world.”
In fact, on December 8, when President Xi talked with Prince Salman, both sides agreed to forge strategic partnership and to hold high-level leadership meeting once every two years in a rotational basis. Both sides signed an agreement to build up the Belt and Road Initiative through judicial, educational, investment and housing cooperation. China will assist Saudi Arabia in developing a green Middle East through automobile, energy, petrochemical, mining, and technological collaboration.
In return, Saudi Arabia announced that it supports not only the one-China principle but also China’s efforts at protecting its sovereignty and security and territorial integrity. Moreover, it opposes foreign intervention in China’s internal affairs in the name of human rights. Xi Jinping’s new foreign policy of winning the hearts and minds of the Saudi Arabian leaders was clearly quite successful.
In conclusion, China’s new foreign policy toward the Gulf states has been widening the scope of cooperation to all areas, embracing economic, educational, cultural, technological and sustainability realms. Economically, the experiment with the wider use of Renminbi as an exchange currency in Sino-Gulf interactions is going to be a landmark speeding up the process of the RMB internationalization. In response to the inroads made by China in the Middle East, its major competitor, namely the US, has naturally raised its eyebrows. However, if the world is going to be multipolar rather than being led by the formerly bipolar world dominated only by the US and Russia, then President Xi Jinping’s visit to the Gulf states has already marked the irreversible decline of the American soft power in the new world of international politics.