In a first, China to draw Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman into its orbit

In a first, China to draw Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman into its orbit

BEIJING - China has upped its imports of Saudi oil significantly, part of a bid to draw Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman into its orbit amid an ongoing trade war with the United States.

Beijing’s crude oil imports rose to nearly 2 million barrels per day (bpd) in October, up 24 million bpd or 76.3% compared to the previous month, Saudi daily Asharq al-Awsat reported, citing China’s General Administration of Customs.

Two new Chinese refineries – Hengli Petrochemical and Zhejiang Petrochemical – played a major role in the bump, the Saudi daily said. While US sanctions on Venezuela, and to a lesser extent on Iran, have played a role in the Chinese leaning on Saudi Arabia for the crucial commodity, Beijing is also looking to Riyadh as a key bulwark against Trump’s trade war.

“China has an interest in making Saudi gravitate more towards it,” a Gulf-based economist told Asia Times on condition of anonymity, as he was not authorized to speak on the matter.

Beijing upping its Saudi oil imports should be seen, he said, “within the context of the trade war.” Risk appetite in Asian markets soured on Thursday after US President Donald Trump’s approval of legislation supporting the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, triggering fears of retaliation from Beijing.

The US and China are locked in a bitter trade war that has dislocated supply chains and hit economic growth across the world, and Trump’s approval of the Hong Kong legislation is expected to provoke a strong response from China.

“We urge the US to not continue going down the wrong path, or China will take counter-measures, and the US must bear all consequences,” China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

For Saudi Arabia, courting China is equally important to securing its future as ties with the West, and specifically the United States – the most important alliance of its modern history – become increasingly frayed.

On a landmark visit to Beijing in February of this year, Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pledged tighter economic ties with China, brushing aside the plight of the Uighur Muslims facing suppression and internment over their religious beliefs.