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The Jakarta or Beijing Saudi Dilemma

Greece (Brussels Morning Newspaper) Saudi Arabia claims to be the Islamic world’s leader. It also acts like one. In doing so, it is likely to have substantial short-term effects on the politics of Southeast Asia and, in the long run, widen the cultural gap while posing challenging concerns about the security and unity of ASEAN.

Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam and Indonesia is home to the world’s largest Muslim population. Riyadh has financed several projects throughout the years designed to eradicate disease, improve healthcare systems, provide electricity to remote villages, set up orphanages, and empower women. 

While Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Sandiaga Uno presented fresh plans to entice more Saudi tourists to visit and for Indonesians to enter the Saudi market with creative economy products, Indonesian Trade Minister Zulkifli Hasan led a special delegation to Riyadh to open opportunities in import and export.

Sino-Saudi relations have grown stronger in recent years, as evidenced by Saudi Arabia’s geoeconomic shift toward the East and China’s expanding economic presence in the country.

In the years following the Cold War, the United States remained the dominant global power and the planet’s top geopolitical, economic, and military power. There have been more and more calls for a global order in which power is more evenly distributed among different nations as a result of the rise of China and the BRICS (other emerging markets), which are made up of Brazil, Russia, India, South Africa, and China.

China’s expanding investments in the Kingdom are being welcomed, pushing China to break away from its long-standing free-riding approach, in contrast to the Saudi perspective that the United States is underinvested in Saudi Arabia’s vision of economic development. This is especially clear in Beijing’s significant and expanding investments in Saudi city-states.

The jewel of Southeast Asia

Saudi Arabia and Indonesia have maintained diplomatic relations for decades, and these relations have generally been characterized by cooperation in various fields, including trade, investment, religious affairs, and cultural exchanges.

In the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, Islam is important. Both nations are home to substantial Muslim populations as well as Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia as well as Jakarta, Indonesia’s Istiqlal Mosque, two of Islam’s holiest sites. The two nations have worked together on religious issues, including helping Indonesian Muslims with their Hajj and offering scholarships for Indonesian students to study Islamic studies in Saudi Arabia. 

While the Hajj and Umrah have traditionally been the focus of bilateral relations because Indonesia, with 270 million people, sends the biggest numbers of pilgrims to the Kingdom each year, there have recently been discussions to examine untapped potentials in trade and tourism as well.

The two strategic allies have cooperated economically, mostly in the trade and energy sectors. Indonesia, a country with a sizable economy, is a substantial consumer of oil and petroleum products, while Saudi Arabia is a considerable oil exporter. By entering into a number of accords and trade partnerships, both nations have worked to deepen their economic connections.

Even if the relationships are generally good, there are occasionally problems. The treatment of Indonesian domestic workers in Saudi Arabia, where there have been allegations of abuse and mistreatment, has been one possible problem. Diplomatic efforts to safeguard the rights of Indonesian employees in Saudi Arabia have been prompted by such events.

Not a Paper Dragon

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) of China, which aims to improve connectivity and trade between Asia, Europe, and Africa, and Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, a goal to diversify the country’s economy, are complementary. Utilizing the overlaps between Vision 2030 and the BRI, both nations have tried to work together on initiatives in the areas of infrastructure, energy, and economic development.

China and Saudi Arabia have declared a desire to strengthen their strategic alliances. These alliances cover a wide range of topics, including as counterterrorism initiatives, security consultations, and defense cooperation. Both nations have taken part in joint military drills and had conversations to strengthen their security ties.

Economic cooperation has been a cornerstone of Saudi-Chinese relations. China is one of the largest importers of Saudi oil, and Saudi Arabia is a major supplier of crude oil to China. This energy trade has played a crucial role in deepening the economic ties between the two countries. In addition to oil, the two nations have explored opportunities for cooperation in areas such as infrastructure development, investment, and trade.

intensified competition for Chinese tourists could put Beijing in a challenging position in terms of its “hedging” strategy aimed at balancing Beijing’s good relations with all Gulf countries by avoiding moving too close to any one country.

Beijing’s “hedging” approach, which aims to balance Beijing’s strong relations with all Gulf countries by avoiding becoming too close to any one country, may face difficulties within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), due to the increased rivalry for Chinese tourists.

Even while there has been a lot of cooperation, it’s crucial to remember that Saudi Arabia’s tight links to the US and other Western nations may affect its foreign policy choices, particularly how it views China. In addition, difficulties and disagreements over specific issues could arise, just like in any foreign partnership.

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