Birds of a Feather

China, Saudi Arabia and the Arab AI Rise

Paul Rolland | Night Watchman Ministries | MbS and the Evil Trinity of Technology.

China, Saudi Arabia and the Arab AI Rise

Posted byDr Jean-Michel Valantin (PhD Paris) January 31, 2023

On 7 December 2022, China’s president Xi Jinping received a royal welcome at his arrival in Saudi Arabia for a three days state visit. State visits between China and Saudi Arabia heads of state have taken place since 2016.

In 2022, President Xi received a royal and considerably warmer welcome than Joe Biden in July (Tamara Qiblawi, “Saudi’s MBS rolls out red carpet for China’s Xi, in a not subtle message to Biden”, CNN, 14 December, 2022).

Furthermore, during this state visit, President Xi was the first Chinese head of state to attend a Gulf Cooperation Council summit. That session, taking place in Riyad, included very high levels representatives from the whole Middle East-North Africa region (“President Xi Jinping attends first China-GCC summit and delivers keynote speech”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, 2022-12-10).

The President, the King and AI

Nowadays, China is the main importer of the Saudi oil production. China buys almost 18% of it. Yet, if energy was a major feature of this visit, artificial intelligence (AI) issues were also a central topic of the visit.

This led to the signing of dozens of massive partnerships contracts between Saudi and Chinese companies about the development of artificial intelligence (AI) and smart cities, AI training, 5G development, cloud computing, fintech, telecommunications, quantum computing, education and green technologies, among others (Rawan Radwan, “Why China is a natural partner for Saudi Arabia in its quest to become a tech innovation leader” Arab News, Decembre 7, 2022).

Chinese military drones and surveillance technologies’ sales were also part of the signing spree, which is said to reach around 30 billion dollars in value. For example, Huawei, the Chinese AI giant, signed a memorandum of understanding for the development of installations in several Saudi cities (“Xi visit: Saudi Arabia inks deal with Huawei, despite US fears”, Asian Financial, 9 December 2022).

In other words, this state visit was literally a formalization of the convergence of the Chinese Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) and of the Saudi AI development. This convergence has profound geopolitical consequences. Those are especially important in terms of the reinforcement of Chinese influence in an area that had been so far largely oriented towards the U.S. and of the related transformation of the Gulf states.

From oil to AI: The Saudi-China Great Convergence

The negotiations between Saudi Arabia and China related to buying Saudi oil with Chinese yuans, thus creating a “petroyuan”, attracted a lot of international attention. However, it appears that the scale of the partnership is staggeringly wider when including the AI field (Maha El Dahan and Aziz El Yaacoubi, “China’s Xi calls for oil trade in Yuan at Gulf summit in Riyadh”, Reuters, Decembre 10, 2022, and   KN Pandita, “China takes the “tech route” to boost ties with the Middle-East ; U.S looks at China-Gulf synergy with alarm“, The Eurasian Times, 7 December, 2022).

Those AI negotiations become de facto a policy when the Saudi minister for information and communication technology and the Chinese minister of industry and information technology signed a common strategic partnership plan (Rawan Radwan, ibid).

Enters AI

The plan aims at covering all aspects of the AI field, from technological development to training through robotics. The improvement, among others, of communication infrastructure, cloud computing, research and innovation is also part of the plan. One must also note the development of quantum information technology (“AI and Digital economy development key part of Saudi-China partnership plan”, Arab News, December 9, 2022 and Hélène Lavoix, “Portal to AI-Understanding AI and Foreseeing the AI powered world”,  and “Portal to Quantum Information Science and Technology- Towards a Quantum AI World ?” The Red Team Analysis Society).

It is in this context that Huawei, the AI giant, signed a memorandum of understanding. The latter is about the development of facilities in Saudi cities and of cloud computing. This comes after Huawei built 5G infrastructures in several Persian Gulf countries (Aziz El Yaacoubi and Edouardo Baptista, “Saudi Arabia signs Huawei deal, deepening China ties on Xi’s visit”, Reuters, December 8, 2022).

The development of AI is a central feature of the Saudi Arabia 2030 framework. The framework aims at achieving both the diversification of the Kingdom economy beyond oil and adaptation to climate change (Saudi Vision 2030 and Jumana Khamis, “Look ahead 2023: grim forecasts underscore the importance of climate adaptation for Middle East and North African countries”, Arab News, January 03, 2023).

The Neom attractor

This dynamic imbues the development of the mega project Neom: the integration of four new cities into a smart urban complex.

Located on the Red Sea, close both to Jordan and Egypt, Neom is going to be a giant laboratory for the diversification of the Saudi economy through innovation. It will notably explore adaptation paths to the raging effects of climate change through the use of AI (“Saudi Arabia ‘not building The Line” but AI is, says NEOM executive”, Arabian Business, November 30, 2022).

In other words, the integration of AI aims at turning Saudi Arabia into a 21st century great power. The Kingdom uses its oil rent to transform from an energy giant into a major digital power.

In this context, the Chinese experience of investing massively to become the world leader in the AI field in 2030 will certainly be a strategic asset for the Saudi party. The same is true of the Chinese experience in installing networks of AI “city brains” (Jean-Michel Valantin, “The Chinese Artificial Intelligence Revolution”, The Red Team Analysis Society, November 13, 2017).

The BRI and the Arab states

As it happens, those numerous Chinese-Saudi cooperations in AI appear as a new dimension of the convergence between the Saudi Arabia 2030 grand strategy and the Chinese Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) (Jean-Michel Valantin, “Saudi Arabia and the Chinese Belt&Road : The Great Convergence”, The Red Team Analysis Society, March 11, 2019).


The BRI, deployed since 2013, is a strategy aimed at ensuring for China the constant flows of energy resources, commodities and products. Those flows are necessary to the current industrial and capitalist development of the 1,4 billion strong “Middle Kingdom”. (Jean-Michel Valantin, “China and the New Silk Road – From oil wells to the moon … and beyond”, The Red Team Analysis Society, July 6 2015). Since then, it has attracted the interest and commitment of numerous Asian, African, Middle-Eastern European and South -American countries.

The BRI is a new expression of the Chinese philosophical and strategic thought (Valantin, “China and the New Silk Road: the Pakistani strategy”, The Red Team Analysis, May 18, 2015). It is grounded in an understanding of the spatial dimension of China, in the geographical sense. Space is conceived as a support to spread Chinese influence and power to the “outside”. However, it also allows the Middle Kingdom to  “aspirate” what it needs from the “outside” to the “inside”.  (Quynh Delaunay, Naissance de la Chine moderne, L’Empire du Milieu dans la globalisation, 2014).

This is why we qualify some spaces as being “useful” to the deployment of the BRI. And each “useful space” is related, and “useful”, to other “useful spaces”.

From Saudi Arabia to China, and Back

Hence, the Persian Gulf and its states are fundamental “useful spaces” for China. As a result, Saudi Arabia is de facto of great interest for the BRI: Saudi Arabia, the other Gulf states and Arab states become a useful space. Indeed, the BRI increases the Saudi capabilities to respond to the Chinese energy needs.

Coupling China, the Gulf and the Mediterranean world

One must add that the geography of Saudi Arabia furthers the opening of the maritime BRI to the Red Sea, thanks to the Saudi ports, such as Yanbu and Jeddah.

In other words, the BRI improves the access of the Chinese civil fleet to the Red Sea. As a consequence, the Chinese convoys can access the Suez Canal and thus the Mediterranean Sea. Thus, coupling the BRI and Saudi Arabia further open the markets of the Middle East, North Africa and Southern Europe to China.

From Huawei, with Love

In this context, the Saudi- Huawei deal is of particular interest, because of the company’s expertise in “intelligentizing” pipelines.

This expertise has been developed over more than a decade, first in Central Asia (Jean-Michel Valantin, “Artificial Intelligence on the Chinese New Silk Road”, The Red Team Analysis, December 4, 2017 and “World’s longest smart pipeline”, Huawei case study, 30/03/2013). It has the potential to be of great interest to Aramco, the Saudi oil giant company.

Furthermore, Huawei is already active in Saudi Arabia. The company has a contract with the Saudi Railways. It is also building a huge battery energy storage on the Red Sea. The project, based in Neom, complements the installation of a mammoth 400 MW solar plant (Dale Aruf, “China’s tech outreach in the Middle East and North Africa”, The Diplomat, November 17, 2022).

And, as it happens, Huawei and other Chinese tech companies are already active in the other Gulf states. It is especially true in the UAE, with joint ventures dedicated to solar power smart solutions (Jean-Michel Valantin, “The U.A.E, Artificial Intelligence and the Sustainability Revolution”, The Red Team Analysis, February 19, 2018)

In other words, the AI dimension of the Saudi Kingdom and the People’s Republic of China partnership is a massive step for the deployment of the “digital Silk Road” (Jonathan E. Hillmann, The Digital Silk Road, China’s Quest to Wire the World and Win the Future, 2021).

This deployment supports the extension of the Chinese influence in and through the Saudi Kingdom. This whole dynamic is self-reinforcing despite the strong reluctance of the United States to accept this geopolitical convergence.

From U.S. influence to Saudi-China influence

Indeed, the energy and AI Saudi Arabia-China great convergence is a major strategic shift that weakens the U.S. influence both in the Middle-East and in Asia.


As it happens, the digital Silk Road has multiple incarnations, especially through the extension of fibre optic cables networks (Jonathan E. Hillman, ibid).

The most important of these cables is the Pakistan & East Africa cable connecting Europe (PEACE). It connects China to Pakistan then to Djibouti and Egypt, then to Europe. At the same time, Huawei is developing technology centres in eight MENA countries, including Tunisia, Turkey and Egypt. Nine other cables connect MENA countries with China. Meanwhile, Chinese companies multiply high-tech deals with Israeli firms (Dale Aruf, ibid).

The same is true with Beidou, the Chinese global positioning system that competes with the American GPS. Since 2017, China has launched the China-Arab states Beidou Cooperation Forum. Saudi Arabia, Oman, Algeria, Lebanon, Morocco now deploy Beidou (Dale Aruf, ibid).

Undermining U.S. influence

So, from a geopolitical point of view, the Arab choice of Chinese technology is deeply meaningful. Indeed, those countries adopt those Chinese technologies, while the United States ban Huawei, ZTE and other Chinese telecommunication companies from their territory (Diane Bartz, Alexandra Alper, “U.S bans Huawei, ZTE equipment sales, citing national security risks”, Reuters, December 1, 2022).

Meanwhile, the U.S. political and trade authorities ban any export of U.S. advanced technology, including microchips for AI.

However, the Arab states multiply giant deals with those very same Chinese companies that the U.S consider as a potential danger (Rishi Iyengar, “Biden short circuits China”, Foreign Policy, 28 October 2022).

Those Arab strategic choices are also supported by the fact that China does not condition its economic cooperation on political and moral obligations. So, the cooperation between the Middle Kingdom and the Arab states is very fluid (Loretta Napoleoni, Maonomics, Why Chinese communists make better capitalists than we do ?, Seven Stories Press, 2011).

In fact, using the framework devised by Hélène Lavoix, at the level of the normative dimension of the developing war between the U.S. and China, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and other Arab countries are adopting the Chinese technological norms (Hélène Lavoix, “The War between China and the U.S- The Normative Dimension”, The Red Team Analysis Society, July 4, 2022). By doing so, the convergence of the development strategies of China and of the Arab states undermines the U.S. influence in the MENA region.

So, while defeats and dramatic blunders in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan weaken the U.S. influence and power, the Arab states acquire new tools of economic development from China.

Welcome to AI geopolitics

This “conversion” of Saudi Arabia and of the Gulf states to the Chinese technology and influence has deep consequences. De facto, it subverts the Kingdom-U.S. relationship based on the Saudi oil exports “in exchange” for U.S. security (Michael Klare, Blood and oil, the dangers and consequences of America’s growing dependency on imported petroleum, 2004 and Jean-Michel Valantin, “Oil Flood (1): The Kingdom is Back” and “Oil Flood (2)- Oil and Politics in a (Real) Multipolar World”, The Red (Team) Analysis Society, December 15, 2014, January 12, 2015).

In this regard, we have to remember that the whole Persian Gulf region is under the direct U.S. military influence. This influence is exercised through the fifth fleet, the land and air forces and a network of bases. All those forces are under the direct authority of the U.S. Central Command.

In this context, the development of the Gulf states through AI Chinese technology is a literal geopolitical and existential shift away from the U.S. influence. Thus, it is also a weakening of the U.S. technological and military hegemony in the region (“China takes the ‘Tech Route’ to boost ties with the Middle-East; U.S looks at Beijing-Gulf synergy with Alarm”, Arab News, December 8, 2022).

In other terms, the whole MENA region integrates the giant political, normative, technological and economic battlefield that the China-U.S. conflict defines (Wendy Robinson, “The Rise of China’s AI in the Gulf: a renewal of China’s ‘Serbia Model’”, Fikra Forum, an initiative of the Washington Institute for Near east Policy, October 13, 2020).

In next articles, we shall see how this conflict could evolve and worsen..

But how can they call on him (Jesus Christ) to save them unless they believe in him (Jesus Christ)? And how can they believe in him (Jesus Christ) if they have never heard about him (Jesus Christ)? And how can they hear about him (Jesus Christ) unless someone tells them?” —Romans 10:14

In His Service,

Night Watchman

Paul Rolland

Night Watchman Ministries

Make Your Decision for Christ NOW!!!!!!! Time is Up!!!!!!!

Jesus Christ’s Offer of Salvation:

The ABCs of Salvation through Jesus Christ (the Lamb)

A. Admit/Acknowledge/Accept that you are sinner. Ask God’s forgiveness and repent of your sins.

. . . “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23).

. . . “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10).

. . . “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8).

B. Believe Jesus is Lord. Believe that Jesus Christ is who He claimed to be; that He was both fully God and fully man and that we are saved through His death, burial, and resurrection. Put your trust in Him as your only hope of salvation. Become a son or daughter of God by receiving Christ.

. . . “That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. (John 3:15-17). For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13).

C. Call upon His name, Confess with your heart and with your lips that Jesus is your Lord and Savior.

. . . “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Romans 10:9-10).

. . . “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (John 1:8-10).

. . . “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. (John 2:2).

. . . “In this was manifested the love of god toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.” (1 John 4:9, 14-15).

. . . “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” (Romans 5:8-10).

. . . “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23).

. . . “Jesus saith unto them, I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6).

. . . “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth.” (Romans 1:16).

. . . “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts: 4:12).

. . . “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth for there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 2:4-6).

. . . “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:9).

. . . “But as many as received him, to them gave the power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” (John 1:12).

True Church / Bride of Christ Spared from God’s Wrath:

 Romans 5:8-10. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.”

Romans 12:19. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

1 Thessalonians 1:10. And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.

1 Thessalonians 5:9. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,

Romans 8:35. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

Jeremiah 30:7. Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it.

Revelation 3:10 Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.

Leave a Reply