China, Saudi military cooperation

11:11 28.06.2024 •

China’s Defence Minister Dong Jun welcomes his Saudi counterpart Prince Khalid bin Salman to Beijing.
Photo: SCMP

Two of China’s leading generals met the Saudi defence minister in Beijing on Tuesday as part of a stepping up in military cooperation between the two countries, ‘The South China Morning Post’ informs.

Central Military Commission (CMC) vice-chairman Zhang Youxia – China’s top uniformed official – and Defence Minister Dong Jun held separate talks with Prince Khalid bin Salman.

According to the Chinese defence ministry, Zhang told Salman that “China values its traditional friendship with Saudi Arabia” and said relations between their armies were on a “fast track”.

Cooperation in “army exchanges, personnel training and joint exercises and drills” had been “fruitful”, Zhang said, adding that “China is open to cooperation with the Saudi military”.

On his X account, Salman said they “explored ways to strengthen the Saudi-Chinese relations within the framework of our strategic defence partnership. We also discussed our coordination efforts to promote international peace and security.”

Several high-ranking Saudi officials were also in the delegation to Beijing, according to the official Saudi Press Agency.

As China’s second-ranking military official after President Xi Jinping – who also chairs the CMC, the country’s top military decision-making and command body – Zhang rarely meets defence ministers.

The meeting with Salman was Zhang’s first with a foreign defence minister this year, and followed several meetings with defence ministry heads at the high-profile Xiangshan Forum in Beijing in October.

In his talks with Salman, Dong said China and Saudi Arabia “firmly stand together on issues of mutual core interests, communicate and coordinate in a timely manner on international and regional affairs, and vigorously safeguard common interests”.

According to the Chinese defence ministry readout, Salman said Riyadh was ready to strengthen “strategic communication” with Beijing to “raise bilateral military ties to a higher level”.

China is Saudi Arabia’s largest economic and trade partner and the largest importer of Saudi oil. While the US remains Riyadh’s largest arms supplier, the Middle Eastern power has increased its Chinese weapons imports in recent years.

China’s state-owned defence industry displayed the latest model FC-31, its fifth-generation fighter jet, and more than 30 unmanned aerial vehicles at the World Defence Show in Riyadh in February, hoping to ramp up exports to the region.

The Chinese and Saudi navies also held a joint counterterrorism exercise in October, against the backdrop of the Israel-Gaza war.

In addition to their growing military ties, China and Saudi Arabia have deepened their cooperation in a range of other fields, including artificial intelligence and infrastructure.

Beijing has also been working to increase its influence in the Middle East and brokered last year’s peace deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which restored diplomatic relations between the two countries.


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