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China’s Balancing Strategy Between Saudi Arabia and Iran: The View from Riyadh

Houghton, Benjamin (2022) 'China’s Balancing Strategy Between Saudi Arabia and Iran: The View from Riyadh.', Asian Affairs, 53 (1).


Since Deng Xiaoping's opening-up policy and drive for economic modernisation and reform in the late 1970s, and especially since China's foreign energy requirements skyrocketed in 1993, Beijing's interests in the Persian Gulf have grown immensely. A staple of its regional policy has been an insistence on cultivating relations with all states, something that has necessitated a careful balancing act between regional rivals, especially Saudi Arabia and Iran. This article examines China's strategy to balance relations with these two states, especially during periods of tension, such as following the 2019 drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities, something that Riyadh accused Iran of masterminding. Following an examination of this strategy, the article explores Saudi attempts to coax Beijing away from Tehran and Saudi perceptions of Sino-Iranian relations through the lens of the 2021 25-year agreement between China and Iran, questioning whether Sino-Iranian relations are a bone of contention in Sino-Saudi relations.

Item Type:Article
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Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives 4.0.
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Publisher statement:This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.
Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:17 May 2022
Date of first online publication:09 February 2022
Date first made open access:17 May 2022

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