Oil, money, and drones from Saudi Arabia – China’s latest top news


Saudi Arabia looks to China

Officials from Saudi Arabia and China have been meeting in Jeddah to discuss business and economic issues. Here are some of the deals that have been discussed:

Oil

Caixin reports that Saudi Arabia has “recently resurrected discussions with China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) over a failed deal from six years ago.”

  • Saudi Arabian Oil Company, the state-owned energy giant often called Aramco, is reportedly in talks with CNPC to invest in a refinery in southwestern China’s Yunnan Province, a project originally discussed in 2011.
  • Caixin sees the deal as a move to reclaim Saudi Arabia’s top spot as oil supplier to China, which it lost to Russia last year: In 2016, China bought 51 million tons of crude from Saudi Arabia — but 52.5 million tons from Russia.

Money

Reuters reports that Saudi Arabia may begin borrowing in Chinese yuan to cover deficits caused by recent years of low oil prices. Currently, most of its debts are in U.S. dollars.

  • A Saudi official told Reuters that the kingdom would be “very willing to consider funding in renminbi and other Chinese products, and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and other divisions have shown interest for us to do that.”
  • As we noted earlier this week, the Chinese government has been pushing for the use of yuan to fund development and infrastructure projects, especially those connected with the Belt and Road initiative.

The South China Morning Post reports that “China and Saudi Arabia will set up a joint US$20 billion investment fund,” according to a Saudi official.

  • The Saudi Energy Minister said “the two countries would evenly share the costs and profits of the fund, which would invest in infrastructure, energy, mining and materials.”
  • He also said that 11 other deals worth about $20 billion would be signed this week.

Drones and other deals

In March, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud Salman met President Xi Jinping in Beijing, signing about $65 billion worth of deals, including:

  • A partnership between Aramco and state-owned defense conglomerate China North Industries Group Corp. (Norinco) for a refinery and chemical complex.
  • A memorandum of understanding for Saudi Arabia to play a role in China’s moon missions.
  • The establishment of a Chinese factory in the Saudi kingdom to make drones

Xi Jinping made his first state visit to Saudi Arabia in January 2016.

Keeping the capital’s lower middle classes happy

The Financial Times reports (paywall) that a new proposal from the Beijing government would give parents who rent, rather than own, homes in the capital the right to send their children to their locally zoned schools. Currently, if a family does not have a Beijing residence permit (户口 hùkǒu), one of the few ways to access the city’s public school system is by buying a property.

The FT says the plan is “designed to cool property prices in China’s top cities and avert further pressure on the country’s debt-laden financial system” by removing a large incentive to buy rather than rent.

If the plan is adopted, it is unlikely to help migrant workers, who have been under pressure over the last year from demolitions of low-cost housing intended partly to reduce the city’s population, and other pressures — in July, a village near Beijing announced a levy of 2,000 yuan ($295) per month on every migrant worker living there.

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Jeremy Goldkorn

Jeremy Goldkorn is co-founder of the Sinica Podcast and currently edits SupChina and its daily newsletter.