This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and Saudi Arabia. Over the past three decades, the bilateral relationship has transitioned from one of marginal importance for both countries to a comprehensive strategic partnership, largely on the back of a trade relationship founded on energy. This progression, while benefiting Saudi Arabia economically, complicates its relationship with the United States, forcing leadership to decide how to effectively manage a balanced approach between the two superpowers.

On Tuesday, August 25, from 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Middle East Security Initiative hosted a virtual launch event for a new report, “Strangers to Strategic Partners: Thirty Years of Sino-Saudi Relations,” by Dr. Jonathan Fulton, an Atlantic Council nonresident senior fellow and assistant professor of political science at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi.

Dr. Wu Bingbing, associate professor in the department of Arabic language and culture at Peking University and senior research fellow at the Institute of International and Strategic Studies; Ms. Kirsten Fontenrose, director of the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Middle East Security Initiative; and Dr. Mohammed Al-Sudairi, head of the Asian Studies Unit at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, will join a conversation moderated by Richard McGregor, award-winning journalist and senior fellow at the Lowy Institute, to discuss the report’s findings and recommendations for the future of the Sino-Saudi relationship.


Dr. Wu Bingbing
Associate Professor, Department of Arabic Language and Culture; Senior Research Fellow, Institute for International and Strategic Studies
Peking University

Ms. Kirsten Fontenrose
Director, Scowcroft Middle East Security Initiative
Atlantic Council

Dr. Jonathan Fulton
Nonresident Senior Fellow, Middle East Programs
Atlantic Council 
Assistant Professor of Political Science
Zayed University

Dr. Mohammed Al-Sudairi
Head, Asian Studies Unit
King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies


Mr. Richard McGregor
Senior Fellow
Lowy Institute

Read the report

In-Depth Research & Reports

Aug 25, 2020

Strangers to strategic partners: Thirty years of Sino-Saudi relations

By Jonathan Fulton

This report begins with a brief historical overview of Sino-Saudi relations, it then discusses how the partnership has developed, and ends with an analysis of the bi- lateral relationship within the context of the US-Sino-Saudi triangle.

China Economy & Business

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Through our Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East and Scowcroft Middle East Security Initiative, the Atlantic Council works with allies and partners in Europe and the wider Middle East to protect US interests, build peace and security, and unlock the human potential of the region.