Saudi wants to deepen its technological ties with China through Hong Kong, and it sets the tone for an alliance that may benefit even the countries' political grip in the long run. In photo: a man fist bumps a robotic hand. iStock


  • Riyadh would like to build an "entrepreneurial bridge" between the 2 nations: Minister Abdullah Alswaha
  • Any relationship that allows Beijing to deploy its tech to more parts of the world is a win for China: Atlantic Council's Thammy Evans
  • Calls it a 'smart move' by Beijing and Riyadh
  • Says the partnership may help Beijing 'set norms' for in a changing world

Saudi Arabia is seeking deeper technology ties with China through its strengthened relations with Hong Kong, the kingdom's Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Abdullah bin Amer Alswaha said during his weekend trip to Hong Kong.

China recently helped broker a diplomatic agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran, traditional foes and important powers in the Middle East, lowering tensions in the region. The United States, the traditional ally of Saudi Arabia and UAE, and Iran's foe, was left to watch from the sidelines while the deal was stitched together. The deal helped deepen China's relationship with the oil-producing gulf countries who have felt the United States was lowering its level of engagement in the region.

In an interview with the South China Morning Post, Alswaha said Saudi Arabia was looking forward to cooperating with Hong Kong as both countries are "going through a very promising transformational story." He said there was an opportunity "to build an innovation bridge to leap farther into the future with an innovation-based economy."

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS, has outlined an ambitious plan to turn a desert area in the country into a futuristic city called Neom. China is seen as a critical partner for Riyadh in its Vision 2030 agenda, which includes the $500 billion Neom project.

A tech partnership between Beijing and Riyadh gives them freedom to tap into each other's economic and technological strengths, without having to worry about criticism from the West over democracy and human rights.

The U.S. has, with help from its western allies, tried to limit China's access to advanced technologies like those used for certain kinds of chips, angering Beijing and prompting accusations that Washinton was trying to contain China's rise. In what is seen as a tit-for-tat,China recently imposed buying limits on American chip manufacturer Micron's products, saing they pose a "major security risk" to China's national security.

Washington's relations with Saudi Arabia and the UAE have also cooled down significantly in recent years. The two have ignored U.S. efforts to isolate Russia for its invasion of Ukraine and continued to trade with Kremlin, even allowing affluent Russians to invest in their economies.

Thammy Evans, a senior fellow with think tank Atlantic Council's GeoTech Center, told International Business Times via email that a tech alliance was "a smart move" by Beijing and Riyadh. "There is every likelihood that this new relationship 'Hong Kong x Saudi Arabia' will prosper," she said, adding "Saudi has the sun for solar power and China has the technology."

"They'll win not only in terms of tech and talent transfer, but politically they may be able to set a partnership for resolving hitherto intractable global problems and setting norms in a rapidly changing and challenged world," she said.

Evans noted that areas like space, sustainable smart cities, and probably how the two nations will tackle water access problems are going to be key in the partnership.

Minister Alswaha said Saudi would like to replicate Hong Kong's success in tech entrepreneurship and venture capital funding for tech startups, then "build an entrepreneurial bridge between the two nations."

Evans pointed out that China doesn't necessarily need to become the world's technology leader for it to establish global tech dominance. It only needs a certain presence in countries and for its tech to be adopted by "majority of the world" so it can lead the market, set its own rules and "sway trade decisions" on the global stage.

"Any relationship for China which allows it to deploy its tech to more parts of the world is a win for China and Saudi's ambitions and ability to finance them will allow China the proving ground it needs to progress its tech development."

But she also warned that the two countries could lose because of their "inability under their current governance models to deal with the rising expectations of their populations."