Saudi Arabia Seeks Asia’s Support For Proposed Economic Makeover

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince is seeking economic support from Asian nations in order to fund and fulfill plans for diversification of Saudi Arabia’s economy, primarily away from a dependence on oil. This past week Prince Mohammed bin Salman traveled to Pakistan, India, and China, seeking, and in some cases receiving economic funding for bin Salman’s plan. Referred to as Vision 2030 it looks to expand the Saudi Arabian economy through bolstering the private sector, the tourism industry, and market expansion, according to CNN. On Monday, twenty-billion-dollar agreements were made in Pakistan, however bin Salman’s political tour is also an appeal for diplomatic allies in Asia, as the International Human Rights controversy surrounding the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last October strongly strained ties between Saudi Arabia and its previous relationships with the Global North, according to ABC News.

Rabia Yasmeen, a senior analyst at Euromonitor reported that the Crown Prince’s visits in Asia “[hold] geo-strategic and socioeconomic importance…,” further elaborating that, “The visits will provide the Crown Prince an avenue for developing closer relationships with the governments in these countries and improve a positive image among the masses.” Although Saudi Arabia has been met with severe criticism following the 2018 death of a journalist proposed to have been of knowledge to the Saudi Arabian government from several Global North nations, Saudi Arabia has not by any means been universally condemned. Dhruva Jaishankar, a New Dehli foreign correspondent for the Brookings Institution has stated, “I imagine any differences would be communicated privately and India sees no apparent benefits to public condemnation.” He further expressed interest in Saudi Arabia’s economic plan and opportunity for investment, according to CNN.

Although it is entirely fair to oppose and even condemn the political and rhetorical violence that is the killing of a journalist, it is important for the sake of political analysis to consider the current event at hand as a piece of living, liminal framework of alliances based on very specific, systematized definitions and recognition of violence. As a result of Saudi Arabia’s agreed-upon perpetration of the violative type of violence, diplomatic and economic ties between the Global North and Saudi Arabia were largely severed or at least postponed until diplomatically appropriate on an international social scale. The consequent result was an appeal for replacement relations elsewhere, by Saudi Arabia, especially in the context of the publicization of a national economic-industrial revamp. There is nothing uncanny happening here; however, it is potentially dangerous for the international, billion-dollar endorsement of an economic expansion plan that has the potential to hide persistent structural inequalities and issues with new national rhetoric of neoliberal progress.

As stated by CNN, bin Salman and Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 economic makeover plan was developed as a direct solution to Saudi Arabia’s historic economic dependency on oil trade and exportation. The Crown Prince is seeking currently to expand the national economy in order to reduce this legacy of dependence on oil. Saudi Arabia’s economic relationship with oil is inextricably linked politically to a relationship with the United States as, according to the BBC, oil was first discovered in 1938 on Saudi Arabian land, and was first produced by the United States. Geo-historically speaking, a Saudi Arabian dependence on oil means an American dependence on Saudi Arabia’s dependence on oil. It appears currently as though bin Salman’s Vision 2030 is a direct attempt to break such a historical cycle of interwoven dependence with the implementation of its own neoliberal development scheme.

Prince bin Salman and Saudi Arabia’s appeals for diplomatic as well as economic relationships with several Asian nations could be a prelude to a shift in relations, both in terms of the nations directly involved in facilitating the development of Vision 2030, as well as those politically dependent on the international development status quo. Bin Salman’s international meetings, as well as his economic proposals paradoxically both challenge and reinforce the status quo by attempting to economically develop the nation, however through diversification of resources.