How China Became Saudi Arabia's Largest Trading Partner
Over the past two decades, the economic presence of China has been growing significantly around the world.
The country has already surpassed the U.S. as the largest trading partner of developed nations such as Japan and the European Union.
But the world’s second largest economy is making significant inroads in the Middle East as well. As Visual Capitalist's Freny Fernandes details below, this graphic by Ehsan Soltani uses data from the World Trade Organization (WTO) to chart Saudi Arabia’s trading history with the EU, the U.S, and China.
Evolving Trade Relations
With China’s imports from and exports to Saudi Arabia now exceeding the major oil-producing country’s combined trade with the U.S. and the EU, China has become Saudi Arabia’s dominant trading partner.
|Saudi Arabia Net Trade by Year||With China ($B)||With U.S. ($B)||With EU-27 ($B)|
Back in 2001, Saudi Arabia’s trade with China was a mere fraction—just one-tenth—of its combined trade with the EU and United States. While the total value of trade was modest at this time, it’s been increasing consistently almost every year since.
By the year 2011, China had surpassed the U.S. for the first time in bilateral trade value with Saudi Arabia. Then by 2018, trade between China and Saudi Arabia surpassed the Middle-Eastern country’s trade with the entire EU.
Fast forward to today, and China has emerged as a larger trading partner with Saudi Arabia than the rest of the West combined.
The Perfect Match?
China’s status as Saudi Arabia’s biggest trading partner makes sense considering its recent economic growth and focus.
China is the largest buyer of crude oil in the world, and it buys more from the Saudi Arabia than anywhere else. Almost half of the $87.3 billion bilateral trade between the two nations in 2021 was comprised of China’s crude oil imports. This accounted for 77% of China’s total imports from Saudi Arabia, which also included goods like plastic—a petroleum product.
Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, imported over $30 billion worth of goods including technological equipment, telephones, and light fixtures.
To see what other countries China has become the largest trading partner of, check out How China Overtook the U.S. as the World’s Major Trading Partner.