The Coronavirus has infected Members of Saudi Arabia’s Royal Family. As many as 150 members of the Kingdom’s Al Saud ruling family royals are now believed to have contracted the novel Coronavirus.

King Salman’s Nephew, Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, is confirmed to be in intensive care due to COVID-19 complications, The New York Times reported on April 8. Prince Faisal is also the Governor of Riyadh Region.

On Feburary 3, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement, “Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud conveyed support for China’s efforts against the novel coronavirus outbreak.”

Prince Faisal’s praise came at a time when the regime was highly suspected of covering up the severity of the Coronavirus outbreak.

Chinese media revealed what some netizens believe to be the actual numbers of confirmed Coronavirus cases and deaths. On Feburary 1, Tencent posted on its website that 24,589 people died, and 154,023 were infected with the virus, ten times the official figure at that time, according to News.

Shortly after, Chinese State Media Xinhua News Agency reported that King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud expressed support for Beijing’s efforts in combating the outbreak during a phone call with Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Feburary 6.

Xinhua reported on March 28 that King Salman praised the Chinese regime for containing the outbreak in the mainland, and also said Saudi Arabia and China are friends that stick together through thick and thin.

A Comprehensive Strategic Partnership

Saudi Arabia and the Chinese regime have strong economic ties. In light of the fact that petroleum is an important strategic material for energy and security, Saudi Arabia has a unique and significant strategic status to the Chinese.

Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest oil producer and oil exporter, and China, the world’s largest oil importer, imports 70 percent of the crude oil it refines and nearly half its natural gas consumption.

In January 2016, Xi Jinping visited Saudi Arabia. During his three-nation tour of the Middle East, China and Saudi Arabia agreed to enhance their bilateral ties and turn it into a comprehensive strategic partnership.

During the meeting, the two leaders agreed to build a stable long-term energy cooperation and joint effort in the development of the China-initiated Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). A series of cooperation deals were also signed, covering areas such as energy, communications, environment, culture, and science and technology.

The Chinese Communist regime also recognizes Saudi Arabia as a key trade partner of its Belt & Road Initiative (BRI, also known as One Belt, One Road).

As Forbes indicated: “It doesn’t take an expert in the geopolitics of Eurasia to notice that many of the countries that have so far received funding from the AIIB are located along China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI). But as the BRI, as of now, is more or less an infrastructure development mega-project designed to physically link together various political entities and economic blocs into coherent and organized trade corridors, this is still at root a multinational endeavor.”

In March 2017, King Salman cemented ties with Beijing by overseeing the signing of deals worth as much as $65 billion, involving everything from energy to space.

An official statement, which was posted on Saudi state news agency SPA, said the documents included a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the kingdom to participate in China’s Chang E-4 moon mission and a partnership agreement for manufacturing drones.

A Long March-2D rocket carrying two satellites for Saudi Arabia launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China on Dec. 7, 2018.

In February 2019, Saudi Arabia and China concluded ‘The Saudi-Chinese Investment Forum’ with joint bilateral economic cooperation agreements. The $28 billion deals were approved by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud during his visit to Beijing.

Saudi Minister of Energy, Industry, and Mineral Resources Khalid bin Abdulaziz Al-Falih received an interview with Xinhua in Dhahran on Feburary 15, 2019. When they spoke about the connection between Saudi’s Vision 2030 and China’s BRI, the Saudi minister expressed confidence in their in-depth integration.

In November 2019, both countries held a joint naval exercise in the Red Sea. The exercise aimed at “building mutual trust, enhancing cooperation between the Saudi Royal Navy and the Chinese People’s Navy, and exchanging and developing experiences in the field of maritime terrorism and piracy,” Saudi Press Agency reported.

The Belt & Road Initiative

Saudi Arabia has emerged as the country with the fourth-highest number of BRI linked projects by volume (106) and second-highest by value ($195.7 billion), according to a report by Oxford Business Group.

On Feburary 14, 2019, Powerchina, the largest Chinese EPC contractor in Saudi Arabia, won the bid for Saudi Arabia’s road monitoring construction project. The project mainly includes the construction of more than 6,600 monitoring points, and 145 small base stations within the capital city Riyadh.

On Feburary 22, 2019, State-owned Saudi Aramco signed an agreement to form a joint venture with Chinese conglomerate Norinco to develop a refining and petrochemical complex in Panjin city, a project worth more than $10 billion.

On Feburary 24, 2019, Saudi Arabia’s National Housing Company (NHC) and China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) inked a $666.7 million agreement to build more than 5,000 housing units in Riyadh.

On Feburary 27, 2019, Saudi Arabia and China signed 35 memorandums of understanding (MoU) worth more than $28 billion, the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (Sagia) revealed. The agreements were agreed at the Saudi-China Investment Forum in Beijing, which was attended by Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and several other senior ministers, including Khalid al-Falih, the kingdom’s energy minister.

Saudi Arabia Welcomes Huawei

In 2018, the Saudi Telecom Company (STC) agreed to deploy 5G network with Huawei gear.

Huawei Saudi Arabia officially opened its first flagship showroom in Riyadh in January 2019 its largest outpost in the Middle East.

In February 2019, Saudi Telecom Company signed the “Aspiration Project” contract with Huawei, which contains E2E wireless network modernization and 5G network construction.

In October 2019, Zain KSA, one of the leading telecom groups in the Middle East region and a prominent player in Saudi Arabia’s telecom space, launched 5G services across the country via its Huawei-powered 5G network.

Reportedly, the first phase of the rollout of Zain’s extensive 5G network covered more than 20 cities in Saudi Arabia. It was supported by 2,000 5G towers, making it the largest 5G network in the region and across numerous sectors; such as financial, agricultural, tourism, entertainment, auto, health, and education.

On October 28, 2018, Zain Group was selected by Huawei to become a strategic partner in the offering of “Huawei Cloud” services in Kuwait, and across the Middle East & North Africa Region (MENA).

Saudi Arabia Opens Confucius Institute

On June 10, 2019, the prestigious King Saud University (KSU) agreed to build a Confucius Institute on the campus.

Saudi’s decision and ties with the institute came at a time when many countries and universities closed down the agency. As of July 2019, at least 13 American universities have dropped the Confucius Institutes. Universities in Germany, France, Sweden, and Canada have also successively severed their cooperation with the institutes.

Confucius Institutes have been known as China’s tools to develop its soft power abroad and conduct spy operations.

On Feburary 27, 2019, the U.S. Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs’ Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released a bipartisan report stating that the Confucius Institutes are funded and controlled by the Chinese regime and demonstrate a lack of transparency and reciprocity with the United States.

British Foreign Affairs Select Committee chairman Tom Tugendhat published an article in the Daily Mail in which he wrote, “The truth is that the coronavirus pandemic has revealed what many of us have known for years; that our economic dependence on China and kowtowing to its government comes at a very high price.”

Editor’s Note: The article reflects the author’s opinion only, and not necessarily the views of editorial opinion of Belt & Road News.