Saudi Arabian Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman and Chinese National Energy Administration Director Zhang Jianhua said during a teleconference that both countries are committed to stable long-term crude oil supplies, of which China is the world’s largest importer, according to a report from Reuters.
The news comes as relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia, long considered a key economic ally in the Middle East, are strained due to President Joe Biden calling the nation a “pariah” during the 2020 election cycle in response to the 2018 murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who had been critical of Saudi rulers. Democratic lawmakers have since questioned the wisdom of the United States’ continued alliance with the country.
Saudi Arabia recently moved to restrict global petroleum output alongside other OPEC members, leading to a worldwide surge in oil prices. The Saudi government later revealed in a statement that Biden had requested for the kingdom to delay the production cut until after the upcoming midterm elections.
During a visit to Saudi Arabia three months ago, Biden had touted the need to “ensure adequate supplies” of energy “to meet global needs.” Though he did not specifically mention oil supplies, many have speculated that encouraging higher output in response to elevated gas prices in the United States was a primary motivation for the visit.
The news also comes as Saudi Arabia taps retired American generals to work as paid consultants, as revealed by a report from The Washington Post. China has likewise hired dozens of former British military pilots to train members of the nation’s air force.
The Biden administration has meanwhile provoked criticism for canceling expansions to the Keystone XL pipeline and slowing federal oil leases to a crawl. Earlier this month, Biden reportedly began preparing to ease sanctions on Venezuela so that Chevron, an American oil company, could resume production in the socialist nation. Among other business leaders, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon has condemned Biden for “going hat in hand” to Saudi Arabia and Venezuela rather than increasing domestic production.
The national average price for gasoline is currently $3.82 per gallon, according to data from AAA, marking a nearly 61% increase since Biden assumed office at the beginning of last year. The White House announced that officials would release 15 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve by the end of the year, concluding the administration’s earlier commitment to release 180 million barrels. The economy and inflation are salient issues among voters preparing to cast ballots in the midterms, with 84% considering the former to be a top factor on their minds, according to a recent poll from ABC News and The Washington Post.
Beyond the most recent geopolitical strife, leaders within the Chinese government have shown a willingness to increase energy production using carbon-based fuels, whereas the Biden administration has emphasized a transition to renewables. As drought caused hydroelectricity production to halve in the province of Sichuan, which provides 21% of the nation’s hydropower, Sichuan Coal Industry Group more than doubled its coal production.