This piece is part of the series “All About China”—a journey into the history and diverse culture of China through short articles that shed light on the lasting imprint of China’s past encounters with the Islamic world as well as an exploration of the increasingly vibrant and complex dynamics of contemporary Sino-Middle Eastern relations. Read more ...


The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are the dominant economic players in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), accounting for more than half the region’s imports and exports. Over the past decade, with the traditional power centers of Egypt, Iraq, and Syria weakened, these same two countries have become more assertive and influential actors in regional and global affairs. Importantly, they also have enjoyed a period of unprecedented close cooperation.

In the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi forged a strategic alliance,[1] rooted in a shared interest in ensuring domestic stability and regime survival, blunting Iranian expansionism, and offsetting the perceived US retreat from its traditional role as security guarantor. In 2016, they established the Saudi-Emirati Coordination Council, which paved the way for the crafting of the “Al Azam Strategy,” a joint vision for intensifying economic and military cooperation.[2]  

But several policy disagreements between Saudi Arabia and the UAE recently burst into public view, raising questions about the future shape and direction of the relationship. The joint statement issued at the conclusion of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to Abu Dhabi last December affirmed the two countries’ extensive and enduring friendship.[3] Yet, the invocation of shared visions[4] masks a complex and increasingly competitive relationship as Saudi Arabia and the UAE push to diversify their economies and position themselves to profit from China’s growing capabilities and extensive involvement in the Gulf, wider Middle East, and East Africa.

Post-Arab Spring Close Cooperation

The realignment in Gulf politics that occurred after 2011 around a Riyadh-Abu Dhabi axis focused on minimizing the impact of the Arab Spring protests on the Gulf States and their allies in the region (e.g., in Egypt, Jordan and Morocco) as well as on thwarting Iran’s efforts to exploit the unrest in its bid for regional hegemony. Saudi Arabia and the UAE thus emerged at the forefront of attempts to “control and shape the direction of the changes coursing through the Arab world.”[5] The regional policies they followed to do so were marked by proactive interventionism and power projection.[6]

Buoyed by a close personal relationship between de facto rulers Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (MbZ),[7] Saudi Arabia and the UAE coordinated their use of financial and military power in the Gulf, the wider MENA region, and the Horn of Africa. They sought to bolster fellow monarchies in Jordan and Bahrain with economic aid and, in the latter case, troops. The numerous other initiatives they took in tandem included providing support for the coup d’état in Egypt led by General Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi, imposing an embargo against Qatar in 2017, lobbying against the Iran nuclear deal and in favor of the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign, launching a military intervention in Yemen, adopting an adversarial posture toward Turkey, collaborating to broker a peace deal between Ethiopia and Eritrea, and furnishing Sudan with aid and investment.[8]

Towards a “New Normal”

Yet, during the past two years, cracks in the Riyadh-Abu Dhabi axis have appeared. This is not surprising. After all, it is natural for even the closest allies’ priorities and approaches to differ. That said, it is important to emphasize that the recent period of “lockstep friendship” between Saudi Arabia and the UAE is an anomaly.[9] The UAE had long viewed Saudi Arabia as being among its greatest security threats.[10] Relations between the two countries, though outwardly cordial, had been flavored with latent tension.[11] The Treaty of Jeddah, which was to have resolved the Saudi-Emirati border dispute, remains contentious.[12] In the mid-2000s, Saudi Arabia intervened to thwart the UAE-Qatar maritime causeway and pipeline projects.[13] Less than a month after the GCC had approved plans in 2009 to create a monetary union with a common central bank located in Riyadh (not Dubai), the UAE abruptly announced its withdrawal; and the Saudis responded by temporarily closing the border.[14]

Thereafter, even as they followed broadly compatible regional policies, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi’s threat perceptions and understandings of regional conflicts differed. The former’s staunchly pro-Sunni sectarian, as opposed to the latter’s stridently “pro-secularist” orientations translated into divergent approaches to the handling of the post-2011 Arab Spring regional crises.[15] All along, Emirati leaders, unlike their Saudi counterparts, have viewed the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and MB-inspired organizations that adopt political Islam as the most serious threat to the survival of the Gulf monarchies.[16] The leadership in Riyadh, though, has regarded Iran as the paramount threat.[17] As a result, Abu Dhabi has been more aggressive than Riyadh in its efforts to crush the Brotherhood but more cautious in attempts to counter Iranian influence and expansionism. In Libya, concern about the rise of political Islam led Abu Dhabi to play a more active operational role than Riyadh, in support of Khalifa Haftar, the commander of the Libya National Army (LNA).

Policy divergences were observable in other cases as well. With respect to Yemen, for example, although Saudi Arabia and the UAE entered the conflict in full agreement, differences soon began to emerge over the conduct of the war, during which the two allies supported distinct local forces.[18] In July 2019, the UAE downsized its forces in Yemen — an action to which King Salman of Saudi Arabia reportedly reacted with “extreme irritation.”[19] Since then, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have focused on consolidating their respective positions in strategic areas of the country.

Over the past two years, the ‘new era of decisive joint action’ between Riyadh and Abu Dhabi has waned. Abu Dhabi and Riyadh alike have changed course, as their assertive interventionist policies collided with the hard realities of a costly stalemate in Yemen, Moscow’s success in maintaining the Assad regime in power, and the growing risk of a military confrontation with Iran. A new pattern of conduct has developed — one aimed at regional de-escalation and dialogue. Correspondingly, Saudi-Emirati relations have entered a new phase.

In recalibrating their regional relationships, Abu Dhabi and Riyadh have displayed similar pragmatism. However, their recent moves do not appear to have been closely coordinated and in some instances have been out of sync. In September 2020, with the signing of the Abraham Accords, the UAE was out ahead of Saudi Arabia in normalizing relations with Israel. Riyadh has yet to follow suit. This pattern was reversed last January, when Saudi Arabia acted first to open its airspace, land, and sea borders with Qatar. Although the UAE signed the Al-Ula Statement, which brought the intra-GCC rift officially to an end, this was a ‘reluctant reconciliation,’ as the Emirates and Qatar remain sharply at odds ideologically. Saudi Arabia launched a dialogue with Iran in Baghdad last April; since then, multiple rounds of bilateral discussions have taken place.[20] Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi has taken its own steps to de-escalate tension with Iran.[21] Similarly, it has made its own diplomatic overtures to Turkey and Syria.[22]

Thus, Saudi and Emirati regional diplomacy, while  headed in the same general direction nonetheless reveals a certain loosening of the tight policy coordination of just a few years ago. It also suggests a desire on the part of Abu Dhabi to maintain a degree of independence from Riyadh in managing complex regional relationships. This is not surprising, as the UAE has never been a mere appendage of Saudi Arabia.[23] Nor, as the UAE has become a more capable, active, and ambitious actor, has it warmed to the idea of serving as its larger neighbor’s junior partner. Thus, while the UAE’s military adventurism has been scaled back and diplomacy prioritized, the assertive and self-reliant features of its foreign policy remain intact. As a result, a “new normal” in the Saudi-Emirati relationship has taken shape, one where their geopolitical differences and aspirations for regional leadership and influence have come to the fore[24] and where the UAE appears determined to build its own brand.

Heightened Saudi-Emirati Economic Competition

The current pattern of Saudi-Emirati relations — marked by separate though not necessarily conflicting diplomacy-first approaches to regional relations — also consists of heightened economic competition. The Covid-19 pandemic, combined with reduced global oil prices, highlighted the perils of over-reliance on oil for growth and intensified pressure on Gulf governments to accelerate economic diversification. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and the other Gulf states are scrambling to lay the foundation for a post-hydrocarbon future.

Stiffening economic competition between Saudi Arabia and the UAE reflects the mounting pressure they are facing and the overlapping strategies they are following to diversify away from oil. The standoff between Saudi Arabia and the UAE over how quickly to increase oil production levels amid the global pandemic recovery[25] — unusual in that their spat burst into public view — exposed a growing economic rivalry.

In preparing for a post-hydrocarbon future, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are simultaneously seeking to develop some of the same sectors, notably tourism, financial services, petrochemicals, and technology.[26] Of the two countries, the UAE made the earlier start and enjoys first-mover advantage in transforming itself into a business, trade, and tourism hub. Of late, however, Saudi Arabia has mounted a challenge, moving to expand its tourism sector[27] and offering a larger market and loosening lifestyle restrictions to attract investors, international companies, and foreign talent.[28] The Emirates have implemented counter-measures, such as issuing new visa rules and switching to a Monday-Friday work week.[29] But the competition has not stopped there. Riyadh’s efforts to make the kingdom the Arabian Peninsula’s leading destination for business and investment have included the announcement last February that companies would risk losing lucrative government contracts if they did not relocate their regional headquarters to Saudi Arabia by 2024 — a move widely interpreted as targeting Dubai.[30] 

Tying China In

Given that Saudi and Emirati officials alike regard logistics hubs as drivers of diversification,[31] it is not surprising that competition between them in the maritime transport and logistics sector has been heating up. Dubai is among the world’s top five global hubs for maritime shipping and logistics.[32] The Jebel Ali Port and Free Zone (JAFZA) accounts for one-third of the emirate’s GDP.[33] Indeed, Jebel Ali is the linchpin of the UAE’s strategy to position itself as a “nexus state.”[34]

But Saudi Arabia, in line with “Vision 2030,” is also making a bid to become a leading regional and global logistics hub. Riyadh has launched an ambitious National Logistics and Transport Strategy.[35] Plans are underway to turn King Abdulaziz Port Dammam (KAPD) into a mega-container hub.[36] Maersk recently reached an agreement with Saudi Arabia Port Authority (Mawani) to establish a new, integrated logistics port in Jeddah Islamic Port.[37] And like the UAE, Saudi Arabia has embarked on efforts to develop new outlets on the Red Sea to control trade flows and strengthen its position in global supply chains.[38]

Intensifying Saudi-Emirati competition in the maritime transport and logistics sector is part of the larger intra-Gulf jockeying for position to capture the increasing interregional cargo trade volumes flowing westward from Asia. Importantly, the push by the UAE and Saudi Arabia to expand their shipping and logistics capacity is occurring against the backdrop of the growing Chinese economic presence in the Gulf and Red Sea/Horn of Africa and Beijing’s efforts to create a production and trade network along the Maritime Silk Road (MSR). Saudi Arabia and the UAE have sought to leverage China’s deepening economic engagement in the Gulf and Red Sea arenas for the purpose of advancing their own economic diversification and geopolitical aims.

The UAE is China’s primary economic partner in the Gulf.[39] Dubai Port and Khalifa Port in Abu Dhabi have gradually become regional hub ports for China’s foreign trade and port and shipping enterprises. Nearly two-thirds of Chinese exports to Europe, the Middle East and Africa pass through Emirati ports.[40] In recent years, Chinese state-owned companies have played a significant role as builders, owners, and operators of terminals and other port infrastructure in the Gulf.[41] In the case of the Emirates, Chinese investment has targeted infrastructure with a focus on ports and associated industrial zones, bolstering the UAE’s role as a key node in the MSR.[42] In December 2018, Abu Dhabi Ports (ADP) entered into a 35-year concession agreement with China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO), which enabled the latter to operate and develop a container terminal at Khalifa Port in Abu Dhabi to support trade generated by the Belt and Road Initiative.[43] Dubai’s Silk Road Strategy (DSR), announced in March 2019, is a plan to augment Dubai’s role as a strategic global trade link that, as its name indicates, expressly aims to complement China’s Maritime Silk Road projects.[44] Yiwu Market UAE, an overseas warehouse trade city project in the heart of Jebel Ali Free Zone (JAFZA) jointly built by Zhejiang China Commodity City Group (CCC) and DP World and located opposite the Dubai Expo 2020 site, launched a year ago.[45]

The UAE is focused on securing its first-mover advantage as part of the MSR. But Riyadh is determined to capitalize on the kingdom being the only country with coastal access to both the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea. Although energy continues to be the core of Sino-Saudi cooperation, efforts to harmonize “Vision 2030” and the MSR and thus boost the kingdom’s prospects for becoming a global logistics hub are making headway.[46] In March 2017, Saudi Aramco awarded China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), which has implemented over two dozen projects in the kingdom, a contract for the construction of a commercial port at Jazan Economic City.[47] Last January, COSCO Shipping Ports (CSPL) acquired a 20% stake in the Red Sea Gateway Terminal (RSGT) at the Jeddah Islamic Port.[48] The next month, Hutchison Ports signed an agreement to invest in and operate Saudi Arabia’s multipurpose Jazan City for Primary and Downstream Industries (JCPDI) port and industrial park on the Red Sea.[49] Saudi Ports Authority (MAWANI) recently inaugurated the Gulf China Service (GCS), a weekly direct service between King Abdulaziz Port in Dammam and Ningbo, China.[50]

Conclusion

Saudi-UAE relations are settling into a “new normal” marked by the loosening of regional policy coordination and increasing economic competition, as both countries vie for influence, pursue their diversification strategies, and position themselves to benefit from China’s emergence as a global power.

In charting their paths for the future, Saudi Arabia and the UAE alike have come to regard the maritime sector as a key contributor to the economic diversification process. Situated at the nexus of the East and West, both are aiming to become thriving global trade hubs — goals that mesh comfortably with China’s ambition to create a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. This alignment of interests between China and its two Gulf Arab partners has already produced synergies in the shipping and logistics domain.

Currently, the volume of container traffic in the region handled by ports in the UAE is nearly twice that of Saudi Arabia[51] — a dominance the Emirates is unlikely to relinquish any time soon. Nevertheless, as Saudi Arabia presses forward with its maritime agenda the UAE’s advantage in terms of capacities, market shares, international investments, and trade connections can be expected to narrow. And Chinese commercial engagement is likely to play a key role in how this race unfolds.

Saudi Arabia and the Emirates are both striving to reduce operational costs and facilitate faster deliveries, which will inexorably lead them to adopt smart port technologies and integrate the port value chain through digital platforms, creating more opportunities for cooperation with China. In pursuing such cooperation, Saudi Arabia and the UAE will, in all probability, find themselves competing to gain China’s favor.

The temptation for Beijing to exploit this rivalry might be tempered by the desire to avoid becoming caught in a zero-sum dynamic. But it will take more than deft management of Saudi-UAE competition by all three parties to deliver on the promise of win-win outcomes. The recent spate of attacks unleashed by the Houthis on Abu Dhabi and ISIS fighters in Syria and Iraq as well as the impasse in negotiations to revive the JCPOA stand as a stark warning: the diplomacy-first approaches to regional relations pursued separately by Riyadh and Abu Dhabi may not prove any more successful in fostering the stability required to lay the foundation for shared prosperity in the post-oil era than did the interventionism they recently pursued in tandem. 

 


[1] Patrick Wintour, “UAE announces new Saudi alliance that could reshape Gulf relations” The Guardian, December 5, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/dec/05/uaesaudi-arabia-alliance-gulf-relations-gcc.
 

[2] Mohammed Alkhereiji, “UAE, Saudi Arabia initiate two-nation council to boost cooperation,” The Arab Weekly, June 8, 2018, https://thearabweekly.com/uae-saudi-arabia-initiate-two-nation-council-boost-cooperation.
 

[3] “Joint UAE-Saudi Statement Reaffirms Distinguished Ties, Deep-rooted Historic Relations,” Asharq Al-Awsat, December 9, 2021, https://english.aawsat.com/home/article/3349566/joint-uae-saudi-statement-reaffirms-distinguished-ties-deep-rooted-historic.
 

[4] Noor Nugali, “Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Abu Dhabi visit heralds a promising new era in Saudi-UAE relations,” Arab News, December 8, 2021, https://www.arabnews.com/node/1983036/saudi-arabia.
 

[5] Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, “Small states with a big role: Qatar and the United Arab Emirates in the wake of the Arab Spring,” Durham University, HH Sheikh Nasser al Mohammad al Sabah Publication Series 3, 13 (October 2012), https://www.dur.ac.uk/resources/alsabah/al-SabahPaperUlrichsenno3.pdf.
 

[6] Eman Ragab, “Beyond Money and Diplomacy: Regional Policies of Saudi Arabia and UAE after the Arab Spring,” The International Spectator 52, 2 (2017): 37-53. DOI: 10.1080/03932729.2017.1309101.
 

[7] Arwa Ibrahim, “MBS-MBZ: A special bond between two Gulf princes,” Aljazeera, March 17, 2020, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/3/17/mbs-mbz-a-special-bond-between-two-gulf-princes.
 

[8] Rafeef Ziadah, “The importance of the Saudi-UAE alliance: notes on military intervention, aid and investment,” Conflict, Security & Development 19, 3 (2019): 295-300. DOI: 10.1080/14678802.2019.1608026; Shady Ahmed Mansour and Yara Yahia Ahmed, “Saudi Arabia and UAE in the Horn of Africa: Containing Security Threats from Regional Rivals,” Contemporary Arab Affairs 12, 3 (2019): 99-118. DOI: org.proxyau.wrlc.org/10.1525/caa.2019.123006; Martna Stevis-Gridneff, “Middle East Power Struggle Plays Out on New Stage,” Wall Street Journal, June 1, 2018; Hussein Ibish, “The UAE and Saudi Arabia: The Partnership Endures Despite Oil Dispute,” AGSIW, July 8, 2021, https://agsiw.org/the-uae-and-saudi-arabia-the-partnership-endures-despite-oil-dispute/.
 

[9] Jim Krane and Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, “The Saudi-UAE Bust-Up Is A Return To The Persian Gulf Status Quo,” Forbes, July 16, 2021, https://www.forbes.com/sites/thebakersinstitute/2021/07/16/the-saudi-uae-bust-up-is-a-return-to-the-persian-gulf-status-quo/?sh=28b01d077428.
 

[10] Wikileaks, “A Long Hot Summer for UAE-Saudi Relations,” October 15, 2009, https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/09ABUDHABI981_a.html.
 

[11] Sean Foley. ‘‘The UAE: Political Issues and Security Dilemmas,’’ Middle East Review of International Affairs (March 1999): 32.

[12] Simon Henderson, “The UAE Reclaims Lost Territory from Saudi Arabia,” WINEP, January 19, 2016, https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/map-wars-uae-reclaims-lost-territory-saudi-arabia; Noura S. Al-Mazrouei, The UAE and Saudi Arabia: Border Disputes and International Relations in the Gulf (London: I.B. Tauris, 2016); and Noura S. Al Mazrouei, “The Revival of the UAE–Saudi Arabia Border Dispute in the 21st Century,” Journal of Borderlands Studies 32, 2 (2017): 157-172. DOI: 10.1080/08865655.2015.1124242.
 

[13] Mohammed Almezel, “Riyadh raises objection to UAE-Qatar causeway,” Gulf News, June 30, 2005, https://gulfnews.com/world/gulf/saudi/riyadh-raises-objection-to-uae-qatar-causeway-1.292384; and Noura Saber Mohammed Saeed Al-Mazrouei, UAE-Saudi Arabia Border Dispute: The Case of the 1974 Treaty of Jeddah. Doctoral Thesis. University of Exeter, 2013. PP. 187-190, https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/19743733.pdf

[14] Al Mazrouei, “The Revival of the UAE-Saudi Arabia Border Dispute in the 21st Century.”
 

[15] Samuel Ramani, “The Saudi-UAE Alliance Could Be Weaker Than It Appears,” December 11, 2017, The National Interest, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/the-saudi-uae-alliance-could-be-weaker-it-appears-23606.
 

[16] Peter Salisbury, “Risk Perception and Appetite in UAE Foreign and National Security Policy,” Chatham House, July 1, 2020, https://www.chathamhouse.org/sites/default/files/2020-07-01-risk-in-uae-salisbury.pdf.
 

[17] “A Time for Talks: Toward Dialogue between the Gulf Arab States and Iran,” International Crisis Group (ICG), Report No. 226 / Middle East and North Africa, August 24, 2021, https://www.crisisgroup.org/middle-east-north-africa/gulf-and-arabian-peninsula/226-time-talks-toward-dialogue-between-gulf-arab-states-and-iran.

[18] Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, “Who are south Yemen’s separatists?” Aljazeera, September 20, 2019, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/9/20/who-are-south-yemens-separatists.

[19] A comment attributed to King Salman in “UAE loosens Saudi alliance to push peacemaker image,” Reuters, August 28, 2019.
 

[20] Qassim Abdul-Zahra, “Iran, Saudi sides continue tension-easing talks in Baghdad,” AP News, September 27, 2021, https://apnews.com/article/middle-east-iran-saudi-arabia-iraq-tehran-9f6064e5e917df8cd8182839c23b8f27.
 

[21] Zainab Fattah and Arsalan Shahla, “UAE Royal Makes Rare Visit to Iran Amid Efforts to Ease Tensions,” Bloomberg News, December 6, 2021.
 

[22] “Syria: UAE doubles down on restoring economic ties with Assad during Expo 2020,” Middle East Eye, October 5, 2021, https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/syria-uae-dubai-expo-restoring-economic-ties-assad; and Orhan Coskun and Alexander Cornwell, “Analysis: Turkey and UAE rein in dispute that fuelled conflict and hurt economy,” Reuters, September 6, 2021.
 

[23] Thomas O Falk, “Saudi-UAE: Despite turmoil geopolitical goals remain steadfast,” Aljazeera, July 16, 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/7/16/saudi-uae-despite-turmoil-geopolitical-goals-remain-steadfast; Hussein Ibish, “The UAE and Saudi Arabia: The Partnership Endures Despite Oil Dispute,” AGSIW, July 8, 2021, https://agsiw.org/the-uae-and-saudi-arabia-the-partnership-endures-despite-oil-dispute/; and Guido Steinberg, “Regional Power: United Arab Emirates,” SWP Research Paper 10 (July 2020), https://www.swp-berlin.org/publications/products/research_papers/2020RP10_UAE_RegionalPower.pdf.   
 

[24] Neil Quilliam and Sanam Vakil, “The Rocky New Era of the Saudi-Emirati Relationship,” Foreign Policy, July 27, 2021, https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/07/27/the-saudi-emirati-love-affair-is-over/.
 

[25] “Disagreement between UAE, Saudi Arabia puts OPEC at impasse,” France24, May 7, 2021, https://www.france24.com/en/business/20210705-disagreement-between-uae-saudi-arabia-puts-opec-at-impasse; “OPEC+ abandons oil policy meeting after Saudi-UAE clash,” Reuters, July 5, 2021.
 

[26] “Saudi, UAE leaders hold call amid rising regional rivalry,” Reuters, September 7, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/saudi-uae-leaders-hold-call-amid-rising-regional-rivalry-2021-09-07/.
 

[27] These steps have included investment in massive tourism projects; privatization of some tourism services; preservation of important cultural and historic sites; and easing of tourist visa restrictions. Sacha Poncet, “Could Saudi Arabia Become the Next Tourism Leader in the Middle East? EHL Insights, https://hospitalityinsights.ehl.edu/saudi-arabia-tourism.
 

[28] “Saudi, UAE leaders hold call amid rising regional rivalry,” Reuters, September 7, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/saudi-uae-leaders-hold-call-amid-rising-regional-rivalry-2021-09-07/; [28] “UAE to offer citizenship to ‘talented’ foreigners,” BBC News, January 30, 2021, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-55869674; Vivian Nereim and Dana Khraiche, “Saudi Arabia to Create Special Economic Zones To Raise Investment,” Bloomberg, October 11, 2021; Vivian Nereim and Matthew Martin, “Saudi Arabia Eyes 7,000 Global Firms as Dubai Rivalry Heats Up,” Bloomberg, October 26, 2021; Sabena Siddiqui, “Hi-tech rivalry between Abu Dhabi and Riyadh heats up,” Al Monitor, January 25, 2021, https://www.al-monitor.com/originals/2021/01/uae-saudi-arabia-tech-rivalry-neom-line-dubai-foreign-expats.html.  
 

[29] Bobby Ghosh, “The Monday Blues Come to the UAE. Will the Saudis Follow?” Bloomberg, December 7, 2021.
 

[30] Natasha Turak, “‘Dramatic and risky’ — and a shot at Dubai? Saudi Arabia issues bold business ultimatum to pull regional HQ offices into the kingdom,” CNBC, February 16, 2021, https://www.cnbc.com/2021/02/16/targeting-dubai-saudi-arabias-ultimatum-to-pull-hq-offices-to-kingdom.html.

[31] Kwon Hyung Lee et al., “Logistics Hub Strategy of the GCC Countries and Policy Implications: with a Focus on Saudi Arabia and the UAE,” World Economy Update, June 6, 2016, https://think-asia.org/bitstream/handle/11540/9175/WEU16-16.pdf?sequence=1.
 

[32] Issac John, “Dubai among top 5 global maritime hubs,” Khaleej Times, September 7, 2021, https://www.khaleejtimes.com/local-business/dubai-among-top-5-global-maritime-hubs.
 

[34] Christian Henderson, “The UAE as a Nexus State,” Journal of Arabian Studies 7, 1 (2017): 83-93. DOI: 10.1080/21534764.2017.1310534.
 

[35] “Saudi Arabia launches National Transport and Logistics Strategy,” Arab News, July 1, 2021, https://www.arabnews.com/node/1885636/saudi-arabia; Alexander Cornwell and Marwa Rashad, “Saudi Arabia to invest over $133 bln in transport sector, minister says,” Reuters, July 5, 2021; and “Saudi Arabia: Crown prince announces launch of second national airline,” Middle East Eye, June 30, 2021, https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/saudi-arabia-second-national-airline-launch-diversify-economy.
 

[36] “Saudi Global Ports to accelerate mega-container hub plan,” Maritime Gateway, October 20, 2020, https://www.maritimegateway.com/saudi-global-ports-accelerate-mega-container-hub-plan/.
 

[37] Jens Thomsen, “Maersk and port authority to establish new logistics hub in Saudi Arabia,” Shipping Watch, January 11, 2021, https://shippingwatch.com/Ports/article13421428.ece.

[38] Ministry of Transport and Logistic Service - Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. “KSA Logistic Hub,” 2020, https://mot.gov.sa/en/AboutUs/Pages/Logisticsplatform.aspx; Katie McQue and Daniel Lalor, “Saudi crude keeps flowing to Red Sea as East-West Pipeline repairs continue,” S&P Global, December 22, 2020, https://www.spglobal.com/platts/en/market-insights/latest-news/shipping/122220-feature-saudi-crude-keeps-flowing-to-red-sea-as-east-west-pipeline-repairs-continue; Tsvetana Paraskova, “Saudis To Boost Oil Pipeline Capacity to Bypass Strait of Hormuz,” Oil Price, July 25, 2019; Nidhi Verma and Sudarshan Varadhan, “Saudi Arabia aims to expand pipeline to reduce oil exports via Gulf,” Reuters, July 25, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-saudi-oil-india-idUSKCN1UK19T; Aziz El Yaakoubi and Mohamed Ghobari, “Saudi Arabia moves to secure Yemen Red Sea ports after UAE drawdown,” Reuters, July 11, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-yemen-security/saudi-arabia-moves-to-secure-yemen-red-sea-ports-after-uae-drawdown-idUSKCN1U61YJ; and Jos Meester and Guido Lanfranchi, “The UAE and China in the Horn of Africa,” Clingendael Policy Brief, June 2021, https://www.clingendael.org/sites/default/files/2021-06/Policy_brief_China_and_UAE_Horn_of_Africa_implications_EU_June_2021.pdf.
 

[39] Robert Mogielnicki, “Diversified Investment in the UAE Shaping China’s Economic Role in the Gulf,” AGSIW, July 29, 2019, https://agsiw.org/diversified-investment-in-uae-shaping-chinas-economic-role-in-the-gulf/; UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “UAE, China set to step up trade, people-to-people synergies in transition to digital economy,” July 19, 2020, https://www.mofaic.gov.ae/en/mediahub/news/2020/7/19/19-07-2020-uae-economy; Shady Elborno, “UAE-China: a global trade axis,” Emirates NBD, October 17, 2021, http://www.emiratesnbdresearch.com/plugins/Research/files/China_UAE_Trade_Report.pdf.
 

[40] “Chinese money is behind some of the Arab world’s biggest projects,” The Economist, April 20, 2019, https://www.economist.com/middle-east-and-africa/2019/04/20/chinese-money-is-behind-some-of-the-arab-worlds-biggest-projects.
 

[41] Zhiqiang Zou, “China’s Participation in Port Construction in the Western Indian Ocean Region: Dynamics and Challenges,” Asian Journal of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, December 2021. DOI: 10.1080/25765949.2021.2018862
 

[42] Oxford Business Group, n.a. “Abu Dhabi continues to carry out infrastructure partnerships with China,” Oxford Business Grouphttps://oxfordbusinessgroup.com/analysis/sinoemirati-ties-partnerships-between-china-andabu-dhabi-infrastructure-development-continue.
 

[43] Abu Dhabi Digital Government, “Abu Dhabi Ports,” Abu Dhabi Digital Government, https://www.abudhabi.ae/portal/public/en/departments/adports; Abu Dhabi Ports, “ADPC to Manage and Operate Zayed Port from 2014,” December 29, 2013, https://www.adports.ae/adpc-to-manage-and-operate-zayed-port-from-2014/.
 

[44] “Sheikh Hamdan approves Dubai Silk Road strategy,” The National, March 2, 2019, https://www.thenationalnews.com/uae/sheikh-hamdan-approves-dubai-silk-road-strategy-1.832234; and Abdulla Al Saleh, Undersecretary for Foreign Trade, UAE Ministry of Economy, “The Dubai Silk Road will be built on strong foundations,” Asia House, April 3, 2019, https://asiahouse.org/news-and-views/the-dubai-silk-road-will-be-built-on-strong-foundations/.
 

[45] See Yiwu Dubai Traders Market, https://dtm.ae/yiwu-market/. See also https://dtm.ae/about-us/.
 

[46] Dongmei Chen and Han Wenke, “Deepening Cooperation Between Saudi Arabia and China,” KAPSARC, March 27, 2019. DOI: https://doi.org/10.30573/KS--2019-DP53; Juan Chen, Shu Meng, and Wen Shaobiao, “Aligning China’s Belt and Road Initiative with Saudi Arabia’s 2030 Vision Opportunities and Challenges,” China Quarterly of International Strategic Studies 4, 3 (2018): 363-379. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1142/S2377740018500203; and Jonathan Fulton, “Situating Saudi Arabia in China’s Belt and Road Initiative,” Asian Politics & Policy 12, 3 (2020): 362-383. DOI: https://doi-org.proxyau.wrlc.org/10.1111/aspp.12549.
 

[47] Jennifer Aguinaldo, “Chinese contractor wins Jizan port deal,” MEED, March 6, 2017, https://www.meed.com/chinese-contractor-wins-jizan-port-deal/.
 

[48] Naida Hakirevic Prevljak, “COSCO Ports takes stake in Saudi Arabian Terminal,” Offshore Energy, January 29, 2021, https://www.offshore-energy.biz/cosco-ports-takes-stake-in-saudi-arabian-terminal/.
 

[49] “Hutchison Ports signs deal to invest and operate Saudi’s JCPDI Port,” Seatrade Maritime News, February 16, 2021, https://www.seatrade-maritime.com/ports-logistics/hutchison-ports-signs-deal-invest-and-operate-saudis-jcpdi-port.
 

[50] “King Abdulaziz Port route launched linking Dammam to China,” Arab News, December 21, 2021, https://www.arabnews.com/node/1990351/saudi-arabia.

[51] KPMG International, “Anchored in the New Reality: Ports perspectives,” March 2021, https://assets.kpmg/content/dam/kpmg/ae/pdf-2021/03/anchored-in-the-new-reality.pdf.