The Chinese may view this as a liability that prevents interference rather than an asset that offers it great influence. However, in the context of the current climate of low crude prices, an oversupplied oil market and, consequently, troubled Iranian and Saudi economies, it is apparent that Chinese energy ties with regional powers could very well be the key to China’s successful adoption of a more proactive posture toward the region.
Beijing has several options to work to forge Saudi-Iranian engagement. Among these is using available multilateral forums to press for a Chinese-facilitated Saudi-Iranian channel and also pushing for such engagement in a trilateral setting. There are many other innovative approaches to jump-start Iranian-Saudi engagement.
China has the potential and capability to transform its role to become a true global power and, in this vein, convert its economic influence into political clout. Along with great power comes great responsibility; it is time for Beijing to assume this responsibility within the framework of mutual respect, dignity and noninterference.