In a surprising twist of geopolitical manoeuvring, Saudi Arabia is contemplating a bold move toward nuclear power with an unexpected partner, China. This audacious proposal, brought forth by the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), seeks to construct a nuclear power plant near Saudi Arabia’s border with Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). 
It is a contentious move that has raised concern among policymakers in the West.
The collaboration has emerged from Riyadh’s mounting frustration with the stringent conditions imposed by the United States regarding their nuclear ambitions.
These conditions include commitments to forgo uranium enrichment and the mining of domestic uranium deposits, all aimed at preventing nuclear weapons proliferation.
Saudi officials hope that by considering the Chinese bid, they might compel the Biden administration to relax these demands.
A spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has claimed,
“China will continue to conduct mutually beneficial co-operation with Saudi Arabia in various fields, including civil nuclear energy, while strictly abiding by international non-proliferation obligations.” 
China, known for its assertive diplomacy and less restrictive terms, seems an ideal partner from Saudi Arabia’s perspective.
However, this intriguing partnership has ignited international apprehensions and demands a closer examination.
A brow-raising alliance
The growing ties between Saudi Arabia and China have been a source of consternation for Washington.
President Xi Jinping’s visit to the kingdom in December 2022 and subsequent investment deals worth $10 billion — announced during the Arab-China business summit in Riyadh — have sparked unease among US lawmakers.
Israel, the largest recipient of US military aid, has strongly opposed the development of a civilian nuclear programme in Saudi Arabia, especially in regards to any long-term peace plan with the Gulf state.
Tel Aviv, an unofficial nuclear power itself, has long opposed regional states developing nuclear programmes in fear that they might be used to procure nuclear weapons and attack Israel. It points to Iran in the present, and Iraq and Libya in the past.
The last of the settler colony breed, Israel’s Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy, and Water, Israel Katz, has warned,
“Naturally, Israel does not encourage such things. I don’t think Israel should agree to such things.” 
In March, Riyadh stipulated that the establishment of ties with Israel would only be possible if it were allowed to develop a civilian nuclear programme.
The US, which has historically acted as mediator between Israel and regional states, is yet to confirm this condition.
China’s burgeoning nuclear industry will harm Uyghurs
China’s desire to expand its nuclear energy industry abroad is not new.
In 2019, a senior Chinese official outlined ambitious plans to construct numerous overseas nuclear reactors through the “Belt and Road” initiative.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, a global energy powerhouse, has long explored options to diversify its energy sources beyond oil and gas.
In July 2017, the CNNC hosted a Sino-Saudi conference on nuclear energy co-operative projects in Ürümqi, the capital of occupied East Turkestan, where Uyghur Muslims face religious persecution and millions have been imprisoned in concentration camps.
As noted in a 2017 statement from the China Atomic Energy Authority,
“CNNC has promised to work on detecting radioactive resources in nine potential areas in Saudi Arabia within the next two years, according to the agreement.
“As the project executor, CNNC’s China Uranium Industry Company organised nearly 100 geologists to conduct fieldwork in Saudi Arabia.” 
This partnership holds significant implications for global politics, energy dynamics, and Islamically rooted rights.
As Saudi Arabia contemplates embracing China’s nuclear prowess, the world watches with bated breath, grappling with the ethical dilemmas surrounding this alliance and the potential consequences it may bring to an already tumultuous region.
Forgoing ethics for national interests
Under the de facto leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the country’s leadership has come under scrutiny for its shocking violations of Islamic rights.
Under his authority, the state has enforced a crackdown on political opposition, characterised by the alleged imprisonment, torture, and execution of activists and prominent scholars.
Bin Salman’s ruthlessness is best illustrated by the grizzly and shocking murder of Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018.
The prominent journalist and dissident activist was murdered and dismembered inside the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, with the CIA concluding in November 2018 that Bin Salman had ordered Khashoggi’s assassination. 
Similarly, under President Xi Jinping, the People’s Republic of China has witnessed a heavy crackdown against perceived political opposition and dissent.
Since rising to power in 2013, Xi has steadily centred state power within his own personal authority.
He has also removed the system of checks and balances that were implemented by then paramount leader Deng Xiaoping in 1978.
Ongoing Uyghur genocide
The Uyghur Muslim community in the occupied state of East Turkestan has faced unprecedented religio-ethnic persecution at the hands of Chinese authorities.
Indeed, China has flooded the occupied area with Chinese Communist Party (CCP) agents, in order to monitor and surveil the Muslim population in their homes and businesses.
Uyghur mosques, homes, cemeteries, and other sites of cultural significance have been demolished and industrial pig farms constructed in an attempt to Sinicise the region. 
Millions have been detained in labour and concentration camps, where they have been forced to renounce their faith and pledge sole allegiance to the Communist Party.
Uyghur women have been gang-raped by security officials and forced to marry ethnic Han Chinese immigrants while their husbands languish in torture facilities dubbed as “re-education centres”. 
Despite the genocide of Uyghur Muslims by the Chinese state, Riyadh continues to foster closer ties with Beijing to strengthen their national interest, even going as far as extraditing Uyghur Muslim brothers and sisters who seek Saudi asylum, back to China where they would face certain death. 
- Our dedicated Stand4Uyghurs homepage
- China’s obliteration of the Uyghurs’ last refuge: their home
- Islamophobia report says Muslim states have failed Uyghurs
- An Ummah-centric perspective on China–Saudi co-operation
- Scholars from Muslim group condone China’s genocide after staged East Turkestan trip