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China and India will drive the growth in global demand for oil in the coming years.
Their demand growth is expected to continue at least until sometime around 2040, according to the International Energy Agency.
However, the West-East balance in Saudi Arabia's oil exports tipped toward the latter in the early 2000s due to European states' successful diversification of their sources of oil imports in the final quarter of the previous century — away from the Gulf to other regions such as the North Sea, the former Soviet Union and North Africa — and the simultaneous increase in the demand for oil in the growing Asian economies.
Although in 2013, the United States remained the largest importer of Saudi oil at 1.5 million bpd (19 percent of the total), four major Asian economies combined imported 4.0 million bpd (51 percent): Japan, 1.2 million bpd (15 percent); China, 1.1 million bpd (14 percent); South Korea, 0.9 million bpd (11 percent); and India, 0.8 million bpd (10 percent).
The author is grateful to Samuel Chan, Laura El-Katiri, Adel Hamaizia and Sean Foley for their invaluable comments on the manuscript.
Since January 2015, the new Saudi government led by King Salman bin Abdulaziz has continued to practice the kingdom's traditional foreign policy strategy, which Gerd Nonneman once referred to as "managed multi-dependence" (MMD).
In addition, Saudi Arabia's strategic importance to these Asian states has substantially increased due to the Western sanctions imposed on Tehran; all four Asian states complied and reduced their Iranian oil imports.These dynamics have driven the development of Saudi-Asian relations in the fields of renewable energy and economic diversification.Furthermore, within Saudi-Asian relations there have been some signs of growing bilateral defense ties.In Saudi Arabia, where regime security is as integral to its decision making as state security, economic affairs should also be considered indispensably intertwined with its politics.Indeed, as this article will show, the export of oil, the development of renewable energy, and economic diversification are all closely related to the security of the Al Saud.