Change of crown prince heralds new era in Saudi Arabia

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/6/21 22:18:40

The king of Saudi Arabia on Wednesday deposed his 58-year-old nephew Mohammed bin Nayef and named his 31-year-old son Mohammed bin Salman as crown prince. Mohammed bin Salman, who serves as defense minister, was second in line to the throne previously. Thirty-one out of 34 senior royal members from the Allegiance Council voted in favor of the change. The appointment of the new crown prince marks an end to Saudi Arabia's royal tradition that a younger brother succeeds his late elder brother and heralds a new era of father-to-son throne transition, a normal tradition of a monarchic system. 

King Salman came to the throne in 2015 after the death of his brother. He had appointed his nephew as first in line to the throne then replaced him with his son. The drastic political change he made didn't cause opposition from international public opinion. Saudi Arabia is one of the representative monarchies of the world. As an ally of the US in the Arabian world, it is usually not taken as an ideological target by the US, which wins the country room for political autonomy.

Neither Iran nor Syria, two major foes of the US among Islamic countries, is a monarchy. Iran has a stable competitive election system. But the human rights situation of these two countries is fiercely attacked by the West. The different treatment of these two countries and Saudi Arabia is enlightening to understand the current ideological conflict in the world.

Saudi Arabia, blessed to have the world's largest oil reserves, is the wealthiest country in the Islamic world. But its good fortune has been impacted in recent years. The fall in oil prices has hit it hard, and its international status has been affected by the US' declining dependence on Middle East oil. The Washington-Riyadh relationship has been mired in a mess for some time.

Trump's choice of Saudi Arabia as his first foreign visit destination and the $110 billion arms deal he announced during his visit to the country consolidated the US-Saudi Arabia relationship. Saudi Arabia seems to have sustained its leading position in the Arabian world.

A large amount of Saudi Arabia's wealth has flowed to the US and the West. The country also needs to help safeguard the interests of Washington and its European allies in the Middle East. This is the price Riyadh has to pay for its political independence.

In future, Saudi Arabia will face myriad challenges. Given a shifting world pattern, a problem-ridden Europe, an unstable US Middle East policy, a deepening Middle East division and spreading terrorism, Saudi Arabia is bound to face more choices, some of which will be pretty tough. The rewriting of the royal succession may help strengthen its abilities to handle these challenges and help the country keep up with the times.

Ordinary Chinese people know little about Saudi Arabia except that it's rich in oil and exports much oil to China. We hope the new crown prince will help expand people-to-people exchanges between China and Saudi Arabia.

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