Saudi Arabia has embarked on an ambitious journey to shape a future beyond fossil fuels, with the futuristic oasis of Neom having a big role in it.
According to the New Statesman, Neom is part of the kingdom’s Vision 2030 spearheaded by Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also the kingdom’s prime minister. The futuristic oasis is reportedly inspired by the kingdom of Wakanda as depicted in the 2018 film “Black Panther.”
Neom is a sprawling $500 billion city project stretching across 10,000 square miles in the southwestern corner of the Saudi peninsula. Dubbed “a start-up the size of a country,” it is a beacon of modernity showcasing futuristic architecture, cutting-edge technology and sustainable practices. Neom’s audacious scale and avant-garde designs reflect Saudi Arabia’s determination to diversify its economy away from oil.
Central to Neom’s design is “The Line,” an awe-inspiring concept featuring two 500-meter-high skyscrapers facing each other across a 170-kilometer desert expanse. The skyscrapers’ outer walls are reflective solar panels charging the city within, expressing Riyadh’s desire to move away from fossil fuels.
But the kingdom’s quest for a post-petroleum future is not without its challenges and controversies. The nation’s investment in renewable energy, green hydrogen production and electric vehicle manufacturing is juxtaposed against its persistently criticized human rights record. Reports of detentions, disappearances and crackdowns on dissent continue to mar the country’s image on the global stage.
The Middle Kingdom now the kingdom’s key economic partner
Despite this, Riyadh seems unfazed. It continues to forge international partnerships and position itself as an influential player in global politics. Saudi Arabia’s partnership with the BRICS group, including founding members Russia and China, demonstrates its willingness to maneuver between major global players.
Back in June, the Saudi Ministry of Investment (MISA) closed a $5.6 billion deal with Chinese electric vehicle (EV) maker Human Horizons. It was signed on the first day of the 10th Arab-China Business Conference on June 11. Under the deal, the two parties will team up to develop, manufacture, and sell new electric vehicles. (Related: Saudi Arabia, China initiating plan to create petroyuan and bring an end to the petrodollar.)
Meanwhile, Human Horizons – which sells the HiPhi EV marque in China – will share its expertise and cutting-edge technology to support Saudi Arabia’s ambitions of establishing a domestic EV manufacturing industry. The collaboration is mutually beneficial, as Human Horizons aims to expand its presence internationally and enter select European markets.
MISA views the partnership as a strategic initiative to reduce the country’s reliance on oil exports and to foster growth in non-oil industries. It also lines up with Saudi Arabia’s broader diversification agenda, and the influx of investments is expected to drive innovation, technology transfer, and job creation within the kingdom. Moreover, this move underscores China’s growing interest in the Saudi market, as the communist nation seeks to expand its presence in the Arab world.
According to Reuters, the $5.6 billion deal with Human Horizons is part of a larger $10 billion investment signed between Saudi Arabia and China during the conference. These investments span diverse sectors including technology, renewable energy, agriculture, real estate, metals, tourism and healthcare.
Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman stressed the importance of deepening ties with Beijing during the conference, adding that Riyadh wishes to avoid a “zero-sum game.”
“We came to recognize the reality of today that China is taking, had taken a lead [and] will continue to take that lead,” he said. “We don’t have to compete with China. We have to collaborate with China.”
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