Oil for Technology: Saudi Arabia - Japan Multi-Layered Reciprocal Relations, 1955-2018
Date: 1 June 2020
University of Exeter
PhD in Arab and Islamic Studies
2015 marked the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Japan. This dissertation analyses more than six decades of bilateral relationship from 1955 and shows how and why it has shifted from a simply economy-incentive cooperation to multi-layered reciprocal relations. This work does it by ...
2015 marked the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Japan. This dissertation analyses more than six decades of bilateral relationship from 1955 and shows how and why it has shifted from a simply economy-incentive cooperation to multi-layered reciprocal relations. This work does it by studying four distinctive phases of relations, which are: 1) Japan’s first oil development and the 1973 oil crisis: 1955-1975; 2) Development of economic and technical cooperation following the 1975 bilateral agreement: 1975-1990; 3) Enhancement of multi-layered reciprocal relations: 1990-2013; and 4) Japan’s techno-economic diplomacy on energy and security under the second Abe administration: 2013-2018. This dissertation argues that Saudi–Japanese relations obey to the following guideline: (Saudi) oil for (Japanese) technology. In other words, Japanese technical expertise has been crucial for Saudi Arabia to modernize its economy since the 1960s while Saudi oil has been vital for Japan to develop its manufacturing industry during the same period. Although this relationship has experienced some turbulent period, the oil crisis in the 1970s only reinforced the perception in Tokyo that political stability in the Gulf is indispensable to maintain sustainable Japanese economic growth. The bilateral partnership of the ‘Saudi–Japan Vision 2030’, formulated in October 2016, shall be understood in this historical context. For Saudi Arabia, the Japanese package of cooperation for investment, technology transfer and human resource development is perceived as a much-needed economic engine to revitalize its economy and local industries, while the Japanese government has identified synergy effects on their economic growth initiative of ‘Abenomics’. In order to develop this argument, this dissertation relies on more than 50 personal interviews (undertaken with retired Japanese ambassadors and diplomats, Saudi officials and Saudi-Japanese joint venture company executives etc.), on personal observation conducted during the author’s work assignments between 2011 and 2015, and on governmental documents and diplomatic cables. In particular, Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ diplomatic cables and documents which had never been thoroughly and comprehensively investigated have provided an invaluable resource for this research.
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