- Xi is very well received in Riyadh, unlike Biden’s trip
- The Chinese leader heralds a “new era” in relations with the Arab world
- The United States is concerned about China’s growing influence
RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia and China on Thursday demonstrated deepening ties with a series of strategic deals during President Xi Jinping’s visit, including one with tech giant Huawei, whose growing incursion into the Gulf region has raised US security concerns. .
King Salman signed a “comprehensive strategic partnership agreement” with Xi, which has received a warm welcome in a country that has forged new global partnerships outside the West.
Xi’s car was escorted to the king’s palace by members of the Saudi Royal Guard riding Arabian horses and carrying the Chinese and Saudi flags, and he later attended a welcome banquet.
The Chinese leader held talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of the oil giant, who greeted him with a warm smile. Xi ushered in a “new era” in Arab relations.
The offer stood in stark contrast to the quiet welcome given in July to US President Joe Biden, with whom relations have been strained by Saudi energy policy and the 2018 killing of Jamal Khashoggi that overshadowed the embarrassing visit.
The United States, which has warily watched China’s growing influence and its relations with Riyadh at rock bottom, said Xi’s trip is an example of Chinese attempts to exert influence around the world and will not change US policy toward the Middle East.
A note with the Chinese company Huawei Technologies [RIC:RIC:HWT.UL], on cloud computing and building high-tech parks in Saudi cities, despite US unease with Gulf allies over potential security risks in using the Chinese company’s technology. Huawei has participated in building 5G networks in most of the Gulf countries despite the concerns of the United States.
Prince Mohammed, who fists instead of shaking hands with Biden in July, returned to the world stage after Khashoggi’s killing and has been defiant in the face of American anger over oil supplies and pressure from Washington to help isolate Russia.
In a further polishing of his international credentials, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates said on Thursday that the emir and the Emirati president had led a joint mediation effort to secure the release of American basketball star Brittney Griner in a prisoner exchange deal with Russia.
In an opinion piece published in Saudi media, Xi said he was on a “pioneering journey” to “open a new era of China’s relations with the Arab world, the Arab Gulf states and Saudi Arabia.”
Xi added that China and Arab countries “will continue to raise the banner of non-interference in internal affairs.”
China’s state broadcaster CCTV said that sentiment was echoed by the crown prince, who said his country opposed any “interference in China’s internal affairs in the name of human rights”.
Xi, who is set to meet other Gulf oil producers and attend a broader meeting of Arab leaders on Friday, said China will work to make those summits “landmark events in the history of China-Arab relations,” and that Beijing regards Riyadh as “an important force in the multipolar world.” .
Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states such as the United Arab Emirates have said that they will not pick sides among the world powers and that they are diversifying partners to serve national economic and security interests.
China, the world’s largest energy consumer, is a major trading partner of the Gulf states, and bilateral ties have expanded as the region pushes for economic diversification, raising US concerns about China’s participation in sensitive Gulf infrastructure.
The Saudi energy minister said on Wednesday that Riyadh will remain a “reliable and reliable” energy partner of Beijing and that the two countries will enhance cooperation in energy supply chains by setting up a regional hub in the kingdom for Chinese factories.
The Saudi Press Agency reported that Chinese and Saudi companies also signed 34 deals to invest in green energy, information technology, cloud services, transportation, construction and other sectors. It did not give figures, but said earlier that the two countries would sign initial deals worth $30 billion.
Tang Tianbo, a specialist on Middle East affairs at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations — a think tank affiliated with the Chinese government — said the visit will lead to further expansion of energy cooperation.
(Reporting by Aziz al-Yaqoubi in Riyadh and Eduardo Baptista in Beijing). Written by Tom Perry and Dominic Evans; Editing by Ghida Ghantous, Nick McPhee and William Maclean
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