- In contrast to the Biden visit, Xi receives a lavish reception in Riyadh
- The Chinese leader heralded a new era in relations with Arab countries
- The US is wary of China’s growing influence
RIYADH, Dec 8 (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia and China touted deepening ties with a series of strategic deals during President Xi Jinping’s visit on Thursday, including for tech giant Huawei, amid growing U.S. security concerns in the Gulf region. .
King Salman signed a “comprehensive strategic partnership agreement” with Xi, who received a lavish welcome in the country that will forge new global partnerships beyond the West.
Carrying Chinese and Saudi flags and riding Arabian horses, Xi’s car was escorted by members of the Saudi royal guard to the king’s palace, where he later attended a reception.
The Chinese leader held talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of the oil giants, who greeted him with a warm smile. Xi declared a “new era” in Arab relations.
The display was in stark contrast to the low-key reception given to US President Joe Biden in July, whose ties have been strained by Saudi energy policy and the 2018 assassination of Jamal Khashoggi.
The US, which has been wary of China’s growth and relations with Riyadh, said on Wednesday that Xi’s visit was an example of Chinese efforts to exert influence around the world and would not change US policy towards the Middle East.
A note with China’s Huawei Technologies [RIC:RIC:HWT.UL], cloud computing and the creation of high-tech campuses in Saudi cities were agreed despite US unease with Gulf allies over the potential security risk of using the Chinese company’s technology. Huawei has participated in building 5G networks in most Gulf countries despite US concerns.
Prince Mohammed, who bumped Biden’s fists instead of shaking hands in July, has returned to the world stage following Khashoggi’s assassination and has faced American anger over Washington’s oil supplies and pressure to help isolate Russia.
Further burnishing his international credentials, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates led a joint mediation effort between the prince and the United Arab Emirates that led to the exchange of US basketball star Brittney Griner as a prisoner of war with Russia.
In an edition 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 states of the Gulf and Saudi Arabia”.
China and Arab countries will “continue to raise the banner of non-interference in internal affairs,” Xi added.
That sentiment was echoed by the crown prince, who said his country opposes “interference in China’s internal affairs in the name of human rights,” according to Chinese state broadcaster CCTV.
Xi said China would work to make the summits “landmark events in the history of Sino-Arab relations” as he meets other Gulf oil producers and attends a broad gathering of Arab leaders on Friday, adding that Beijing “considers Riyadh very important”. Power in a Multipolar World”.
Other Gulf states, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, have said they will not choose sides between global powers and are diversifying partners to serve national economic and security interests.
China, the world’s biggest energy consumer, is a major trading partner of the Gulf states and bilateral ties have expanded, spurring economic diversification in the region, raising US hackles over China’s involvement in sensitive Gulf infrastructure.
The Saudi energy minister said on Wednesday that Riyadh would be a “reliable and reliable” energy partner for Beijing and that the two would increase cooperation in energy supply chains by setting up a regional hub for Chinese industries in the kingdom.
Chinese and Saudi companies have signed 34 agreements to invest in green energy, information technology, cloud services, transportation, construction and other sectors, state news agency SPA reported. It gave no figures, but earlier said the two countries would seal initial deals worth $30 billion.
Tang Tianbo, a Middle East expert at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR), a Chinese government-affiliated think tank, said the visit would further expand energy cooperation.
Reporting by Aziz El Yacoubi in Riyadh and Eduardo Baptista in Beijing; Written by Tom Perry and Dominic Evans; Editing by Keita Candes and Nick MacPhee, William McLean
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