Xi Jinping: Chinese president lands in Saudi Arabia amid tensions with US



CNN

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh on Wednesday for a multi-day visit amid tensions between the two countries with the United States, according to Xinhua, China’s official news agency.

Saudi state television showed Xi walking down the steps of the presidential plane at King Khalid International Airport, where Riyadh regional governor Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz and the Saudi foreign minister He was received by Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah.

Roll out the purple carpet and fire the cannons for the Chinese President.

The official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) previously reported that the visit would include a “Saudi-China summit”, a China-Arab and a China-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit.

Rumors of a visit by the Chinese president to America’s largest Middle East ally have been swirling for months, potentially frustrating Washington as the countries cement their ties.

The trip came against a backdrop of some U.S. disagreements with Beijing and Riyadh, including over oil production, human rights and other issues.

But Saudi Arabia’s lavish reception of the Chinese president is just a symbol of growing ties between the two countries, especially over oil, trade and security. The two countries are expected to sign deals worth more than $29 billion during this week’s visit, according to the SPA.

China is currently Saudi Arabia’s largest trading partner. Last year, Saudi exports to China exceeded US$50 billion, accounting for more than 18% of Saudi Arabia’s total exports in 2021. Bilateral trade between the two countries exceeds $80 billion, SPA reported.

Saudi Arabia has also traditionally been China’s largest oil supplier, accounting for about 17 percent of China’s total oil imports in barrels as of last year, according to the Saudi-backed Arab News.

While Saudi Arabia remains a major supplier to its Chinese partners, oil relations may be slightly strained this year as sanctioned Russia dumps its discounted crude on Asian markets.

In addition to oil exports, Saudi Arabia has stepped up investment in China this year, culminating in a $10 billion investment by Saudi Aramco in a refinery and petrochemical company in northeast China.

These close ties have been brewing for years, experts say, as both countries seek to secure and diversify their energy sources.

“Now is the peak period of bilateral relations since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1992,” Chai Shaojin, an assistant professor at the University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, told CNN.

“The two sides have grown closer because they need each other in many areas: energy transition, economic diversification, Saudi Arabia’s defense capacity building and climate change, to name a few,” Chai said, referring to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, And added, “The diversification of security risks requires KSA to include a rising China in its hedge.”

Although China and Saudi Arabia’s friendship has flourished over the past few decades, they appear to have grown closer as both sides find themselves in a precarious position with regard to the United States.

A powerful U.S. ally for eight years, Saudi Arabia has resented what it sees as a weakened U.S. security presence in the region, especially amid the growing threat from Iran and its armed proxies in the Middle East.

China, the eastern economic giant, has been at odds with the United States over Taiwan, a democratically run island of 24 million that Beijing claims as its territory even though it has never controlled it.

U.S. President Joe Biden has repeatedly vowed to help Taiwan if China attacks, and has not ruled out using force to “unify” Taiwan.

The thorny topic has severely exacerbated volatile relations between Washington and Beijing, which are already jockeying for influence in the volatile Middle East.

China has also been cementing ties with other Gulf monarchies, as well as U.S. foes Iran and Russia.

“If they’re sending any signal to the rest of the world, I suspect it’s primarily because they’re two important countries with a deep, interest-based relationship,” said Jonathan Fulton, a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council think tank.

“At a time when negative perceptions of China are dominating much of the West, Xi Jinping will be greeted warmly in Saudi Arabia, the foremost Arab state, the most important state in global Islam and a major player in global energy markets. participants,” Fulton told CNN.

“The Saudis can show that even though their relationship with Washington is rocky, they are still important to powers outside the region,” he added.

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