- Xi receives a lavish welcome in Riyadh, a contrast to Biden’s trip
- Chinese leader announces ‘new era’ in relations with Arab world
- US wary of China’s growing influence
RIYADH, Dec 8 (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia and China outlined deepening ties on Thursday with a series of strategic deals during a visit by President Xi Jinping, including one with tech giant Huawei, whose he growing incursion into the Gulf region has raised security concerns in the United States. .
King Salman signed a “comprehensive strategic partnership agreement” with Xi, which received a lavish welcome in a country forging new global partnerships beyond the West.
Xi’s car was escorted to the king’s palace by members of the Saudi royal guard riding Arabian horses and carrying Chinese and Saudi flags, and he then attended a welcome banquet.
The Chinese leader spoke with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, de facto ruler of the oil giant, who greeted him with a warm smile. Xi heralded “a new era” in Arab relations.
The display stood in stark contrast to July’s low-key welcome to US President Joe Biden, with whom ties have been strained by Saudi energy policy and the 2018 murder of Jamal Khashoggi that overshadowed the awkward visit.
The United States, watching China’s growing influence and its ties with Riyadh at an all-time low, said Wednesday that Xi’s trip was an example of Chinese attempts to exert influence in the world and would not change. US policy toward the Middle East.
A memorandum with Chinese Huawei Technologies [RIC:RIC:HWT.UL], on cloud computing and the construction of high-tech complexes in Saudi cities, was agreed despite US unease with Gulf allies over a possible security risk in using the technology of the Chinese company. Huawei has been involved in building 5G networks in most Gulf states despite US concerns.
Prince Mohammed, who Biden bumped fists with instead of shaking hands with in July, made a comeback on the world stage after the killing of Khashoggi and was defiant in the face of US anger over the oil supply and pressure from Washington to help isolate Russia.
Following on from his international credentials, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates said on Thursday that the prince and the president of the United Arab Emirates jointly carried out mediation efforts which secured the release of the American basketball star Brittney Griner as part of a prisoner exchange with Russia.
In an op-ed published in Saudi media, Xi said he was on a “pioneering trip” to “open up a new era of China’s relations with the Arab world, Arab Gulf countries and Saudi Arabia.”
China and Arab countries “will continue to hold high the banner of non-interference in internal affairs,” Xi added.
That sentiment was echoed by the crown prince, who said his country opposes any “interference in China’s internal affairs in the name of human rights”, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said.
Xi, who is due to meet other Gulf oil producers and attend a broader gathering of Arab leaders on Friday, said China would strive to make the summits “significant events in the history of China-China relations”. Arabs”, and that Beijing regards Riyadh as “an important force in the multipolar world”.
Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states like the United Arab Emirates have said they will not choose sides among world powers and are diversifying their 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 relations have grown as the region pushes for economic diversification, drawing anger from the United States over the Chinese involvement in sensitive infrastructure in the Gulf.
Saudi Arabia’s energy minister said on Wednesday that Riyadh would remain a “trusted and reliable” energy partner for Beijing and that the two would strengthen cooperation in energy supply chains by establishing a regional center in the kingdom for Chinese factories. .
Chinese and Saudi companies also signed 34 investment agreements in green energy, information technology, cloud services, transport, construction and other sectors, the official SPA news agency reported. . He gave no figures, but had previously said the two countries would strike initial deals worth $30 billion.
Tang Tianbo, a Middle East specialist at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR) – a think tank affiliated with the Chinese government – said the visit would lead to a further expansion of energy cooperation.
Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi in Riyadh and Eduardo Baptista in Beijing; Written by Tom Perry and Dominic Evans; Editing by Ghaida Ghantous and Nick Macfie, William Maclean
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