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Xi Jinping visits Saudi Arabia: expected to sign $30b worth deals

Newsman:.Chinese President Xi Jinping  now visiting Saudi Arabia in the wake of months of diplomatic tensions with the US.Saudi Arabia rolled out a lavish welcome for Xi Jinping.

Saudi Arabia’s de-facto leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is hosting Chinese President Xi Jinping this week. President Xi Jinping landed in the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh on Wednesday. A purple carpet was rolled out for the Chinese president, and canons were fired.

Saudi Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz, governor of the Riyadh region, and Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah, Saudi foreign minister received Chinese President Xi Jinping at the steps of his presidential aircraft at King Khalid International Airport.

Xi met with Saudi leaders on Thursday, including with King Salman. Saudi Arabia is also hosting summits for Xi with Gulf Arab leaders and heads of state from other Mideast countries on Friday. Ahead of the summits, Xi met with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi in Riyadh on Thursday. , Xi will also meet other Gulf state and Arab leaders.

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

The two countries are expected to sign deals worth more than $29 billion during this week’s visit, according to SPA.

China wants to export more of its technology and deepen its investments in areas like ports, mining, nuclear technology and defense in the Middle East.

The U.S. remains concerned that China is encroaching on its sphere of influence in the region. In remarks reported by Reuters and Agence France-Presse, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters this week that China is trying to deepen its level of influence in the Middle East in ways that “are not conducive to preserving the international rules-based order.”

“We are not asking nations to choose between the United States and China, but as the president has said many times we believe that in this strategic competition the United States is certainly well poised to lead,” Kirby was reported to have said.

“We’re mindful of the influence that China is trying to grow around the world,” said John Kirby, the strategic communications coordinator at the National Security Council.

Kirby added that the US’ strategic partnership with Saudi Arabia continues, despite the oil production disagreement.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates announced they mediated Thursday’s prisoner swap between the U.S. and Russia. And they credited their “mutual and solid friendship” with both Washington and Moscow.

On Sunday, Saudi Arabia announced that it would be keeping the production cuts in place, but the country has also made diplomatic moves seemingly designed to placate the US.

China is today Saudi Arabia’s largest trading partner, with the value of the kingdom’s exports to China having exceeded $50 billion last year, constituting more than 18% of Saudi Arabia’s total exports in 2021. Bilateral trade between the two states is more than $80 billion dollars, SPA reported.

Saudi Arabia has also traditionally been China’s top oil supplier, with Saudi barrels making up around 17% of total Chinese oil imports as of last year, according to the Saudi-backed Arab News. Apart from oil exports, Saudi Arabia has this year ramped up its Chinese investments, which culminated in Aramco’s whopping $10 billion dollar investment into a refinery and petrochemical complex in China’s northeast.

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Prince Mohammed, however, is seeking to diversify Saudi Arabia’s economy away from reliance on oil exports. As part of that larger vision to bolster the kingdom’s independence and economic might, he’s aiming to build a homegrown Saudi defense industry. China is seen as an important partner in providing the technology and know-how to build out the kingdom’s defenses. The kingdom is also looking to China for nuclear technology.

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