Chinese president Xi Jinping heralded a “new era” in Beijing’s ties with Saudi Arabia as he met Arab leaders at “milestone” summits while on his strategic Middle East sojourn, he said in a statement marking a show of strength along with the Gulf country’s ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Beijing and Riyadh reaffirmed their pledge on the global oil market on Friday along with the principle of non-interference in domestic affairs on the second day of the Chinese president’s high-level three-day visit.
“The People’s Republic of China welcomed the Kingdom’s role as a supporter of the balance and stability in the world oil markets, and as a reliable major exporter of crude oil to China,” the joint statement by the Saudi state media read.
The two nations have “exchanged views regarding ways to reinforce and develop comprehensive strategic partnership relations between the Kingdom and China,” the statement added.
Mr Xi said his visit to the Gulf country heralded a “new era” in relations. He is also expected to meet other Gulf oil producers and attend a wider summit with Arab league countries on Friday.
“China looks forward to working with Saudi Arabia and Arab states to turn the two summits into milestone events in the history of China-Arab relations and China-Gulf Cooperation Council relations, and bring these relations to new heights,” the Chinese foreign ministry quoted Mr Xi as saying.
The GCC, in a statement on Friday, reaffirmed support for Opec+ decisions to stabilise the oil market.
Washington is keenly monitoring the Chinese leader’s visit to the kingdom as it reveals the growing influence of its economic rival in the region.
The Chinese president will meet Qatar’s emir, Kuwait’s crown prince and the presidents of Egypt, Tunisia, Djibouti, Somalia and Mauritania alongside leaders and prime ministers of Iraq, Morocco, Algeria, Sudan and Lebanon.
Mr Xi has already participated in bilateral talks with Kuwait Crown Prince Sheikh Meshal al-Sabah, Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Iraqi prime minister Shia al-Sudani, Sudanese leader general Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Palestine president Mahmoud Abbas.
In a significant success for both nations, Chinese and Saudi firms have already signed 34 deals for investment in green energy, information technology, cloud services, transport, construction and other sectors, state news agency SPA reported.
The initial agreements between the two are expected to be worth $30bn. The official financial investment in the trade deals has not been confirmed by either country.
In the last two days of Mr Xi’s visit, the Chinese delegation is set to sign agreements and memoranda of understanding with several states in addition to Saudi Arabia. This comes a day after Chinese tech giant Huawei signed an MoU with the kingdom on cloud computing and building high-tech complexes in Saudi cities.
The statement issued on Friday also underlined Saudi Arabia’s location as a regional centre for Chinese firms in producing and exporting energy sector products.
It also suggested a prospect of joint investment in energy projects in the region and “energy consuming countries in Europe and Africa”.
The third day of Mr Xi’s visit is expected to see a major participation and talks with leaders of Arab League states lining up in the Middle East for the Arab summit spanning the Gulf, Levant and Africa in Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia gave a grand welcome to Mr Xi, as his car was escorted to the royal palace in Riyadh by members of the Saudi Royal Guard on Arabian horses, in stark contrast to the generic welcome given to Joe Biden when he had visited the Gulf nation in July this year.