RIYADH: China’s President Xi Jinping being received by Governor of Riyadh Prince Faisal bin Bandar al-Saud at King Khalid International Airport, on Wednesday.—AFP
RIYADH: China’s President Xi Jinping being received by Governor of Riyadh Prince Faisal bin Bandar al-Saud at King Khalid International Airport, on Wednesday.—AFP

RIYADH: Chinese Pre­si­dent Xi Jinping arrived in Saudi Arabia on Wed­nesday on a visit Beijing hailed as its biggest diplomatic initiative in the Arab world, as Riyadh expands global alliances beyond a longstanding partnership with the West.

The meeting between the global economic powerhouse and Gulf energy giant comes as Saudi ties with Washington are strai­ned by US criticism of Riy­adh’s human rights record and Saudi support for oil output curbs before the November midterm polls.

The White House said Xi’s visit was an example of Chinese attempts to exert influence and that this would not change US policy towards the Middle East. “We are mindful of the influence that China is trying to grow around the world,” White House Nat­i­o­­nal Security Council spo­k­­­esperson John Kirby said.

White House sees trip as Chinese attempt to exert influence in Middle East

Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said Riyadh would remain a “trusted and reliable” energy partner for Beijing and that the two countries would boost cooperation in energy supply chains by establishing a regional centre in the kingdom for Chinese factories. The Chinese delegation is exp­ected to sign deals worth $30 billion with Riyadh.

Xi was met on arrival by the governor of Riyadh, the kingdom’s foreign minister and the governor of sovereign wealth fund PIF.

Crown Prince Moham­med bin Salman is exp­e­c­ted to offer Xi a lavish welcome, in contrast with the low-key reception for US President Joe Biden whose censure of Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler formed the backdrop for a strained meeting in July.

Published in Dawn, December 8th, 2022

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