RIYADH: Chinese President Xi Jinping and Saudi Arabia’s powerful crown prince met Thursday on an Arab outreach visit that has earned a rebuke from Washington, reaching deals in areas, including energy and infrastructure.

Agreements worth about $30 billion were signed, Saudi state media said, as China seeks to shore up its Covid-hit economy and as the Saudis, long-term US allies, push to diversify their economic and political alliances.

Xi and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the 37-year-old de facto ruler of the world’s biggest oil exporter, met at Yamamah Palace in Riyadh, flanked by high-ranking officials wearing face masks, footage aired on state television showed.

They oversaw the signing of energy agreements on hydrogen as well as a plan to “harmonise” Saudi Arabia’s ambitious economic reform agenda, Vision 2030, with China’s trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative, the official Saudi Press Agency said.

The signed deals also covered a petrochemicals project, housing development and the teaching of the Chinese language, SPA said, though it did not detail their substance or monetary value. Earlier, state television showed Xi being greeted by Prince Mohammed before the two men stood side-by-side as a brass band played their countries’ national anthems.

They then chatted while walking into the palace, which is the king’s official residence and seat of the royal court. Xi also met Prince Mohammed’s father, 86-year-old King Salman, signing a comprehensive strategic partnership agreement first reached during Xi’s last visit in 2016, state media reported.

Published in Dawn, December 9th, 2022

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