China’s Xi in Saudi Arabia to cement Gulf Arab ties

75

President to attend China-Arab summit, China-GCC summit

Chinese leader Xi Jinping arrived in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday to attend meetings with oil-rich Gulf Arab nations crucial to his country’s energy supplies as Beijing tries to revive an economy battered by its strict coronavirus measures.

Saudi and Chinese flags flew Wednesday in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, as Xi arrived on an Air China Boeing 747, accompanied by jets spraying green-and-white smoke in the sky after the colours of the Saudi flag. Another set of jets sprayed red and yellow, the colours of the Chinese flag, according to footage released by Saudi state television.

Xi waved from the top of the stairs alongside his plane then later descended to greet Saudi officials at the airport, shaking hands with the governor of Riyadh, Prince Faisal bin Bandar.

Meanwhile, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying on Wednesday said that Chinese President Xi Jinping is on a state visit to the first China-Arab Summit and the China-Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Riyadh from December 7 to December 10 at the invitation of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia.

In the lead-up to the summit, the first of its kind between China and the Arab states, the Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a report on China-Arab cooperation in the new era, describing the summit as a milestone event and noting that Beijing will take it as an opportunity to promote the building of a China-Arab community with a shared future in in the new era.

Gulf Arab states are trying to recalibrate their foreign policy as the United States turns its attention elsewhere in the world.

During the visit, Xi is expected to attend the inaugural China-Arab States Summit and a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes the kingdom along with Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

It’s the “largest and highest-level diplomatic event between China and the Arab world since the founding of the People’s Republic of China and will become an epoch-making milestone in the history of China-Arab relations,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told reporters at a daily briefing on Wednesday.

Whether the meeting reaches those heights, Xi knows he needs that supply of crude oil. China, the world’s largest crude oil importer, relies heavily on Saudi oil, paying tens of billions of dollars annually to the kingdom.—AP