China’s Xi meets Saudi crown prince on high-stakes visit

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$30 billion trade agreements signed

Chinese President Xi Jinping met Saudi Arabia’s powerful crown prince on Thursday on an Arab outreach visit that will yield billions of dollars in deals and has earned a rebuke from Washington.

About $30 billion in agreements were signed on Thursday, Saudi state media said.

Xi, who flew in on Wednesday, was greeted with a handshake by 37-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, de facto ruler of the world’s biggest oil exporter, at Yamamah Palace.

The two men stood side-by-side as a brass band played their national anthems, then chatted as they walked into the palace, which is the king’s official residence and seat of the royal court.

Arab leaders also began to converge on the Saudi capital ahead of a summit with Xi, the leader of the world’s number-two economy, who will hold separate talks with the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council before leaving on Friday.

China, the top con sumer of Saudi oil, has been strengthening its ties with a region that has long relied on the United States for military protection but which has voiced concerns the American presence could be downgraded.

After Xi’s arrival on Wednesday, with formation jets flying overhead, Saudi state media announced 34 investment agreements in sectors including green hydrogen, information technology, transport and construction.

The official Saudi Press Agency did not provide details but said two-way trade totalled 304 billion Saudi riyals ($80 billion) in 2021 and 103 billion Saudi riyals ($27 billion) in the third quarter of 2022.

State broadcaster Al Ekhbariya said another 20 agreements worth 110 billion riyals ($29.3 billion) were d signed on Thursday.