China and Saudi Arabia Are Making a Big Show of Upgrading Relations

China and Saudi Arabia Are Making a Big Show of Upgrading Relations
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Saudi King Salman sign an agreement in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Dec. 8, 2022 (Saudi Press Agency photo via AP).

Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Saudi Arabia last week for a four-day trip that included three summits in Riyadh with a range of Arab leaders. The first of the three summits was a bilateral meeting with Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, during which the two sides signed a comprehensive strategic agreement between their respective countries.

Xi and Salman later headed a China-Gulf summit with the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council, where they signed another comprehensive strategic agreement. Finally, Xi also attended a summit with leaders of the Arab League, where the two sides made general statements agreeing to deepen cooperation between China and the league’s members.

Xi’s visit comes roughly five months after U.S. President Joe Biden’s own visit to Saudi Arabia, which also included a summit with nine Arab leaders aimed at asserting U.S. leadership in the Middle East as part of its global competition with China. But heightened tensions between Riyadh and Washington over oil production and other issues have put the spotlight on the kingdom’s efforts to diversify its portfolio of international partnerships. Xi’s visit now highlights China’s increasingly important role in the region.

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