Riyadh, 8 December 2022 (dpa/MIA) – Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday held talks with Saudi Arabia’s rulers as part of a high-profile visit to the oil-rich monarchy amid US concerns of Beijing’s growing influence.
Xi started on Wednesday an official three-day visit to Saudi Arabia for talks with the Saudi as well as Gulf and Arab leaders.
On Thursday, he conferred with King Salman and powerful Crown Prince Mohammed in Riyadh.
Xi and Salman signed an agreement on a “comprehensive strategic partnership” between both countries, Saudi Arabia’s state news agency SPA reported without details.
Earlier Thursday, Prince Mohammed, Saudi Arabia’s de-facto ruler, received Xi upon his arrival at al-Yamama royal palace in Riyadh where the Chinese president was given an official welcome.
They later held official talks on “aspects of partnership” and boosting cooperation between in various fields, SPA reported.
They also discussed regional and international issues of mutual concern, the agency added without elaborating.
Xi and Mohammed attended a ceremony for the signing of a number of cooperation accords including pacts on energy, investment and teaching of the Chinese language in Saudi Arabia.
On Wednesday, the Saudi Arabian English-language newspaper, Saudi Gazette, reported that Saudi Arabia and China were expected to sign agreements worth over 110 billion Saudi riyals ($29.3 billion) during Xi’s visit.
While in Saudi Arabia, Xi will attend two summits with Gulf and Arab leaders in a sign of Beijing’s warming links with the Arab world.
In an article carried by the Saudi Arabian semi-official newspaper al-Riyadh, Xi said his visit opens a “new era” in ties between China and the Arab world.
Xi’s trip comes around five months after US President Joe Biden visited Saudi Arabia and told Arab leaders that Washington “will not walk away and leave a vacuum to be filled by China, Russia or Iran.”
But in recent months, ties between Saudi Arabia and its traditional ally, the US, have strained over energy supplies.
Saudi Arabia drew heavy criticism from the US after the Riyadh-led oil cartel OPEC+, which comprises Russia, announced in October it was cutting the crude output by 2 million barrels per day.
Washington saw the step as tilting towards Russia waging a months-long war in Ukraine.
In response to the US criticism, Saudi officials said the production cut was purely economic.
The Gulf countries have enhanced their economic, political, and security relations with China over the years.
For Saudi Arabia, which is the world’s top oil exporter, China is currently an important trading partner and its largest customer for crude.
Trade exchange between both countries reached 304 billion ($81 billion) Saudi riyals last year, according to SPA.
Companies from both countries on Wednesday signed 34 investment agreements on several sectors including green energy, information technology, construction, logistics and transportation, the agency added.