Chinese President Xi Jinping is set to visit Saudi Arabia next week, where plans are underway for a gala reception to match the one given to Donald Trump on his first overseas trip as president.
The welcome prepared for the Chinese leader contrasts sharply with that extended to Joe Biden in June, when the US president received a low-key welcome, reflecting strained ties between the two countries and personal disgust between Biden and the de facto Saudi leader. , Mohammad bin Salman.
Xi, however, is instead expected to receive a warm welcome meant to cement ties between Beijing and Riyadh and bolster China’s image as an ally of Saudi Arabia, as ties with Washington continue to drift.
China and Saudi Arabia have been close for two decades, but ties have deepened as Prince Mohammed accumulated power in the kingdom from 2016. Riyadh has defended China’s treatment of its Uyghur Muslim minority and Hong Kong’s draconian national security law, placing it at odds with the United States on key human rights issues.
Trade relations between the two countries have grown as Washington has moved away from the Middle East.
China is Saudi Arabia’s largest trading partner. It is the biggest buyer of Saudi oil, said Mohammed Alyahya, a fellow at the Harvard Belfer Centers Middle East Institute and a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. China is very important in the region geopolitically. He eyed military bases in Africa and elsewhere. In the past, its interests were purely mercantilist, entirely focused on trade. Now they are increasingly looking at things through a strategic lens.
They are particularly interested in ensuring the free flow of oil. It is the same for China as it is for the United States. The Americans say there is a diversion of bandwidth out of the region to focus on fighting China in a pivot to Asia. However, the Chinese seem to regard the region as the main theater of a competition between great powers.
China is the main competitor of the Americas in the region. They will clearly be watching very carefully.
Xi was first invited to Riyadh in March. His visit is likely the biggest to the kingdom since Trump arrived in May 2017, months after his inauguration, where he was received with silver swords, a glowing orb, extravagant gifts and a display of royalty. Saudi and Arab.
The visit set the tone for the Trump administrations’ disposition toward Riyadh, a time when the ambitious crown prince was repeatedly covered up by Trump and his top officials and formed a deep bond with Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
China has made no public comment on Saudi Arabia’s invasion of Yemen, its boycott of Qatar or the murder of dissident Jamal Khashoggi, which has led to strong condemnation in the United States and Europe.
China is increasingly seen as stepping into a regional vacuum created by declining US interest and power projection. Bidens’ visit in June paid little dividend and failed to convince Prince Mohammed to increase oil supplies, which would have helped reduce barrel prices in the United States ahead of the midterm elections.
In preparation for the visit, which is expected to take place in Riyadh, Jeddah and the planned megacity of Neom on Saudi Arabia’s west coast, plans were underway to hoist thousands of Chinese banners and host hundreds of dignitaries.
Prince Mohammed appeared emboldened by Bidens’ visit, telling his allies he had succeeded in reasserting Riyadh’s influence on the world stage and displaying a sovereign position. Critics of the visit claimed the United States helped rehabilitate Prince Mohammed nearly four years after Khashoggi’s murder, which was carried out by Prince Mohammed’s security aides, while receiving little in return.
Saudi Arabia has regained its swagger, a senior Saudi official has said. We engage with our friends on an equal footing. Friends don’t just come here, ask for things and give nothing in return.
Prince Mohammed recently visited Greece and France, ending years of isolation. This visit was made possible by Biden’s visit, the Saudi official said.
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