China’s Xi Arrives in Saudi Arabia to 'Bolster Ties'

On Wednesday, Chinese Pres. Xi Jinping arrived in Riyadh for a long-awaited visit that will likely result in a round of agreements reportedly worth at least $29B to cement ties between China and Saudi Arabia.

China’s Xi Arrives in Saudi Arabia to 'Bolster Ties'
Image credit: Saudi Press Agency/Handout/Reuters [via Al Jazeera]

Facts

  • On Wednesday, Chinese Pres. Xi Jinping arrived in Riyadh for a long-awaited visit that will likely result in a round of agreements reportedly worth at least $29B to cement ties between China and Saudi Arabia.
  • The visit is the result of an invitation from Saudi King Salman "to bolster historic ties and strategic partnership between the two countries."
  • During the three-day summit, Xi is set to attend the first China-Arab States Summit. He will also participate in the China-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit in Riyadh, which six gulf nations will attend: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
  • According to China Customs data, Saudi Arabia is China's top oil supplier, making up 18% of its total crude oil purchases, with imports totaling 73.54M tonnes (1.77M barrels a day) in the first ten months of 2022, worth $55.5B.
  • Xi's visit comes at a time when US-Saudi relations are tense over the OPEC+ decision to cut oil output by 2M barrels a day and as Washington views China's growing influence in the Middle East with unease. Moreover, uncertainty weighs on global energy markets, with the West imposing a $60/barrel price cap on Russian oil.
  • Meanwhile, the US and China are at odds with each other over Taiwan. Xi claims the democratically governed island is its territory, while US Pres. Joe Biden has vowed to help the island nation in the event of an attack by China.

Sources: Al Jazeera, AA, China-Briefing, Reuters, and CNN.

Narratives

  • Pro-China narrative, as provided by Global Times. Xi's trip is a fantastic opportunity for China to increase trade and cooperation with the Arab world, specifically its main oil-producing states. China and the Middle East are natural cooperative partners, as they have been through thick and thin together in their respective struggles with Western imperialism. The Arab world has become tired of the condescending arrogance of the West and deserves a real partner like China.
  • Anti-China narrative, as provided by Dawn. Though Xi's trip to Saudi Arabia may seem like a basic summit, in reality, it demonstrates China's desire to export its own brand of high-tech authoritarianism. China's goals are overall economic in nature, but it also seeks to empower the region's despots within a system of totalitarian capitalism. For China, ideals like freedom and democracy mean nothing, as economic and geopolitical interest trump all.