China and Saudi Arabia inch closer further as President Xi to visit Kingdom

China and Saudi Arabia inch closer further as President Xi to visit Kingdom

Chinese President Xi Jinping will make a three-day visit to Saudi Arabia this week, meeting the king and de facto ruler of the world’s biggest oil exporter, Saudi state media reported on Tuesday.

Xi, head of the world’s number-two economy, will also attend a summit with rulers from the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council and talks with leaders from elsewhere in the Middle East, strengthening China’s growing ties with the region.

The Chinese leader will arrive on Wednesday, the official *Saudi Press Agency* said, for only his third trip abroad since the coronavirus pandemic began and his first to Saudi Arabia since 2016.

His bilateral summit, chaired by King Salman and attended by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, comes after Xi secured a historic third term in November.

Xi’s visit reflects “much deeper relations developed in recent years” between the two countries, said Ali Shihabi, a Saudi analyst close to the government.

“As the largest importer of Saudi oil, China is a critically important partner and military relations have been developing strongly,” he said, adding that he expected “a number of agreements to be signed”.

The visit also coincides with heightened tensions between Saudi Arabia and the United States over issues ranging from energy policy to regional security and human rights.

The latest blow to that decades-old partnership came in October when the OPEC+ oil bloc agreed to cut production by two million barrels a day, a move the White House said amounted to “aligning with Russia” on the war in Ukraine.

On Sunday, OPEC+ opted to keep those cuts in place.

Shihabi said the timing was “a coincidence and not directed at the US”.