King Salman and Xi Jinping sign agreements as Mohammed Bin Salman looks on, in Riyadh on Thursday. AFP
Saudi Arabia and China showcased deepening ties with a series of strategic deals on Thursday during a visit by President Xi Jinping, including one with tech giant Huawei.
King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud signed a “comprehensive strategic partnership agreement” with Xi. Agreements worth about $30 billion were being signed on Thursday, Saudi state media said.
Earlier on Thursday, Saudi state media announced 34 investment agreements in sectors including green hydrogen, information technology, transport and construction. State broadcaster Al Ekhbariya said another 20 agreements worth 110 billion riyals ($29.3 billion) were due to be signed.
XI and King Salman “agreed to hold a heads of state meeting between the two countries in turn every two years,” Chinese state media said.
King Salman greets Xi Jinping in Riyadh. AP
“I am very pleased to visit Saudi Arabia again after six years. I still remember the scenes from my last visit,” Xi said in remarks carried by Chinese state broadcaster CCTV.
“The Chinese side views the Saudi side as an important force in a multipolar world and attaches high importance to developing a comprehensive strategic partnership with Saudi Arabia.” The Chinese leader held talks with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, who greeted him with a warm smile.
The two stepped into a pavilion as a military band played the countries’ national anthems.
Xi and Mohammed Bin Salman met at Yamamah Palace in Riyadh, flanked by high-ranking officials wearing face masks, footage aired on state television showed.
They oversaw the signing of energy agreements on hydrogen as well as a plan to “harmonise” Saudi Arabia’s ambitious economic reform agenda, Vision 2030, with China’s trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said.
The signed deals also covered a petrochemicals project, housing development and the teaching of the Chinese language, SPA said, though it did not detail their substance or monetary value.
Chinese and Saudi firms also signed 34 deals for investment in green energy, information technology, cloud services, transport, construction and other sectors, SPA reported.
A memorandum with China’s Huawei Technologies, on cloud computing and building high-tech complexes in Saudi cities, was agreed.
Huawei has participated in building 5G networks in most Middle Eastern countries.
Xi heralded “a new era” in Arab ties
In an op-ed published in Saudi media, Xi said he was on a “pioneering trip” to “open a new era of China’s relations with the Arab world, the Arab countries of the Gulf, and Saudi Arabia.” China and Arab countries would “continue to hold high the banner of non-interference in internal affairs, (and) firmly support each other in safeguarding sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he wrote.
King Salman (C-R) holds talks with President Xi Jinping (C-L) in Riyadh. AP
Xi, due to meet with other Gulf oil producers and attend a wider gathering of Arab leaders on Friday, said these states were a “treasure trove of energy for the world economy and are fertile ground for the development of high-tech industries.” Several regional rulers including Egypt’s president, Kuwait’s crown prince and Sudan’s leader, arrived in Riyadh on Thursday.
China, the world’s biggest energy consumer, is a major trade partner of Gulf states and bilateral ties have expanded as the region pushes economic diversification.
The Saudi energy minister on Wednesday said Riyadh would stay a “trusted and reliable” energy partner for Beijing and the two would boost cooperation in energy supply chains by setting up a regional centre in the country for Chinese factories.
Tang Tianbo, Middle East specialist at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR) – a Chinese government-affiliated think tank – said the visit would result in further expansion of energy cooperation.