Xi and Saudi Crown Prince sign agreements on Vision 2030 and Belt and Road Initiative

Chinese President is in Riyadh for meetings with Saudi, GCC and Arab leaders

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Chinese President Xi Jinping and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman signed agreements on “harmonising” the kingdom's Vision 2030 plan and China's Belt and Road Initiative on Thursday, the second day of Mr Xi's state visit.

Prince Mohammed met Mr Xi at the Royal Court in Riyadh and the Chinese leader was given a guard of honour.

The two leaders shook hands before Prince Mohammed led Mr Xi inside to meet King Salman.

The new agreements also covered judicial assistance, direct investments, education and hydrogen energy, Saudi state media 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 Gulf states.

"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," Mr Xi said in comments broadcast on Chinese state broadcaster CCTV.

He said Beijing was ready to expand its crude oil trade with Riyadh and would "list Saudi Arabia as a destination country for outbound tourism organised by Chinese citizens"

Xi and King Salman also agreed to holding meetings between the two countries’ leaders every two years, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported

Saudi Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources Bandar Al Khorayef said earlier on Thursday that non-oil exports to China last year amounted to more than $9.6 billion, while exports to the country reached $27.8 billion.

“The Saudi Authority for Industrial Cities and Technology Zones hosts seven Chinese factories in various fields including plastics, metals, ceramics, concrete and food industries in addition to around 10 other factories under planning and construction,” the Minister said, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

This is Mr Xi's third foreign trip since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Agreements worth a total of about $30 billion are expected to be signed on Thursday, Saudi state media reported. Trade between the two countries reached 304 billion Saudi riyals ($80 billion) in 2021 and 103 billion riyals ($27 billion) in the third quarter of 2022, Spa reported.

State broadcaster Al Ekhbariya said another 20 agreements worth 110 billion riyals ($29.3 billion) were due to be signed.

Saudi investment minister Khalid Al Falih said this week's visit "will contribute to raising the pace of economic and investment cooperation between the two countries", offering Chinese companies and investors "rewarding returns", according to SPA.

The Chinese President arrived in the kingdom on Wednesday and was given a lavish welcome as his plane received an escort from four Royal Saudi Air Force jets.

His plane was then escorted to the runway by six aerobatic group jets that created green smoke trails, a display broadcast on Saudi state television.

Mr Xi was welcomed by Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Riyadh Governor Prince Faisal bin Bandar and Yasir Al Rumayyan, governor of sovereign wealth fund PIF.

The Chinese President said he was pleased to be visiting the kingdom for the first time since 2016 and extended his “sincere greetings and best wishes” to the government and its people.

“China and the Arab states will continue to uphold humanity’s common values of peace, development, fairness, justice, democracy and freedom,” said Mr Xi after arriving at the palace.

“We each respect the sovereignty, development path, history and cultural traditions between us.”

Prince Faisal bin Farhan said the kingdom was looking forward to working with China, the GCC and Arab nations during Mr Xi’s visit.

The work will be conducted through the summits hosted by Riyadh “to intensify co-operation in the political, economic, social and development fields”, he said.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, Palestinian president Mahmood Abbas and Sudan's de facto leader Abdel Fattah Al Burhan had all arrived by Thursday afternoon, according to the Saudi foreign ministry.

Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Tunisian President Kais Saied, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al Sudani, Moroccan Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch and Lebanese caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati have also confirmed their attendance.

Mr Xi's visit adds to the perception of Saudi Arabia as a regional leader and is another step on the road to Prince Mohammed's return to the international fold, Kristian Ulrichsen, a fellow for the Middle East at Rice University's Baker Institute told The National.

“The message the visit sends to the US is that Saudi Arabia does not view its international relationships as a zero-sum game and is instead able and willing to balance ties with global partners,” Mr Ulrichsen said.

Updated: December 08, 2022, 5:49 PM
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