Chinese President Xi Jinping began a three-day visit to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, his first to the world’s largest oil exporter since 2016, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported Tuesday.
The Chinese president will hold meetings with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz and his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, provided that he also participates in two Gulf-Chinese and Arab-Chinese summits attended by leaders of the countries of the region.
The Saudi Press Agency said that the visit came “at the gracious invitation of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud … and to strengthen the historical relations and the distinguished strategic partnership that unites the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the People’s Republic of China.”
During the two summits with Arab leaders, they will discuss “ways to enhance joint relations in all fields, and discuss prospects for economic and development cooperation”, “based on the distinguished relations between the countries of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf and the Arab countries” with China, according to the agency.
This visit comes at a time when Saudi-American relations are experiencing tension, following the Kingdom’s decision to reduce oil production through the “OPEC Plus” alliance. The White House considered the Saudi-led oil cartel’s decision to side with Russia in the Ukraine war, something that Saudi Arabia rejected.
Last month, the Chinese Consul General in Dubai, Li Xuhang, said in remarks posted on the consulate’s website that the visit was “a major event for the improvement of Sino-Arab relations and a milestone in the history of Sino-Arab relations.”
Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest oil exporter, and China is the largest importer of crude, buying nearly a quarter of Saudi shipments.
The Wall Street Journal reported in March that Riyadh was considering pricing some of its oil contracts in yuan after trading exclusively in dollars for contracts. But the head of Aramco described the report as “speculation”.