Xi Jinping will participate in a regional summit with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other Arab leaders . The top priority will be energy and infrastructure deals .
Saudi Arabia is rolling out the red carpet for his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, two months after snubbing US President Joe Biden's oil demands.The kingdoms' SPA state news agency announced that starting Wednesday, Xi would tour Saudi Arabia for several days, participating in a regional summit with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other Arab leaders, with promises worth $30 billion.According to two people briefed on the proposals, the top priority will be energy and infrastructure deals.China declared the trip on Wednesday morning, a day after Xi led the nation in mourning former president Jiang Zemin's death on the heels of recent demonstrations against his Covid Zero agenda.According to Ali Shihabi, a Saudi commentator and advisory board member for the kingdoms Neom megaproject, this visit is the culmination or crowning of a deep increase in contacts over the last few years.The United States is concerned about this, but it can't stifle this already rosy ties.In October, Biden accused Riyadh of allying with Russia on oil production cuts, and promised consequences.However, trade has been fraying for some time as the United States shifts its global attention to the competition with China. Last year, the US-Saudi trade dropped from $76 billion to $29 billion, in part because the US shale industry no longer imports much Middle East oil; regional oil exporters are eager to hear about China's plans for lifting Covid restrictions, while Saudis are also riled by the US's assertive alliance with Russia and other oil exporters in OPEC+.It's about alternatives, in all possible ways, for the Arab states.It's high time we stop thinking about it as only about economic and commercial relations, said Cinzia Bianco, a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations who focuses on the Gulf.For the Arab states, it's about alternative solutions, in all manners. The Chinese State Grid Corporation was looking at investment opportunities in regional electricity transmission and distribution; and China and Saudi Arabia have agreed to partner up on the Belt and Road Initiative's Vision 2030 development strategy.He even referred to a memorandum on moon exploration signed with the UAE, said Elham Fakhro, a research fellow at Exeter University's Centre for Gulf Studies.They could increase their bargaining power with the US, she said.Still, the US maintains a substantial troop presence in Saudi Arabia and the region, and there are limits to how far Gulf states will look elsewhere, according to two people briefed on the proposals.According to the reports earlier this year, it is unlikely that Saudi Arabia will move forward with the idea of accepting yuan payments instead of the dollar for oil. But Biden reacted to the high inflation he faced in July and visited the country, seeking support for global oil prices.After meeting with his Saudi counterpart in October, Foreign Minister Wang Yi lauded the kingdom's independent energy policy and attempts to shore up the international energy market.Wang also praised Riyadh for long-term and faithful assistance on issues including Taiwan, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and human rights, which are all key issues for the US, said Jonathan Fulton, a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council who studies China's relations with the Gulf.China is also helping address domestic concerns.According to he, the result is that China is more likely to retake the United States than the two countries are playing completely different games in the Middle East. According to a US intelligence report, it has even been spotted that it is producing ballistic missiles with Chinas help.China is now Saudi Arabia's top crude supplier.Photographer: Simon DawsonBloombergEven if you're looking for a unique approach, it's not all about you.China as well as the United States are affected by high oil prices, and Beijing maintains close links with Iran, a major Saudi rival. In its attempts to build links in this area, China isnt encouraging countries to choose between Washington and Beijing, he said.