China’s Xi to visit Riyadh as Saudi Arabia seeks to expand international reach


Chinese leader Xi Jinping

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Chinese President Xi Jinping will be in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday to attend the first China-Arab States Summit and the China-Gulf Cooperation Council Summit in Riyadh, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in China.

The visit, which will span three days, followed an invitation from Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, and will be attended by other Arab heads of state.

“Close relations between the two countries were initiated 80 years ago, encompassing various aspects of cooperation and development,” the official Saudi Press Agency said in a statement Tuesday.

Saudi Arabia was the largest oil importer for China in 2021, accounting for 17% of the Asian giant’s oil imports.

“The optics of a hospitable kingdom welcoming Xi and inviting host of US partners in the Middle East will prove important,” Eurasia Group’s analysts wrote in a note.

“Saudi Arabia will adopt a similar model to US President Joe Biden‘s visit last July, presenting itself as the regional hub for heavyweight geopolitical meetings,” they said.

Strained U.S.-Saudi relations

“Riyadh sees a geopolitical order that is largely in flux, with an opportunity to enhance its leverage in the international system,” Eurasia said.

Saudi’s leadership has assessed that its interests are served through broadening the kingdom’s international partnerships, they said, adding that it includes relations with “the UK, France, Germany, Greece, and Spain on the European side, Russia on the energy front, and many Asian countries on the economic front.”

Expect ‘pomp and circumstance’

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