Xi lands in Riyadh amid Saudi Arabia’s fraying ties with US

Chinese President Xi Jinping has arrived in Saudi Arabia on a visit hailed by Beijing as “epoch-making” as the proximity between Beijing and Riyadh grows amid the Arab kingdom’s souring relations with the United States, particularly over the Saudi support for oil output curbs.

The Chinese leader arrived in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday to attend the inaugural China-Arab States Summit and a meeting with leaders of the six-member Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (PGCC) in the capital Riyadh before concluding his visit on Saturday, said China’s Foreign Ministry.

According to Saudi state media, the Chinese delegation is expected to ink deals worth $30 billion with Riyadh during the visit.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), the de facto Ruler of the Arab kingdom, is expected to offer the Chinese president a lavish welcome, in contrast with the low-key reception for US President Joe Biden, whose censure of MbS formed the backdrop for a strained meeting back in July.

Tensions are growing between longtime partners Washington and Riyadh over the Saudi-led OPEC+ cartel’s vote to reduce oil production over Washington’s objections.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies (OPEC+), which includes the 13 OPEC nations and 11 non-members including Russia, made the production cut announcement in October. The group agreed to cut output by two million barrels per day, equal to two percent of global supply, starting in November. Saudi Arabia is a top producer in OPEC+.

The move came despite Biden’s plea to boost production to tame energy prices.

Xi’s bilateral talks with Saudi leaders, particularly MbS, and the Chinese president’s attendance in the PGCC summit and his meeting with its leaders would be “an epoch-making milestone in the history of the development of China-Arab relations”, said China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning.

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