Chinese President to Receive Gala Reception in Saudi Arabia

Chinese President to Receive Gala Reception in Saudi Arabia

Chinese President to Receive Gala Reception in Saudi Arabia
Chinese President to Receive Gala Reception in Saudi Arabia

The Chinese president Xi Jinping is expected to visit Saudi Arabia next week, where plans are under way for a gala reception to match that given to Donald Trump on his first trip abroad as president.

The welcome being prepared for the Chinese leader is in stark contrast with that afforded to Joe Biden in June, when the US president received a low-key reception, reflecting strained ties between the two countries and personal distaste between Biden and the de facto Saudi leader, Mohammed bin Salman.

Xi, however, is instead expected to receive a bells-and-whistles welcome intended to consolidate ties between Beijing and Riyadh and reinforce the image of China as an ally of Saudi Arabia, as ties with Washington continue to drift.

Riyadh defends violations against Uyghur Muslims

China and Saudi Arabia have been growing closer over two decades, but ties have deepened as Prince Mohammed accumulated power in the kingdom from 2016 onwards.

 Riyadh has defended China’s treatment of its Uyghur Muslim minority and Hong Kong’s draconian national security law, placing it at odds with the US on key human rights issues.

Trade ties between the two countries have forged ahead at the same time as Washington has pivoted away from the Middle East.

China is America’s primary competitor in the region

Xi was first invited to Riyadh in March. His visit is likely to be the most significant to the kingdom since Trump’s arrival in May 2017, months after his inauguration, where he was received with silver swords, a glowing orb, extravagant gifts and a rollout of Saudi and Arab royalty.

That visit set the tone for the Trump administration’s disposition towards Riyadh, an era when the ambitious crown prince was given repeated cover by Trump and his senior officials and formed deep ties with Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

China made no public comment about Saudi Arabia’s invasion of Yemen, its boycott of Qatar, or the murder of dissident, Jamal Khashoggi, which led to strong condemnation in the US and Europe.

Xi to visit Neom

In preparation for the visit, which is expected to take in Riyadh, Jeddah and the planned megacity of Neom on the western Saudi coast, plans were under way to hoist thousands of Chinese banners and receive hundreds of dignitaries.

China turns a blind eye to Saudi violations in exchange for bilateral deals

In 2017, China and Saudi Arabia agreed in Jeddah to set up a package of bilateral energy cooperation mechanisms.

The agreement was reached when Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Saudi Red Sea resort of Jeddah during Zhang’s visit to the Gulf Arab country.

Also during the talks, the two compared notes and reached broad consensus on bilateral cooperation in the fields of energy, finance and industrial capacity, among others.

They vowed to push forward a seawater desalination project using high temperature gas-cooled reactors, as well as a Chinese industry park in Saudi Arabia’s southern border region of Jizan, and support the construction of a power plant in the western Saudi coastal town of Rabigh.

The two sides also agreed to promote cooperation over petrochemical projects and security matters, and enhance international coordination so as to further boost their bilateral comprehensive strategic partnership.

Foreign visits reinforce home repression

Prince Mohammed has appeared emboldened by Biden’s visit, telling allies that it succeeded in reasserting Riyadh’s influence on a global stage, and displaying a sovereign footing. Critics of the visit have claimed that the US helped rehabilitate Prince Mohammed nearly four years after the Khashoggi killing – which was carried out by Prince Mohammed’s security aides – while receiving little in return.

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