Saudi Arabia, China Sign Strategic Agreements Worth $30 Billion

Saudi Arabia and China have shown deepening ties during Chinese President Xi’s trip to the kingdom, signing a series of strategic deals, including one with Chinese tech giant Huawei, which has been expanding presence in the Gulf region amid U.S. security concerns. Saudi King Salman and Xi signed a “comprehensive strategic partnership agreement”, as the kingdom is looking for new global partnerships beyond the West.

Xi and Saudi Crown Prince Bin Salman, the de facto ruler of the kingdom, held talks, where Xi announced “a new era” in relations with the Arab states.

As its own ties with Saudi Arabia strained, the United States has been wary of China’s growing influence in the region. The White House said Xi’s visit was an example of China’s attempts to exert influence around the world, but it would not change the U.S. policy towards the Middle East.

A memorandum with China’s Huawei on cloud computing and building high-tech complexes in Saudi cities was agreed despite U.S. unease with Gulf allies over a possible security risk in using the Chinese firm’s technology. Huawei has participated in building 5G networks in most Gulf states despite the U.S. concerns

Xi said about his visit that he was on a “pioneering trip” to “open a new era of China’s relations with the Arab world, the Arab countries of the Gulf, and Saudi Arabia”.

China and Arab countries would “continue to hold high the banner of non-interference in internal affairs”, Xi added.

That sentiment was echoed by Bin Salman, who said his country opposed any “interference in China’s internal affairs in the name of human rights”.

Xi will also attend a meeting with other Gulf states and a wider gathering of Arab leaders on Friday. He said China’s aim was to make those summits “milestone events in the history of China-Arab relations”, and that Beijing sees Riyadh as “an important force in the multipolar world”.

Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states have said that they would not choose sides between global powers and were diversifying partners to serve national economic and security interests.

Trade relations between the Gulf states and China, the world’s biggest energy consumer, have expanded in recent years as the region looks for diversity in economic ties, exacerbating U.S. concerns of Chinese involvement in sensitive Gulf infrastructure.

Chinese and Saudi firms also signed 34 deals for investment in green energy, information technology, cloud services, transport, construction and other sector. While no official figures were given, the initial agreements are considered worth $30 billion.

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