Friday, February 3, 2023

Saudi Arabia and China sign strategic deals, Xi heralds 'new era'

Saudi Arabia and China sign strategic deals, Xi heralds 'new era'

RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia and China showcased deepening ties with a series of strategic deals on Thursday during a visit by President Xi Jinping, including one with tech giant Huawei, whose growing foray into the Gulf region has raised US security concerns.

King Salman signed a "comprehensive strategic partnership agreement" with Xi, who received a lavish welcome in a country forging new global partnerships beyond the West.

Xi's car was escorted to the king's palace by members of the Saudi Royal Guard riding Arabian horses and carrying Chinese and Saudi flags.

The Chinese leader held talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, de facto ruler of the oil giant, who greeted him with a warm smile. The two stepped into a pavilion as a military band played the countries' national anthems. Xi heralded "a new era" in Arab ties.

The display stood in stark contrast to the low-key welcome extended in July to US President Joe Biden, with whom ties have been strained by Saudi energy policy and the 2018 murder of Jamal Khashoggi that had overshadowed the awkward visit.

The United States, warily watching China's growing sway and with its ties to Riyadh at a nadir, said on Wednesday Xi's trip was an example of Chinese attempts to exert influence around the world and would not change US policy towards the Middle East.

A memorandum with China's Huawei Technologies [RIC:RIC:HWT.UL], on cloud computing and building high-tech complexes in Saudi cities, was agreed despite US concerns 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 US concerns.