November 27, 2022, 14:09

After Snubbing Biden, Saudi Arabia Reportedly Preparing to Welcome Xi

After Snubbing Biden, Saudi Arabia Reportedly Preparing to Welcome Xi

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Fantine GardinierAll materialsThe burgeoning Sino-Saudi relationship could get a little more shored up later this year as the Chinese leader is expected to travel to Riyadh for talks.Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to visit Saudi Arabia before the end of 2022, according to US media.

Sino-Saudi trade has steadily increased since they established relations in 1990, with China buying up 27% of Saudi oil exports last year. At the end of 2021, annual bilateral trade amounted to $87.31 billion. Between January and August 2022, Saudi Aramco delivered an average of 1.76 million barrels per day of petroleum to China.

Riyadh has long supported China’s positions on key issues, including its sovereignty over Taiwan and its deradicalization policies in Xinjiang. Speaking at a meeting with Foreign Minister Faisal Bin Farhan Al Saud of Saudi Arabia last month, Chinese Foreign Minister and State Councilor Wang Yi told reporters that Beijing “attaches great importance to developing relations with Saudi Arabia, taking Saudi Arabia as a priority in its overall diplomacy, its Middle East diplomacy in particular.”“China also appreciates Saudi Arabia’s pursuit of an independent energy policy and its active efforts to maintain stability in the international energy market,” Wang said, adding that “China supports Saudi Arabia in playing a greater role in international and regional affairs, and stands ready to strengthen communication and coordination with Saudi Arabia on hot-spot issues in the Middle East, so as to jointly uphold regional peace and stability.”Those goals broadly reflect the results of a summit between China and the Gulf Cooperation Council in September, which particularly concerned grain access for the Arab nations threatened by the loss of Ukrainian exports in particular. Those shipments have since partly resumed, although they paused recently when Kiev forces used the safety corridor established for grain shipments to mount a drone attack on the Russian city of Sevastopol.

Xi’s prospective trip would come after his visit to Bali, Indonesia, for the Group of 20 summit next week – one of his first trips abroad since the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020. He is also expected to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Bangkok, Thailand, immediately after, and to meet face-to-face with Biden at one of the two events.

Jonathan Fulton, an assistant professor of political science at Abu Dhabi-based Zayed University and an expert in China-Gulf state relations, told a US media outlet that the Saudis weren’t trying to play Washington and Beijing against each other, but reacting to Washington’s “binary” foreign policy in which a nation is either on America’s side or on the Chinese-Russian side.

The Saudis “aren’t trying to play one off the other so much as really trying to deepen what they’re getting out of both sides,” he said. “The US has this binary right now, where it’s strategic competition: work with us or work with China. But most actors in the Gulf don’t seem to see it that way.”

Although it has been a staunch ally since the end of World War II, Washington’s relationship with Riyadh has begun to wane since US President Joe Biden took office in January 2021. A strong critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, Biden moved to restrict the sale of offensive weapons to the kingdom and published CIA documents accusing him of being behind the 2018 assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, a dissident Turkish-Saudi journalist connected to the Muslim Brotherhood*. Riyadh has vehemently denied the accusations.

Especially since Biden announced a boycott of Russian energy products in March 2022, the Saudis have refused to cooperate with US requests to increase petroleum production and bring down oil prices. Recently, when the OPEC petroleum cartel announced it would cut production instead of expanding it, the White House described the decision as “short-sighted” and “misguided” and that it might begin withdrawing some US forces from the kingdom, stationed there as a defense against Iran and the Yemeni Houthis.

A day after Biden announced the boycott and urged Riyadh to expand production, Saudi Aramco announced a new project with China’s North Huajin Chemical Industries Group Corporation and Panjin Xincheng Industrial Group to build a massive new petrochemical complex in northeastern China.*The Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist organization banned in Russia.

Sourse: sputniknews.com

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