• international relations

Global Times: Xi’s Saudi trip to open up new prospects for China-Arab ties

PRNewswire December 9, 2022

BEIJING, Dec. 8, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — China’s intensive head-of-state diplomacy is set to continue in December, and this time, the focus of attention is Saudi Arabia and the broader Arab world.

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived here Wednesday afternoon to attend the first China-Arab States Summit and the China-Gulf Cooperation Council summit, and pay a state visit to Saudi Arabia at the invitation of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia.

The visit is a historic undertaking as both the China-Arab States Summit and the China-GCC Summit are convened for the first time, reflecting a new milestone in relations between China and Arab states.

Xi’s visit will be the largest and highest-level diplomatic event between China and the Arab world since the founding of the People’s Republic of China. It will be an epoch-making milestone in the history of China-Arab relations, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said at Wednesday’s routine press briefing.

Affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and shockwaves across global energy markets caused by the RussiaUkraine conflict, the international community faces great uncertainty in terms of economic recovery and national development. The move, which is seen by some observers as Arab countries collectively “looking East” marks a significant diplomatic and strategic adjustment for countries in the Middle East. The landmark summits, which are the first of their kind in contemporary Chinese-Arab history, represent a diplomatic pioneering step by China in the Middle East that will help stabilize the region and promote disputes resolving through dialogues, experts stated. 

CNN reported that at least 14 Arab leaders will attend the China-Arab States Summit and according to Saudi Press Agency, more than 20 initial agreements worth $29.26 billion will be signed during Xi’s visit to Saudi Arabia.

Enthusiasm for cooperation 

The anticipation for Xi’s visit is palpable in Saudi Arabia and the broader Arab world. “The Arab world views China as a loyal friend and effective proponent,” Yahya Mahmoud bin Junaid, chairman of the Riyadh-based Center for Research and Knowledge Communication told the Global Times, noting he expects Xi’s presence in Saudi Arabia and his participation in the China-Arab States Summit and the China-GCC Summit to be “a stepping stone to closer collaboration in order to boost international peace, establish equal relations between countries, based on mutual respect, non-interference in the internal affairs of any country, and enhance cultural existence.”

In recent years, the Arab countries have been actively diversifying their strategic partners to serve economic and security interests, and China’s rise has offered them with new opportunities for strategic partnerships in many areas. Regional observers increasingly believe that China can add positive impetus and balance to regional stability and security.

Nadia Helmy, an expert on Chinese political affairs and professor of political science of Beni Suef University, Egypt, told the Global Times that there are considerable prospects for joint Arab-Chinese cooperation that can be discussed during the upcoming summits, adding that she believes the summits are primarily aimed at discussing ways to promote common development and integrate strategies within the framework of the Global Development Initiative and the Belt and Road Initiative.

Helmy also emphasized the importance of the efforts made by Chinese diplomacy to support Arab issues and identify peaceful solutions to existing crises in the region, and the Arab states are keen to strengthen their relations with China in various fields, which will help establish a new era for Arab-Chinese relations and contribute to creating a multipolar world.

The summits are set to be productive platforms for discussion, Chinese ambassador to Saudi Arabia Chen Weiqing told the Global Times that “China will discuss with Arab and GCC countries to jointly formulate overall future development goals and long-term cooperation plans in various fields, and publish a series of important outcome documents and join hands to build a China-Arab community with a shared future for the new era”.

Deepening China-Saudi ties

In January 2016, President Xi visited Saudi Arabia, during which the two sides agreed to elevate the bilateral relations into a comprehensive strategic partnership. Since then, ChinaSaudi Arabia ties have entered fast lane of full development.

“The relationship between China and Saudi Arabia is a vital strategic one that stems from mutual respect, non-interference in internal affairs, and mutual visits between the leaders of the two countries,” said Junaid. He added that Xi’s visit implies the depth of the desire to strengthen relations between China and the Kingdom and is expected to yield many benefits in the political, economic, scientific, and cultural spheres.

A Saudi Arabian educator at King Saud University who requested to remain anonymous said that Xi’s visit will be “a beautiful and festive moment.” He told the Global Times that he would “pray for the enjoyable trip for the great president and the great friend,” and is looking forward the two countries to plan and strengthen the relationship that is based on non-interference in each other’s affairs and mutual respect for the international order. 

Experts believe Saudi Arabia’s proactive attitude toward enhancing cooperation with China reflects a new paradigm of “looking East” in its foreign policy and the strategic direction of placing higher priority on China.

ChinaSaudi Arabia relations could become a template for other Arab countries, Meshari Abahusain, a Saudi Arabian who is working as investment director of Saudi Silk Road Industrial Services Limited Liability Company, a Chinese-Saudi joint venture which provides investment services in Saudi Arabia, told the Global Times. He believes as bilateral relations become increasingly mature, all parties and other countries in the Middle East will both benefit and follow.

SOURCE Global Times

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