Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Arrives in China, Signs Deals Worth $65 Billion
Saudi Arabia's King Salman was given a grand welcome by China's President Xi Jinping on Thursday to mark the beginning of the monarch's three-day visit to the Asian country. The high-profile visit is likely to be yet another game changer in Saudi-China relationship after Xi made a historic visit to the Middle Eastern kingdom last year.
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The 81 years old Monarch arrived in Beijing on Wednesday with a huge entourage of 1,000 officials, after concluding his visit to Japan, Malaysia, and Indonesia as a part of his month-long Asia tour. King Salman's visit to these countries is mostly motivated by economic factor as all these countries are among the fastest growing importers of Saudi oil.
Xi welcomed the monarch and his entourage at the historic Great Hall of the People with a message that the king's maiden visit showed the importance he attaches to relations with mainland China.
"This visit will push forward and continue to improve the quality of our relations and bear new fruit," Xi told reporters.
Meanwhile, China and Saudi Arabia set the ball rolling on the very first day of King Salman's visit as both countries signed several agreements and MOU worth nearly $65 billion. The agreements cover many important sectors from energy to space.
The announcement was made by China's deputy foreign minister Zhang Ming, who was present at the Great Hall of the People during Xi and King Salman's meeting. However, Zhang declined to provide any further details of the agreements.
Economically, the energy-rich China offers mammoth potential revenue to the Middle East Kingdom, which is officially the world's largest exporter of oil. But it faces fierce competition from Russia, which has been one of the largest oil exporters to its neighboring communist country. According to official data, Russia was the largest exporter of oil to Beijing last year.
However, the oil-rich Saudi Arabia is expected to go an extra mile to win over the lucrative Chinese market. It has even invited Chinese oil companies to invest in its oil behemoth Saudi Aramco, which is widely considered as the world's most valuable company.
China's Paradigm Shift in Middle East Foreign Policy
Although China is one of the five permanent members of the United Nations, it has rarely been proactively involved in the affairs of the Middle Eastern region, which is a politically volatile.
However, last year the Asian giant decided to revamp its highly passive Middle Eastern policy. The first step in this direction was taken in January last year as Xi embarked on a historic Middle Eastern tour, with Saudi Arabia being one of his stops.
In the previous year, China also made a bold decision of taking an active interest in Syrian civil war by providing economic and medical aid to Bashar al-Assad's government. However, the Asian giant has refused to militarily intervene in the civil war.