On the first full day of his visit wherein he was lavishly greeted and given full red-carpet treatment after arrival in the kingdom (clearly more so that Biden's summer trip to Jeddah), Chinese President Xi Jinping met with King Salman and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Thursday, and wide-ranging economic and tech trade agreements were signed to the tune of tens of billions of dollars, along with pledges to expand military cooperation.
Among the commercial deals made, one name that featured prominently is sure to raise eyebrows in Washington, given the blanket ban and years-long controversy in the states: Huawei. Among the over $29 billion in agreements signed, The Wall Street Journal reports the Saudis are "setting up a Huawei cloud-computing region, building an electric-vehicle manufacturing plant in Saudi Arabia and supplying green hydrogen batteries for a futuristic smart city the prince wants to build."
Little in the way of official statements fully detailing the process of the discussions and joint agreements have been issued as talks with Xi and his top aides have occurred entirely behind closed palace doors.
The WSJ continues, "Missing from the leaders’ public statements was any mention of the more controversial aspects of a relationship that have raised the hackles of U.S. officials—such as advanced military sales, expansion of 5G and 6G telecommunications networks and pricing some Saudi oil sales in yuan, which accelerated this year."
Among other areas of cooperation include urban development, housing construction, high tech complexes, as well as health, environmental, and energy-saving building projects, all related to the Saudi Vision 2030 and Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative.
Concerning the latter area, the WSJ details that "One of the agreements involves a top Saudi renewable energy company, Acwa Power, and the Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd.—China’s largest commercial bank, which is a direct participant in CIPS, the Chinese version of SWIFT—hinting at deepening financial cooperation between the countries."
🇸🇦🤝🇨🇳The royal family of Saudi Arabia personally came to meet President Xi Jinping at the airport. pic.twitter.com/I8dOLHbkl4— AZ 🛰🌏🌍🌎 (@AZgeopolitics) December 7, 2022
It goes without saying that the China-Saudi summit is being held against the backdrop of strained Saudi relations with Washington, also as Saudi officials likely increasingly see America as a superpower in decline. This theme has also been on display with apparent cozier coordination with Russia's Vladimir Putin, despite the Ukraine war, which has seen MbS firmly rebuff Biden's pleas to produce more oil.
Meanwhile, there's been a lot of media commentary in the West over just how "lavish" Xi's reception in the kingdom has been, and for good reason. The below greeting included much more than a fist bump...
HRH Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia 🇸🇦, Mohammed Bin Salman Al-Saud, welcomes the President of China 🇨🇳 , HE Xi Jinping, to the Arab world. 🤝— Ebrahim Hashem 李思瑞 إبراهيم هاشم (@EbrahimHashem) December 8, 2022