The visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Saudi Arabia, which began on December 7, 2022 and is schduled to end today (December 9), attracted attention and sparked debate all over the world, especially against the backdrop of the rivalry between China and the U.S. The Saudi press repeatedly stressed the strategic importance of the visit, which is to include three summit meetings: with the Saudis, with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and with Arab states, the last of which is reportedly to be attended by over 30 leaders and officials.
The Chinese president was given a grand reception at the royal palace in Al-Riyadh, where he met with King Salman Bin 'Abd Al-'Aziz and with his son, Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman. At the meeting the parties discussed enhancing the ties and the cooperation between the countries in many areas and signed a "comprehensive strategic partnership agreement", a plan to "harmonize" Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 and China's Belt and Road Initiative, a MoU on teaching Chinese in Saudi schools, and other agreements and MoUs on energy and other issues worth billions of dollars. It was also reported that the sides agreed to hold a summit every two years. Crown Prince Bin Salman expressed firm support for China's position on Taiwan, saying in the meeting with President Xi that "Saudi Arabia is fully committed to the one-China principle and supports China's right to defend its sovereignty and security and safeguard its territory, and [also supports] the measures taken by China to uproot extremism." He added that "Saudi Arabia opposes external interference in China's internal affairs with the excuse of defending human rights."
On the face of it, Saudi Arabia's motivations for increasing its cooperation with China are economic. As part of Vision 2030, the kingdom seeks to decrease its reliance on oil and attract foreign investments so as to develop the local economy and diversify its sources of income. At the same time, hosting the Chinese President is also clearly meant to convey a political message to the U.S., in light of the rivalry between the U.S. and China and the tension between Saudi Arabia and the U.S., which intensified recently following the kingdom's refusal to meet America's demand to increase oil production. The warm welcome given to the Chinese president is especially conspicuous in comparison to the cool reception that U.S. President Biden received when he visited the kingdom in July. It seems that Saudi Arabia in Bin Salman's era seeks to diversify its alliances and to position itself as a regional power that refuses to succumb to American dictates which do not correspond to its interests. The visit of the Chinese president signals to the U.S. that Saudi Arabia is adapting itself to the changing the world order. i.e., to the shift from a unipolar world led by the U.S. to a multipolar world in which there are other superpowers, such as Russia and China.
Similar messages were conveyed in articles in the Saudi press. Most of the articles stressed that China is a rising power and a strategic trade partner of Saudi Arabia, while also highlighting that the ties with China do not come instead of, or at the expense of, the kingdom's relations with the U.S. However, some senior journalists and commentators took a more critical tone towards the U.S., stating that, unlike the U.S., which "zigzags" in its foreign relations with the Arabs, China is a partner that can be relied on for many years, and does not pose demands to the Arabs or interfere in their internal affairs. They also emphasized that Saudi policy is based exclusively on the kingdom's interests, and does not seek to strengthen one country at the expense of another.
Saudi King Salman with Chinese President Xi Jinping (image: Alarbiya.net, December 8, 2022)
The following are translated excerpts from some of the Saudi press articles published on the occasion of the Chinese president's visit.
Senior Saudi Journalist 'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed: This Is Not A Betrayal Of America; Saudi Arabia's Partnering With China Is Motivated By Economic Considerations
Senior Saudi journalist 'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed wrote in a December 7 column titled "The Chinese Are Coming" in the Al-Sharq Al-Awsat daily : "Much will be said after the visit of the Chinese president to Saudi Arabia and after the three summits Saudi Arabia will host in his honor. [The visit] will be presented as a betrayal of the relations with Washington and as going over to the rival camp. [But] we do not feel that the relations with Beijing are at Washington's expense. This is not a political plan or a military pact. The economic motivations [for the ties with China] are clear, and the bilateral relations benefit both sides. Beijing has a stable regime, whose positions can be foreseen and relied upon for years. Washington, on the other hand, zigzags in its relations with the world, due to the severe disagreements within it over its foreign policy. Beijing does not burden its partners with political demands and expectations, nor does it interfere in their affairs. Washington differentiates itself from China by means of its massive military power in the region, while China wants to trade with the Saudis and Iranians without promising to defend markets or [shipping] routes, at least for now – and that [lack of commitment to security] is a heavy burden on the countries of the region…
"Saudi Arabia is surely not [taking this step] in order to form [new ] alliances or involve itself in international conflicts. Having adopted its Vision 2030 growth plan, Saudi Arabia [merely] wants to remain open to global markets and to many partnerships."
China overtakes America in the race for influence in "the Muddle East" (Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, London, December 12, 2022)
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Editor Of Saudi Daily: China Is A Rising Power; It Is Important To Form Ties With It
Khalid Bin Hamad Al-Malik, editor of the Al-Jazirah daily, wrote: "We are interested in diversifying and expanding the array of diplomatic ties between the kingdom, the Gulf countries and the Islamic countries on one hand and China on the other. The hosting of summits such as these underscores the important long-term dimensions of the wise policy of the kingdom's leadership, [which is working] to form international ties between our countries and China as part of diversifying our relations and seeking partnerships that benefit everyone.
"True, the kingdom has strategic, historic and diplomatic ties with the U.S. going back more than 80 years, and they still continue. But China is gaining economic, military and political strength to an extent that makes it a superpower, so our countries should have harmonious relations with this rising power, without detracting from our relations with America or any other country.
"China is known to be genuinely and sincerely interested in forming comprehensive ties with the kingdom and with the Gulf states and the Arab and Muslim countries, and all these countries share this desire… The kingdom and these countries are entitled to seek new ways to expand their export and import and reach security, political and economic understandings with powers such as China, so as to promote the welfare of each state and its citizens and benefit all the countries involved in this cooperation…"
"The Saudi-Chinese Summit" (Al-Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, December 8, 2022)
Al-Riyadh Editorial: Saudi Arabia A Strategic Partner Of China
A December 8 editorial in the daily Al-Riyadh, by Hani Wafa, stated: "The relations between Saudi Arabia and China have advanced considerably in the last few years, in all areas. The kingdom is a strategic partner of China, and its Vision 2030 corresponds to China's Belt and Road Initiative, which means that growth and mutual interests form the basis for ties rooted in mutual respect for the differences [between the sides]. This will allow the bilateral relations to develop at an accelerated pace, since they are based on shared goals and strong foundations [characterized by] action in the present for the sake of the future…
"The [three] summits are taking place in complicated and delicate international circumstances, which must be navigated rationally and with mutual understanding, so as to avoid falling into the maze of conflicting international interests. The summits will lay the foundation for the next stage of productive strategic cooperation rooted in shared interests and identical approaches."
Saudi Journalist: The World Is Governed By Interests; Saudi Policy Is Not Guided By Rivalry Between Axes And Does Not Seek To Strengthen One At The Expense Of The Other
Saudi journalist and commentator Salman Al-Dossary wrote in a December 8 article in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, which also appeared in the daily's English-language edition:
" The Saudi-Chinese relationship is developing strongly in every respect. Both countries are active in the Group of Twenty, which includes the largest and strongest economies of the world. Beijing is the largest importer of Saudi oil, accounting for around a quarter of all Saudi oil exports. The two countries also share a similar economic vision (Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 and China’s Belt and Road Initiative). The two countries are also working, through a high-level joint committee, to increase political and security coordination and strengthen collaboration in investment, energy, culture, and technology.
"To these efforts, we can add over 20 preliminary agreements worth over 110 billion Riyals signed on the margins of the Saudi Chinese Summit, with a strategic partnership agreement between the two countries to integrate Vision 2030 and the Belt and Road Initiative. All of these steps inaugurate a new, important phase of this strong strategic alliance.
"Today’s world is governed by interests. What we know for sure is that Saudi policy is not drafted in reaction to the battle of axes or polarization, nor is it made to strengthen one alliance at the expense of another. However, because of its position at the heart of the Arab and Islamic worlds, as well as its economic weight in the region and the world, Saudi Arabia is fated to be a center for building bridges of cooperation with both East and West. Just as it had contributed to opening a new page and correcting the relationship between the US and the countries of the Islamic world at a time when relations between them were at their lowest point, Saudi Arabia is now doing the same for China and the Arab world…"
 The Belt and Road Initiative is a strategic development plan announced by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, and incorporated into the constitution of China in 2017. Its whose objective is to create a geographic connection, by land and by sea, between China and the other countries, especially in Eurasia, in order to streamline the transfer of goods from China to the rest of the world. As part of this initiative, China invests large sums of money in projects outside of the country, which boosts its influence in various countries and on the global economy.
 Alarabiya.net, December 8, 2022.
 Raialyoum.com, December 8, 2022.
 Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London ), December 7, 2022.
 Al-Jazirah (Saudi Arabia), December 7, 2022.
 Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), December 8, 2022.
 English.aawsat.com, December 8, 2022.