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Saudi Arabia prepares a grand welcome for Xi’s visit

Posted August. 15, 2022 07:27,   

Updated August. 15, 2022 07:27


The Guardian reported on Thursday that plans are under way in Saudi Arabia for a magnificent gala reception for Chinese President Xi Jin-ping’s visit to the kingdom. This is in stark contrast when U.S. President Joe Biden received a low-key reception during his visit on July 11.

The analysis has it that Saudi Arabia is trying to strengthen ties with China, which could strike a balance from outside in the Middle East region in lieu of the U.S. as the bilateral relationship is not as tender as before since the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi. China also wishes to hold the U.S. in check by building good relations with Saudi Arabia, a representative pro-U.S. country in the Middle East and widen its influence over the region.

Xi is scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia sometime next week, according to the Guardian. It is his first overseas visit since January 2020. The Chinese president has refrained from going abroad for reasons including Covid-19 risks, internal management, and control ahead of serving third consecutive terms.

The Guardian mentioned that all Saudi Arabia is in a festive mood to welcome the Chinese president. Thousands of Chinese national flags hang in the capital city of Riyadh, the second largest city Jeddah, and the planned megacity of Neom where circa 1,300 trillion won worth of future city project is planned. The Guardian commented that Xi’s visit is likely to be the most significant to the kingdom since former U.S. President Donald Trump’s arrival in May 2017.

Until recently, China made no comments about Saudi Arabia’s dictatorship and human rights suppression. In 2018, when Jamal Khashoggi was murdered, the U.S. criticized the Saudi royal family as being behind the killing and ran into a conflict whereas China made no public comments. The Guardian commented that China has increasingly stepped into a regional vacuum created by waning the U.S. relationship with the Middle East and emerged as the biggest trade partner for Saudi Arabia.

Eun-Taek Lee nabi@donga.com