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China’s Xi Jinping to visit Saudi Arabia for regional summits

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — The Chinese leader will travel to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday for a series of summits bringing together heads of state from across the Middle East, a region where longtime U.S. allies are growing closer to China .

Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit the kingdom for three days and attend the Saudi-China, Gulf-China and Arab-China summits, the Saudi state news agency reported on Tuesday. More than 30 heads of state and heads of international organizations plan to attend, according to the report, adding that Saudi Arabia and China were to sign a “strategic partnership”.

Xi’s visit to Saudi Arabia aims to deepen China’s decades-old ties with the Gulf region, which began narrowly as a bid to secure oil, and have since blossomed into a complex relationship involving arms sales, technology transfers and infrastructure projects.

The Chinese leader is expected to sign a series of contracts with the Saudi government and other Gulf states, sending the message that Beijing’s influence in the region is growing at a time when Washington has moved away from the Middle East to devote more attention to Asia.

The grand state visit will inevitably draw comparisons with Donald J. Trump’s arrival in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, on his first foreign trip as president in 2017. He was greeted by streets adorned with American flags and a huge image of his face projected onto the side of a building.

Saudi Arabia has been a close US ally for more than half a century. But its authoritarian rulers have long sought to deepen other alliances to prepare for an emerging multipolar world.

US-Saudi relations have been particularly fractured in recent years, with President Biden’s administration declaring a “recalibration” of the relationship and pressing the kingdom against human rights abuses, including the 2018 killing of the Saudi columnist. Washington Post Jamal Khashoggi – a Saudi citizen and US resident at the time – by Saudi agents in Istanbul.

“Xi clearly wants to make a statement at a time when relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia are strained,” said James Dorsey, senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

“It’s a good time to replant the flag, if you wish. And I think it’s a good time for the Gulf States to say, “Hey, we have other options.” Washington, you’re not the only ones out there.

This is a developing story. Please check for updates.

Viviane Nereim reported from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and David Pierson from Singapore.

nytimes Gt

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