Saudi Arabia plans to host a China-Arab summit on Dec. 9 to be attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visit to the kingdom, three Arab diplomats from the region familiar with the plans said on Wednesday.
Xi is due to arrive in Riyadh on December 7, said two of the diplomats and a fourth source with direct knowledge of the visit, on a trip that comes at a sensitive time for Saudi Arabia. relations that have been strained by a dispute over energy supplies and concerns over China’s growing influence in the Middle East
Invitations have been sent to Middle Eastern and North African leaders for the China-Arab meeting, the diplomats said.
The Saudi government’s communications office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Xi’s visit or the summit’s timing. China’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a question about Xi’s trip.
The Chinese delegation is expected to sign dozens of agreements and memorandums of understanding with Gulf countries and other Arab states covering energy, security and investment, the diplomats said without giving further details.
Earlier this month, Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs Adel Al-Jubeir told Reuters that strengthening trade ties and regional security would be priorities in the visit, which is also expected to include a China-Gulf summit alongside the wider Arab gathering.
Xi’s trip comes amid Washington’s strained relations with Beijing and Riyadh over differences over human rights and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Western countries face growing economic competition from China, which they say is using its economic power as diplomatic leverage.
In recent years, the Gulf Arab states have strengthened their ties with China and Russia during growing regional doubts about the engagement of a key security partner, the United States, in the region.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have resisted US pressure to “pick sides” over their relations with China, a major trading partner, and Russia, another member of the oil-producing alliance OPEC+.
US President Joe Biden’s administration was angered by OPEC+’s decision in October to cut production targets over US objections, further unravelling longstanding ties with Saudi Arabia that Biden had tried to make amends during a thorny visit to the kingdom in July.