King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will partake in a “Saudi-Chinese summit” from Dec. 7-9 that will feature discussions about the “prospects for economic and development cooperation,” according to the Saudi Press Agency. Both sides have shared limited details of the meeting.
An ally of the U.S., relations between Washington and Riyadh have grown icy over recent months. In October, just before the U.S. midterm elections, the Saudi-led OPEC+ bloc announced plans to slash oil output by two million barrels a day to “stabilize” prices, drawing ire from the Biden administration.
White House officials responded by revealing that President Joe Biden was “reevaluating” the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia.
Riyadh, meanwhile, has been vexed over U.S. overtures to Iran and criticisms over the brutal 2018 slaying of Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi — something for which the crown prince vehemently denies culpability despite the U.S. intelligence community suggesting otherwise.
China, which has been at odds with the U.S. over a plethora of issues, has sought to make inroads in the Middle East and has been less vocal about human rights concerns in the oil-rich Kingdom. Over the summer, Biden vowed that the U.S. wouldn’t leave a “vacuum” in the region to be filled by China, Russia, or Iran.
Beijing has been rumored to embark on a presidential visit to Riyadh for months. The meeting comes as the economic powerhouse grapples with sprawling protests at home over the stringent zero-COVID policy exacerbated by the recent fire that killed 10 amid sealed-in apartment doors due to quarantine policies in the western city of Urumqi, Xinjiang.
Xi has hinted at easing the stringent policy.
Unlike the U.S., both China and Saudi Arabia have charted out a less aggressive approach to Russia amid the war in Ukraine, refraining from sanctions and overt condemnations.
China is one of Saudi Arabia’s top crude consumers.