(Photo credit: SPA)
Chinese President Xi Jinping left Saudi Arabia early on 10 October following a three-day visit that saw him attend three different summits with leaders from across West Asia and Africa.
On Friday night, Xi headed the first China-Arab States Summit, which saw a large majority of Arab League heads of state attend in a bid to strengthen bilateral ties with the Asian giant.
“As strategic partners, China and Arab states should … foster a closer China-Arab community with a shared future, so as to deliver greater benefits to their peoples and advance the cause of human progress,” the Chinese president said during his keynote speech.
Xi also called on Arab states to remain “independent and defend their common interests,” adding that China “supports Arab states in independently exploring development paths suited to their national conditions and holding their future firmly in their own hands.”
“China is ready to deepen strategic mutual trust with Arab states, and firmly support each other in safeguarding sovereignty, territorial integrity and national dignity,” Xi said, noting that the two sides should “jointly uphold the principle of non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs, practice true multilateralism, and defend the legitimate rights and interests of developing countries.”
The Chinese leader also urged leaders from West Asia and Africa to embrace “synergy between their development strategies, and promote high-quality [cooperation in the Belt and Road Initiative].”
Launched nine years ago, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is considered the crown jewel of Xi’s long-term foreign policy agenda. The stated aim of the mega-infrastructure project is to bring capital and infrastructure to Global South countries while dramatically strengthening connectivity for commerce, finance, and culture.
The BRI also aims to secure markets for Chinese companies, stable supplies of inputs for Chinese factories, and productive outlets for China’s large foreign exchange holdings. Close to 150 nations across the globe have signed on to participate in the BRI.
For the first half of 2022, Saudi Arabia was the biggest recipient of China’s finance and investment spending in the BRI.
Ahead of the China-Arab Summit on Friday, the Chinese president met with leaders from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). During this summit, he urged the oil and gas giants to conduct energy sales in the Chinese yuan, potentially divorcing the US dollar from bilateral transactions.
He also vowed to import more oil and natural gas from Gulf Arab states while not interfering in their affairs, a departure from Washington’s long-standing policy of interference and domination.
Xi later took the opportunity to express China’s support for the end of the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and voiced frustration over the “historical injustice” suffered by Palestinians.
“It is not possible to continue the historical injustice suffered by the Palestinians,” the Chinese president said on Friday.
He went on to call on the international community to grant Palestine “full membership in the United Nations” and said Beijing “supports the two-state solution and the establishment of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.”
Beijing’s emergence as a major superpower since the turn of the century has proven to be critically important for Arab states, prompting them to diversify their strategic objectives and balance themselves away from a decades-long Western dependency.