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China signed ‘$50bn of deals’ with Gulf nations in three days

Saudi Press Agency/Reuters
President Xi Jinping and Arab leaders at the Arab-China summit in Riyadh on December 9
  • President Xi Jinping attended the first Arab-China summit in Riyadh
  • $50bn figure cited by Saudi Arabia’s investment minister
  • Deals cover green energy, IT, cloud services, housing and more

China signed investment deals worth an estimated $50 billion with Gulf nations during President Xi Jinping’s three-day visit to Saudi Arabia last week.

The $50 billion figure was reported by Bloomberg, citing the Saudi investment minister Khalid Bin Abdulaziz Al Falih, but details of the agreements struck during the first Arab-China summit have not been released.

The deals are understood to cover the private and public sectors in the fields of green energy, green hydrogen, photovoltaic energy, information technology, cloud services, transportation, logistics, medical industries, housing and construction.

On just the first day of Xi’s visit, Saudi and Chinese companies signed 34 investment agreements. These included a memorandum of understanding between Saudi Aramco and Shandong Energy Group, to explore collaboration on integrated refining and petrochemical opportunities in China.

Saudi Arabia also agreed a memorandum of understanding with Huawei on cloud computing and building high-tech complexes in cities across the kingdom.

These agreements have bolstered trade between China and Saudi, which last year exceeded Riyadh’s trade with the US and Europe combined for the first time.

Beijing-Riyadh trade totalled SR304 billion ($81 billion) in 2021, while trade in the third quarter of 2022 reached SR103 billion ($27 billion).

People, Person, ManSaudi Press Agency/Reuters
Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman shakes hands with President Xi Jinping of China in Riyadh on December 9. Picture: Saudi Press Agency/Reuters

The strategic economic cooperation agreed during the summit revolved largely around memorandums of understanding, with few details of timelines or specific commitments.

It is unclear how much of the $50 billion relates to deals with Saudi Arabia and how much to agreements with other Gulf nations and Arab League members who attended talks.

GCC-China trade has doubled from approximately $90.6 billion to $180 billion between 2010 and 2021, according to the Asia House think tank. China is already the biggest trading partner for all GCC economies, except Bahrain.

Ali Al Dhaheri, the UAE’s ambassador to China, described the summit as “an important milestone in the history of relations between the two peoples”, reported the state news agency WAM.

The UAE accounts for more than 60 percent of China’s exports to the region and the Emirates is home to more than 6,000 Chinese companies.

Al Dhaheri said: “As the two countries proceed with their cooperation in various fields, such as economics, trade, science, technology, energy, agriculture and space, we believe that people from both sides will deepen their understanding and appreciation of each other’s unique heritage, culture and history.”

During his visit, Xi said Beijing would continue to import large quantities of oil from Gulf Arab countries and expand imports of liquefied natural gas, adding that their countries were natural partners who would cooperate further in oil and gas development.

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