Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman welcomed Chinese President Xi Jinping with a lavish reception in the capital Riyadh on Thursday, as the two countries head for a number of summits heralding an “epoch-making milestone” in China’s relations with the Arab world.
Saudi state TV showed a grand ceremony laid out for the Chinese leader, as bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler known as MBS, received him at Al-Yamamah Palace. Chinese and Saudi Arabian flags dotted the premises as members of the Saudi Royal Guard lined up with swords and played music.
The Chinese foreign ministry said Wednesday that the China-Arab States Summit “will be an epoch-making milestone in the history of China-Arab relations,” and that “President Xi’s state visit to Saudi Arabia will elevate the China-Saudi Arabia comprehensive strategic partnership to a new height.”
US President Joe Biden’s welcome is widely perceived to have been less glamorous. The American president was received in July by the governor of Mecca and the Saudi ambassador to the US in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah. Biden met MBS in Jeddah, where they exchanged a fist-bump that made global headlines and defined what ultimately became a frigid visit.
Xi is in Saudi Arabia for a multiple-day visit that comes amid frayed ties between the two countries and Washington, which harbors a number of grievances towards the two states over oil production, human rights and other issues.
While China and Saudi Arabia’s friendship has blossomed over the decades, they seem to have become closer as both find themselves in precarious positions in regard to the US.