Saudi Arabia signed a memorandum of understanding with tech giant Huawei on Thursday, during a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to the country.
The deal was part of a “comprehensive strategic partnership agreement” King Salman signed with Xi, who received a lavish welcome in a country forging new global partnerships beyond the West.
The memorandum with Huawei on cloud computing and building high-tech complexes in Saudi cities, was agreed despite US unease with Gulf allies over a possible security risk in using the Chinese firm’s technology. Huawei has participated in building 5G networks in most Gulf states despite the US concerns.
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Beijing said Xi’s visit marked its biggest diplomatic initiative in the Arab world. In an op-ed published in Saudi media, Xi said he was on a “pioneering trip” to open “a new era” of energy and tech relations with the region.
Xi is due to meet other Gulf oil producers and attend a wider gathering of Arab leaders on Friday. He said China would work to make those summits “milestone events in the history of China-Arab relations.”
Beijing sees Riyadh as “an important force in the multipolar world,” he added.
China, the world’s biggest energy consumer, is a major trade partner of Gulf states and bilateral ties have expanded as the region pushes economic diversification. The Saudi energy minister on Wednesday said Riyadh would remain a “trusted and reliable” energy partner for Beijing.
The US, meanwhile, has raised concerns about Chinese involvement in sensitive Gulf infrastructure.
- Reuters, with additional editing by Vishakha Saxena
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