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.
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