Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran next week, embarking on his first tour to the volatile Middle East since he took command of the world’s second biggest economy in 2013.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry announced today that Xi will be visiting the three countries from January 19-23, on the invitations of the heads of the three countries.
Xi’s visit comes at a sensitive time when Saudi Arabia and Iran are locked in a sectarian strife amid falling oil prices creating a disturbing situation in the Middle East.
As one of the major oil importers China wants to increase its diplomatic heft in the oil-rich region.
Xi is also the General Secretary of the ruling-Communist Party of China and heads the powerful People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
Ahead of Xi’s visit, China issued a policy paper on Arab countries expressing its willing to coordinate development strategies with Arab states and put into play each other’s advantages and potentials.
“We encourage and support the expansion and optimisation of mutual investment by enterprises from the two sides,” the paper said, adding, that China is ready to continue to provide foreign-aid loan on favourable terms to Arab countries, as well as export credits and overseas investment insurance.”
The paper said, Arab countries as a whole have become China’s biggest supplier of crude oil and the 7th biggest trading partner.
China’s proposed initiatives of jointly building the “Silk Road Economic Belt” and the “21st Century Maritime Silk Road”, establishing a “1+2+3” cooperation pattern and industrial capacity cooperation, are well received by Arab countries.
The “1+2+3” cooperation pattern refers to taking energy cooperation as the core, infrastructure construction and trade and investment facilitation as the two wings, and three high and new tech fields of nuclear energy, space satellite and new energy as the three breakthroughs.