US warns of Chinese influence in Mideast as Xi visits Saudi Arabia

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The White House on Wednesday responded to the visit of President Xi Jinping to Saudi Arabia by warning that China’s attempt to spread influence worldwide is “not conducive” to international order.

Asked about the Xi visit, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters that Saudi Arabia remains a crucial US ally, but he issued a warning over China.

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“We are mindful of the influence that China is trying to grow around the world. The Middle East is certainly one of those regions where they want to deepen their level of influence,” he said.

“We believe that many of the things they’re trying to pursue and the manner in which they’re trying to pursue it are not conducive to preserving the international rules-based order.”

President Joe Biden has made what he identifies as a global competition between democracies and autocracies a central theme of his presidency.

“We are not asking nations to choose between the United States and China, but as the president has said many times we believe that in this strategic competition the United States is certainly well poised to lead,” Kirby said.

Washington has close commercial, diplomatic and military relations with Saudi Arabia, an Islamic, absolute monarchy.

New tensions erupted over a decision by the Saudi-led OPEC+ cartel to cut production in a bid to raise oil prices -- a move claimed by the Biden administration as potentially harming his Democratic party in this November’s midterm legislative elections.

Kirby said Saudi Arabia had been a strategic US partner for some 80 years but noted that Biden has ordered a review of the ties.

“Yes in the wake of the OPEC+ decision a couple months ago we are reviewing that bilateral relationship and make sure that it best suits American national security interests. That work’s ongoing,” Kirby said.

Read more: Pentagon: China ‘significantly’ increased efforts to engage with Middle East in 2021

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