Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrived in China on Thursday on the latest stop of a sweep through Asia that aims to expand the kingdom’s influence on the continent.
Prince Mohammed touched down in the morning following earlier visits to India and Pakistan.
He’s due to meet officials including the Chinese president and ruling Communist Party leader, Xi Jinping, on Friday, highlighting Saudi Arabia’s importance as one of China’s top oil suppliers and a market for its exports, including military drones.
Prince Mohammed’s visit to Beijing follows one earlier this week by a high-powered delegation from Saudi Arabia’s chief strategic rival Iran. At a meeting Wednesday, Xi told Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani that “China’s resolve to develop a comprehensive strategic partnership with Iran will remain unchanged,” regardless of the evolving international situation, according to China’s official Xinhua News Agency.
The trip comes five months after the crown prince came under intense pressure following the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
At the same time, China is facing growing international criticism over its treatment of its Muslim minority groups. Thus far, Turkey has been the only majority Muslim country to criticize Beijing, with its Foreign Ministry this month calling treatment of minority Uighurs “a great cause of shame for humanity” and saying it is “no longer a secret” that China has arbitrarily detained more than a million Uighurs in “concentration camps.”
Prince Mohammed is due to visit South Korea after Beijing.