Page last updated at 14:52 GMT, Tuesday, 10 February 2009

China seeks to bolster Saudi ties

By Shirong Chen
BBC News

Chinese President Hu Jintao (file photo)
Mr Hu will witness the signing of trade and energy co-operation deals

Chinese President Hu Jintao has arrived in Saudi Arabia at the start of his overseas tour, with energy at the top of the agenda.

China's economic growth has pushed up its demand for oil and raised the importance of the relationship between the two countries.

The oil-rich kingdom is China's largest energy supplier, supplying more than 36 million tonnes of oil last year.

Talks are also likely to focus on new markets for Chinese goods and workers.

Bilateral trade worth about $42bn (28.5bn) is dominated by oil and oil products.

Overseas influence

In addition to holding talks with the Saudi monarch, King Abdullah, Mr Hu is expected to witness the signing of several agreements on trade and energy co-operation between the Chinese oil giant Sinopec and the Saudi state oil company Aramco.

At a time of growing job pressure at home, he is also looking to secure Chinese involvement in a number of Saudi infrastructure development projects.

There are already 16,000 Chinese workers in the kingdom and further penetration into the labour market would help reduce China's domestic unemployment problem.

China is seeking to expand its influence in the Gulf by nurturing strategic ties with Saudi Arabia, a traditional ally of the United States.

In addition, Mr Hu will also meet the secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council to discuss trade liberalisation measures and ways of combating the global economic downturn.

From Saudi Arabia, Mr Hu will continue his trip to Mali, Senegal, Tanzania and Mauritius. It will be his fourth visit to Africa since he became president in 2003.

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