Chinese state-run media produced a dramatic, movie-trailer-style video to announce President Xi Jinping’s arrival in Saudi Arabia.
Over theatrical orchestra music, the video shows Xi’s official state car being escorted to the Saudi king’s palace by a contingent of flag-bearing men on horseback.
The short, 41-second video was published by CGTN, a Chinese state-run English-language news channel.
The Chinese leader’s arrival in the kingdom was also marked by jets trailing colored smoke as his plane landed, a purple carpet rolled out as he disembarked, and cannon fire as Saudis greeted him, Insider reported.
Xi’s ceremonious arrival in Saudi Arabia is being compared to President Joe Biden’s more muted Saudi visit over the summer, when the U.S. president and a straight-faced Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman greeted each other with a fist-bump.
At the time, some criticized that gesture as too friendly to the kingdom’s ruler, who is widely considered to have ordered the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. But now, commentators are returning to the fist-bump’s casual nature as evidence of the kingdom’s waning respect for a longtime ally.
“The new reality is that China is rising and Asia is rising and whether the US likes it or not, we have to deal with China,” United Arab Emirates analyst and Abdulkhaleq Abdulla told CNN.
Abdulla also said, ““If America is in the mood to pursue a better relationship, then it has to be more committed. If we don’t get this then it might be time to part away from each other, gradually, slowly. The ball is in Washington’s court.”
Ali Shihabi, a Saudi analyst familiar with the Saudi leadership’s thinking, also told CNN, “Saudi is, of course, not indifferent to the U.S. which continues to be a key partner, but the Kingdom has learned the hard way that the U.S. cannot be relied on consistently for support.”
Biden’s visit is largely remembered for the fist-bump and his snubbed request for the kingdom to increase oil production. Xi’s visit, on the other hand, is launching with spectacle as the nations sign off on a series of new partnerships to deepen their ties.
Former President Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia, the overseas trip of his presidency, was marked by similar theatrics, which the New York Times described as “a pro-American extravaganza.” But Trump was cozy with the Saudis, inking a weapons deal worth hundreds of billions of dollars.
Biden made a campaign pledge to treat the kingdom as a “pariah” state. Khashoggi’s family and his advocacy group, Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), recently criticized the Biden administration for saying the Saudi crown prince should be immune from a lawsuit over Khashoggi’s death.