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Xi Asserts China's Middle East Role as Iran Sanctions Lifted

  • President visits Riyadh, Cairo and Tehran amid regonial strife
  • Looks to expand Persian Gulf clout as U.S. influence wanes
Xi Jinping.

Xi Jinping.

Photographer: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
Updated on

President Xi Jinping will wade into the feud between Iran and Saudi Arabia on Tuesday as he begins a Middle East tour that shows a new willingness by China to flex its diplomatic clout in one of the world’s most volatile regions.

Xi’s five-day swing through Riyadh, Cairo and Tehran represents the president’s first foray into the Middle East since taking power three years ago and marks 60 years of relations between Beijing and the Arab League. He’s also seeking to protect Chinese influence that accumulated in Iran during the country’s long isolation, with Xi becoming the first major world leader to visit since the U.S. and European Union lifted sanctions Saturday and cleared the way for its reemergence in the global economy.