FirstFT: A ‘new era’ for China-Gulf relations

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Chinese president Xi Jinping announced a “new era” in Beijing’s relationship with the Gulf region as he met Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh yesterday and the two sides signed partnership deals.

In an opinion piece published in Saudi Arabia’s media, Xi wrote: “The visit will carry forward our traditional friendship, and usher in a new era in China’s relations with the Arab world, with Arab states of the Gulf and with Saudi Arabia.” Ahead of his welcome in Riyadh by the kingdom’s day-to-day ruler, Xi wrote that Saudi Arabia and China “respect each other’s sovereignty and development path [and] respect each other’s history and cultural traditions”.

The three-day visit, which will see the Chinese leader attend Arab and Gulf summits, comes at a low point in US-Saudi Arabia relations after the kingdom led Opec+ in oil production cuts, prompting warnings by Washington that it could reassess its ties with Riyadh.

Saudi Arabian and Chinese media reported that the two sides signed a strategic partnership agreement that would see the two countries’ leaders meet every two years. They also penned 34 investment deals in sectors including technology and energy.

1. Fever medication shortage in Covid-hit Beijing The Chinese capital is running out of medical supplies as it combats a rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak, health workers said, putting stress on limited resources just as authorities lift pandemic restrictions. Covid-19 clinics are quickly filling up and some hospitals have begun rationing ibuprofen and paracetamol.

2. Iran executes 23-year-old protester Iran has executed 23-year-old Mohsen Shekari, who was convicted of stabbing a security official and frightening people by blocking a street during the recent nationwide protests. The Islamic republic has arrested thousands of people since the demonstrations began in September but Shekari, who was hanged yesterday, is the first person to be executed.

3. Jack Ma quits as head of leading China business group Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma has stepped down as president of the important business group General Association of Zhejiang Entrepreneurs as the Chinese billionaire continues to shun the limelight while spending time abroad. The association is China’s most prominent networking group for founders.

4. FTC sues to block Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard The US Federal Trade Commission will sue to block Microsoft’s $75bn acquisition of video game maker Activision Blizzard over concerns the deal would harm competitors to its Xbox consoles and cloud-gaming business.

5. Russia frees US basketball star in prisoner swap US basketball star Brittney Griner was freed in a prisoner swap with Russia, a diplomatic breakthrough in Moscow’s more than nine-month war with Ukraine. Griner was released in exchange for Viktor Bout, an imprisoned Russian arms dealer who was serving a 25-year sentence in the US.

How well did you keep up with the news this week? Take our quiz.

The day ahead

China inflation figures November’s consumer price index and monthly producer price index are due out today. In October, China’s factory gate prices fell into deflationary territory for the first time since 2020. However, economists have predicted China’s loosening of its zero-Covid policies could trigger higher inflation in the months to come.

Pakistan vs England cricket match The second of three Pakistan vs England test series matches is set to start in Multan today.

World Cup quarter-finals The eight teams who remain in the World Cup kick off the next round today. Up first are Brazil and Croatia today at 6pm local time. In our analysis of how football is changing, the latest Fifa statistics show players are running further and shooting less but scoring just as much.

Nobel Prize Day Awards will be presented to recipients on Saturday, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death.

What else we’re reading

‘What’s the point of buying?’ Increasing numbers of young Chinese, the main buyers of urban homes, are choosing to rent rather than buy — with potentially far-reaching implications for the nation’s troubled property market.

“With no wealth-creation effect, what’s the point of buying properties like crazy? Why not just rent?” said Victoria Zhan, a young banker who has postponed plans to buy an apartment in suburban Shanghai this year.

Fosun-owned Lanvin’s future hangs by a thread Chinese billionaire Guo Guangchang’s Fosun acquired a controlling stake in Lanvin in 2018, promising to revive the 133-year-old French fashion house’s fortunes. Now, with Lanvin trailing behind rivals Chanel, Dior and Hermès in the world’s biggest consumer market, Guo plans to take the company public while grappling with a $36bn debt pile.

The secret lives of MI6’s top female spies Despite having proved themselves during the second world war, women were not regularly recruited as British intelligence officers until the late 1970s. Today, three of the Secret Intelligence Service’s four director-generals are female. For the first time, they reveal why women often make the best spies for our times.

Is there no shame anymore? Sam Bankman-Fried’s mere “embarrassment” at the collapse of FTX is a symptom of our inability to find shared moral values. Not only does Bankman-Fried appear to be lacking in shame; he seems almost contemptuous towards those who feel complex moral emotions, writes Jemima Kelly.

Big cities drive half of global economic growth A small selection of big cities has been the driving force behind more than half of global economic growth this century, according to a McKinsey analysis, even though they make up less than 1 per cent of the world’s landmass.

A map of the world showing that half of the world's economic growth this century came from just 1 per cent of its landmass


The quivering media coverage of Harry & Meghan, the new documentary series focusing on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, is the type that makes the world think that Britons still have the mindsets of medieval peasants. It was also presumably what Netflix dreamt of when it agreed a deal with Harry and Meghan likely worth tens of millions of dollars. But what of the actual content? Henry Mance shares his review.

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