BEIJING (AP) — China's premier will discuss the Arab Spring with leaders of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar during a visit to those countries later this month, a Chinese official said Wednesday.
Wen Jiabao's visit from Jan. 14-19 will be the first by a Chinese premier to Saudi Arabia in 20 years and to the other two Gulf countries since diplomatic relations were established in the 1980s.
In addition to strengthening relations with the countries — Saudi Arabia is China's biggest oil supplier — Wen will talk about the recent upheavals as well, Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun told reporters.
The uprisings throughout last year toppled longtime strongmen in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya and fueled a continuing uprising in Syria, which has turned into one of the bloodiest of the Arab Spring. Bahrain and Yemen also experienced major protests and unrest.
The Arab Spring protests appeared to worry China's rulers, who used disappearances, house arrests, lengthy prison terms and other means to prevent Chinese activists from emulating the unrest in the Middle East. It was one of China's broadest campaigns of repression in years, with authorities rounding up dozens of bloggers, lawyers and intellectuals. Most have since been released.
Zhai said China's views on how the Middle East unrest should develop were "clear-cut."
China hopes the countries will solve their own issues and carry out dialogues with relevant parties in a peaceful manner, he said. "China hopes the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of these countries will be respected by the international community," Zhai said.
He said the countries were capable of identifying "development models to suit their own national conditions."
Zhai said Wen will sign a series of cooperation agreements during his visit, including economic, trade, culture and education agreements in Saudi Arabia, and agreements covering finance, energy and sports in the U.A.E.
Wen will also speak at the opening ceremony of the 5th World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi.