Triumphant Xi Jinping to address National People’s Congress after China brokers Saudi-Iran accord

Weeklong meeting of NPC saw Xi elected to third term as president and Li Qiang chosen as premier

Xi Jinping will address the closing session of China’s top legislative body on Monday following a major diplomatic coup for Beijing in brokering an accord between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The weeklong meeting of the National People’s Congress (NPC) saw Mr Xi elected to a third term as China’s president and a longstanding ally Li Qiang chosen as premier with responsibility for economic policy.

Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed to restore diplomatic relations after seven years following secret talks in Beijing hosted by China’s top diplomat Wang Yi. The two countries, which have been on opposing sides in proxy wars in the Middle East for decades, agreed to reopen their embassies within two months.

“As a reliable mediator that meant well, China has loyally faithfully carried out the duties of being a host,” Mr Wang said.

“We will continue to make constructive contributions to the proper handling of the hot topics in today’s world according to the wishes of other countries and shoulder our responsibility as a major power in the world.”


Iran and Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic relations in 2016 after Riyadh executed a Sunni Muslim scholar and protesters attacked the Saudi embassy in Tehran. They are on opposing sides in the war in Yemen where the Saudi military is supporting the government while Iran backs the Houthi rebels.

Mr Xi visited Riyadh last December for a state visit amid improving ties between the Gulf states and China, which is the world’s biggest oil importer. Iran’s president Ebrahim Raisi visited Beijing last month and China remains one of Tehran’s most important economic and diplomatic partners.

“China looks forward to seeing closer communication and dialogue between Saudi Arabia and Iran and stands ready to continue playing a positive and constructive role in facilitating such efforts,” a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said. “Their dialogue and the agreement set a good example of how countries in the region can resolve disputes and differences and achieve good neighbourliness and friendship through dialogue and consultation. This will help regional countries to get rid of external interference and take the future into their own hands.”

China’s foreign minister Qin Gang was named a state councillor on Sunday as the NPC confirmed a number of senior figures in cabinet posts. In a move that surprised many analysts, Yi Gang was reappointed governor of the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) the country’s central bank.

Mr Yi, who at 65 was expected to retire, is a well-known figure in international bodies including the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the G20. His continued tenure at the head of the central bank could reassure some foreign investors who are wary of Mr Xi’s new economic team, many of whom are close allies without an international profile and with limited experience at a high level.

The Chinese government has set an economic growth target for 2023 of 5 per cent of GDP, compared to the 3 per cent achieved last year, and aims to create about 12 million new urban jobs.

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times