(Bloomberg) -- Chinese leader Xi Jinping outlined a range of areas including finance and technology in which his nation can enhance cooperation with Arab nations, underscoring Beijing’s push for greater influence in Middle East.

“China will work with the Arab side as good partners to make our relations a model for maintaining world peace and stability,” Xi said Thursday in a speech to the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum in Beijing. He listed artificial intelligence, green tech and finance as sectors open for greater collaboration.

Xi also touched on the fighting in Gaza, saying: “War should not continue indefinitely, justice should not be absent forever.” He reiterated China’s support of UN membership for Palestine and for a peace conference to help end the fighting with Israel.

China has stepped up its diplomatic efforts in the Middle East in recent years. In 2023, Beijing helped broker a surprise accord between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the Islamic world’s biggest rivals. The detente has held even amid the strains caused by the Gaza war, and there are signs it’s been followed by an acceleration of investment between China and the Middle East.

Beijing-based Lenovo Group Ltd. has announced a deal to sell $2 billion of convertible bonds to Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, and build research and production facilities in the kingdom. State oil firm Saudi Aramco is in talks to buy a $1.5 billion stake worth in a Chinese petrochemical firm, while carmaker China FAW Group is part of a push to make electric vehicles in Egypt.

UBS analysts estimate that growing Chinese ties to the Middle East could add more than $400 billion to global energy-related trade by 2030.

Heads of state from Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Tunisia are among the attendees at the forum. Talks are likely focusing on fast-growing trade and investment, and regional security concerns amid the Israel-Hamas war. 

As the Biden administration backs Israel in the conflict, China supports an immediate cease-fire and recognition of a Palestinian state. That alignment with Arab states is helping Beijing to extend its political sway in countries that until recently saw China chiefly as an economic partner — and win new allies in its global contest for influence with the US.

Under Xi, China has pushed to build an alternative world order to challenge the US, embracing Russia and emerging economies in the so-called Global South. Beijing has cast itself as the leader of the BRICS bloc, which it has worked to expand. Iran, the UAE, Ethiopia and Egypt all accepted invitations to join this year.

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Xi hinted at that broader campaign in his speech on Thursday, saying that his nation’s ties with Arab nations could serve as “a model for promoting good global governance.” He added that he saw China and Arab countries both working “to accomplish their historical missions of national rejuvenation and faster national development.”

Underscoring China’s push for closer ties with Middle Eastern countries, Xi told Egyptian counterpart Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi in Beijing that his nation was willing to deepen economic and trade investment, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. China also said it would expand industrial investment in Egypt in areas including electric vehicle and solar panel manufacturing. 

Speaking on the sidelines of the forum, the Palestinian envoy to China, Fariz Mehdawi, described Beijing as friendly with nearly every nation in the region.

It “has no problem with anybody, not like our American friends, unfortunately, I’m sorry to say that,” he said. “But this is what makes China more eligible to play a constructive, positive and not controversial role.”

China gets more than one-third of its crude from members of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, with the lion’s share coming from Saudi Arabia.

In overall trade, the UAE – even though its economy is only half the size of Saudi Arabia’s – has become a bigger partner for China. 

The UAE plays a “key role in the Belt and Road Initiative” – Beijing’s global infrastructure drive – and has more than 6,600 Chinese brands registered in the country, Bloomberg Intelligence wrote last week. Through the end of 2022, which is as far as Beijing’s official data goes, the UAE had gotten about $12 billion in Chinese direct investment — four times as much as the Saudis.

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(Updates with comments from Xi and Palestinian envoy, and more context.)

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