From the New York Times (link):
As President Hu Jintao of China made his first state visit to Saudi Arabia yesterday, his arrival in Riyadh offered the latest sign of shifting winds across the oil-rich Persian Gulf region: China has grown as a major market for oil, and Arab states have begun turning to it as an alternative to the United States and Europe in other areas.
“We are opening new channels, we are heading east,” said Prince Walid bin Talal, a billionaire investor and member of the royal family. “China is a big consumer of oil. Saudi Arabia needs to open new channels beyond the West. So this is good for both of us.”
See also Washington Times/UPI’s “Saudi Arabia cuts oil sales to U.S., ups China” by Thom J. Rose, and AFP’s “Saudi Arabia, China agree to formal political dialogue” carried by Energy Bulletin; and AP’s “Saudi Arabia, China ink energy deal” carried by MSNBC