RIYADH — Saudi Arabia and China are expected to sign more than 20 agreements, worth over SR110 billion, during the historic visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Saudi Arabia that will begin on Wednesday.
A strategic partnership document between Saudi Arabia and China will also be inked in addition to the harmonization plan between the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
During the three-day official visit, three key summits will be held. They are the Saudi-Chinese summit; Riyadh Gulf-China Summit for Cooperation and Development; and Riyadh Arab-China Summit for Cooperation and Development.
More than 30 leaders of countries and international organizations will attend the summits, and this reflects the importance of these summits and the regional and international attention attached to them, according to the Saudi Press Agency.
The high-profile visit represents the keenness of the leaderships of the two countries to strengthen bilateral relations and their strategic partnership, as well as to invest their political and economic potential in serving their common interests. In recent years, a number of Saudi universities and schools started teaching the Chinese language, and the Arabic language is also being taught in 44 Chinese universities, and this is within the framework of cooperation in education between the two countries.
The visit will witness expanding the bilateral relations between the two countries in wide-ranging areas, particularly in cultural exchange. The Prince Mohammed bin Salman Award for Cultural Cooperation between Saudi Arabia and China will be launched during the visit. The award, announced by the Saudi Ministry of Culture in 201 9, reflects the Kingdom’s keenness to boost cultural and scientific relations. The award aims to promote the Arabic language and Arab and creative arts, as well as to promote mutual understanding and cultural exchange between Saudi and Chinese cultures, and serve the joint objectives of the Saudi Vision 2030 and China’s Belt and Road Initiative at the cultural level.
Xi’s visit comes at a time when the diplomatic relations between the two countries are witnessing distinguished and solid development at a steady pace towards greater cooperation and mutual understanding in various fields, in a way benefiting the two friendly countries and peoples.
Close relations between the two countries were initiated 80 years ago, encompassing various aspects of cooperation and development in the form of simple trade relations and the reception of Chinese Hajj pilgrims, up to their official form in 1990 after the two countries agreed to establish full diplomatic relations and exchange ambassadors and organize meetings at the political, economic, youth and other levels.
The keenness of Saudi Arabia, under the leadership of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman, to develop bilateral relations with the Chinese side is part of its strategic plans to boost bilateral relations and partnerships with all influential countries and international powers and to establish balanced relations with them to serve the Kingdom’s objectives and contribute to protecting its interests.
In a new and unique scientific achievement at the level of the region and the Islamic world, Saudi Arabia joined China in a rare journey to explore the invisible side of the moon closely, as part of its growing interest in the exploration of space. This cooperation between Riyadh and Beijing was in the implementation of a memorandum of understanding signed between the two countries during the visit of King Salman to China on March 16, 2017, which established grounds for cooperation with the China National Space Administration to explore the moon.
It is noteworthy that in January 2016 King Salman met President Xi at Al-Yamamah Palace in Riyadh. During that time, the King stressed that Saudi Arabia’s friendly relations with China have grown steadily over the past 25 years, noting that the two countries were seeking to realize stability and promote peace and security in the world.
During the visit, 14 agreements and memoranda of understanding were signed between the two governments, and these included a memorandum to boost cooperation on the Silk Road Economic Belt, the 21 Century Maritime Silk Road Initiative, and cooperation in productive capacity, which were signed by the Crown Prince.
Saudi-Chinese relations were significantly enhanced following the visit of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to China in 2016 during which he held extensive talks with President Xi Jinping, former Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, and other high-ranking officials.
China supports the Middle East Green Initiative launched by the Crown Prince, and also welcomed Saudi Arabia's accession to the Global Development Initiative proposed by Xi to steer global development toward a new stage of balanced, coordinated, and inclusive growth.
China has been Saudi Arabia’s first trading partner for the past five years, ranking as the first destination for the Kingdom’s exports and imports since 2018. The trade volume between the two countries reached SR309 billion in 2021, marking an increase of 39 percent from 2020 while the Kingdom’s total exports to China amounted to SR192 billion, including non-oil exports worth SR41 billion.
Saudi investments in China reached SR8.6 billion while Saudi Arabia ranked 12th among the investing countries in China as of the end of 2019. On the other hand, Chinese investments in the Kingdom totaled SR29 billion by the end of 2021.
The visit of the Chinese leader attained greater significance as Saudi Arabia is seeking to build a strategic partnership that supports trade and investment with the Chinese side, and makes the Kingdom China’s first reliable strategic partner in the region. The Kingdom accounted for more than 20.3 percent of China’s investment in the Arab world between 2005 and 2020 amounting to $196.9 billion, making it the biggest Arab country to receive Chinese investments during that period at around $39.9 billion.
Saudi Arabia and China are preparing to launch SABIC-Fujian Petrochemical Industrial Group Co. a joint venture involving a high-capacity cracking plant that produces a number of petrochemical products, with an estimated amount of SR22.5 billion, in which SABIC has a 51 percent stake.