China sees Saudi Arabia as a brotherly state. A Kingdom with huge oil and gas reserves, a country with a time-honoured history, the birthplace of Islam and the magnificent setting sun against the vast expanse of the desert, these are the images that Saudi Arabia brings to our mind.
The establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Saudi Arabia in 1990 opened a new chapter in relations. Since the formation of a strategic and friendly relationship between the two countries in 2008 in particular, relations have progressed by leaps and bounds, with enormous growth made in all-round cooperation. For years, Saudi Arabia has been China’s biggest global supplier of crude oil, and its biggest trading partner in West Asia and Africa. In 2013 China became Saudi Arabia’s biggest trading partner for the first time. Two-way trade hit $69.1bn in 2014, growing by 230 times over what is was when diplomatic ties were initiated. Today one in six barrels of crude oil imported by China comes from Saudi Arabia, and one out of every seven riyals Saudi Arabia earns from its exports comes from China.
China and Saudi Arabia are also broadening cooperation, with numerous cooperation projects being undertaken in infrastructure, investment, labour and agriculture. The light rail line constructed by a Chinese company in the sacred city of Makkah provides convenient travel services to Muslim pilgrims from around the world. Chinese companies have provided good telecommunication services for the pilgrimage for many years. Our scientific and research institutes also successfully completed the genetic map for date palms, leading to increased yields, better strains and stronger capacity for pest resistance.
China and Saudi Arabia enjoy increasingly close people-to-people exchanges. The Silk Road Treasure Boat Pavilion built by Saudi Arabia for the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai was one of its most popular pavilions, and it still attracts numerous visitors today. In 2013 China attended the Jenadrivah Heritage and Culture Festival in Saudi Arabia as the country of honour, enabling Saudi visitors to intimately learn about a dynamic and innovative China that enjoys both a traditional cultural heritage and the success of modern development.
A review of our respective progress in economic and social development shows that China and Saudi Arabia have much in common. Both countries have followed development paths suited to their national conditions, have achieved future-oriented sustainable economic development in diverse ways and have endeavoured to improve the lives of their people. Our highly compatible visions for development will greatly boost the growth of our relations.
Let us forge a win-win partnership of mutual benefit and common development. We should expand trade, build a long-term, stable China-Saudi Arabia community of energy cooperation, enhance collaboration in infrastructure and investment, and prioritise three hi-tech sectors: aerospace, peaceful use of nuclear energy and renewable energy. China welcomes Saudi Arabia as a prospective founding member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and we will work with Saudi Arabia to accelerate efforts to build the China-GCC Free Trade Area. These efforts will reinforce both our bilateral and multilateral cooperation, and yield greater benefits to both countries.
Let us develop our collaboration and solidarity. China will enhance relations with Saudi Arabia multilaterally to foster regional peace and stability, and promote common development. To advance regional connectivity, China has launched the construction of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (the Belt and Road Initiative). We hope and trust that Saudi Arabia, located at the western crossroads of the Belt and Road, will be a vital contributor to and beneficiary of this initiative.
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