Important deals signed during Saudi prince’s visit to China
LONDON - Three months after his visit to the United States, Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz embarked on a trip to the Far East to promote the kingdom’s Vision 2030 economic and social reform plan.
Prince Mohammed visited the People’s Republic of China at the invitation of the Chinese government for a joint economic forum in Beijing. He also went to Japan to sign a number of economic deals and was scheduled to return to China for the Group of 20 summit in Hangzhou September 4th-5th.
The “Kingdom Vision 2030 and Initiative of Belt Road… Together for A Promising Near Future” forum in Beijing included a number of high-profile Saudi officials and businessmen, including Minister of Commerce Majid al-Kassabi and Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih.
Kassabi, speaking at the forum, emphasised the kingdom’s position as the world’s biggest crude oil supplier and that Saudi Arabia is ready to meet China’s energy needs.
“This cooperation has a positive impact of the investment and commercial relations between the two friendly countries,” he said. “The kingdom is the biggest commercial partner for China in West Asia and North Africa. The number of Saudi-Chinese projects operating in the kingdom reached about 175 projects in the fields of service and industry. The Saudi investments in China are about $15 billion.”
Prince Mohammed, who also leads Saudi Arabia’s Council of Economic and Development Affairs, is trying to generate international investment to support the kingdom’s Vision 2030 plan, which is designed to wean the Saudi economy off its oil dependency, while creating jobs and stimulating the private sector.
The China trip included the signing of a number of major deals and memoranda of understanding, including one between Saudi Aramco and the state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) for cooperation in the chemical sectors and looking into the feasibility of refining Saudi oil.
The two firms are in negotiations regarding Aramco building an oil refinery. Falih said the agreement to build the Yunnan refinery should be reached before the end of the year.
The Saudi Housing Ministry signed an agreement for cooperation in building 100,000 homes in al-Ahsa in eastern Saudi Arabia. A joint company to be based in the kingdom will be handling the project.
An important aspect of the trip dealt with security. Chinese Defence Minister Chang Wanquan said China was willing to increase its military relationship with Saudi Arabia.
According to China’s official press agency, Chang said high-ranking military officials of the two countries have had frequent visits in recent years, with good cooperation in areas such as equipment technology and personnel training.
Prince Mohammed, who is also the Saudi Defence minister, described China as a reliable partner and said Riyadh was willing to strengthen strategic cooperation with China, including in military areas.
The Saudi based Al-Watan newspaper reported the kingdom agreed to buy Chengdu Pterodactyl I drones, also known as Wing Loong, a medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft usually used for surveillance. The drone is also capable of being fitted with air-to-surface weapons. According to the report, Saudi Arabia is the first Arab country to buy the drones.