Saudi crown prince meets Chinese president, clinches oil deal

The investments could help Saudi Arabia regain its place as the top oil exporter to China.
Friday 22/02/2019
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, right, speaks to Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, during a meeing at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Friday, Feb. 22, 2019. (AP)
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, right, speaks to Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, during a meeing at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Friday, Feb. 22, 2019. (AP)

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz met Friday with Chinese President Xi Jinping and bagged a $10 billion oil deal, pressing on with his diplomatic charm offensive in Asia.

He met with Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng earlier on Friday.

China is looking to strengthen its economic ties with the kingdom, as Beijing pursues its ambitious Belt and Road trade infrastructure initiative, while Riyadh rolls out "Saudi Vision 2030" -- the crown prince's major programme to diversify the national economy away from oil.

During their meeting, Han suggested that the two countries deepen partnerships in energy, infrastructure construction, finance and high-tech.

Riyadh's national oil giant Saudi Aramco has signed an agreement to form a joint venture with Chinese conglomerate Norinco to develop a refining and petrochemical complex in Panjin city, saying the project is worth more than $10 billion.

The partners will form a new company called Huajin Aramco Petrochemical Co as part of a project that will include a 300,000-barrels-per-day (bpd) refinery with a 1.5-million-metric-tonnes-per-year ethylene cracker, Aramco said.

Aramco will supply up to 70% of the crude feedstock for the complex, which is expected to start operations in 2024.

The investments could help Saudi Arabia regain its place as the top oil exporter to China, a position Russia has held for the last three years. Saudi Aramco is set to boost market share by signing supply deals with non-state Chinese refiners.

Aramco also signed an agreement to buy a 9% stake in Zhejiang Petrochemical, Saudi state news agency SPA said. This formalised a previously announced plan to gain a stake in a 400,000-bpd refinery and petrochemicals complex in Zhoushan, south of Shanghai.

China was not seeking to play politics in the Middle East, the widely-read state-run tabloid the Global Times said in an editorial on Friday.

"China won't be a geopolitical player in the Middle East. It has no enemies and can cooperate with all countries in the region," said the paper, published by the ruling Communist Party's official People's Daily.

"China's increasing influence in the Middle East comes from pure friendly cooperation," it added. "Such a partnership will be welcomed by more countries in the Middle East."

(AFP, Reuters)