By H. E. Xi Jinping
President of the People's Republic of China
Published on Alriyadh of Saudi Arabia
January 18, 2016
Saudi Arabia is the first stop of my first overseas visit this year and also the first Arab country I will visit as President of the People's Republic of China.
China sees Saudi Arabia as a brotherly state. An oil kingdom with huge oil and gas reserves, a country with time-honored history which is 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.
In 2008, I visited Saudi Arabia as Vice Chinese President, and I was greatly impressed by its prosperity and the hospitality of its people.
Eight years on, at the invitation of His Majesty Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, King of Saudi Arabia, I will once again set foot on this beautiful and rich land, and I will bring with me the Chinese people's friendship towards the Saudi Arabian people and their keen desire to grow friendly ties between our two countries.
We Chinese often say that true friendship stands out in time of adversity. And people in Saudi Arabia also believe that "there is no greater virtue than extending a helping hand to those in need". In the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that hit Wenchuan of China's Sichuan Province in 2008, Saudi Arabia immediately provided over $60 million of both cash and material assistance to China, the largest item of overseas assistance ever received by the Chinese Government. This assistance provided by the Saudi Arabian government people, a vivid symbol of the China-Saudi Arabia friendship, deeply moved the Chinese people and will always be remembered by us.
The peoples of China and Saudi Arabia have enjoyed friendly exchanges for centuries. Over 2000 years ago, numerous camel caravans from the two sides travelled along the ancient Silk Road. Diplomatic envoys from the Seljuk Empire visited China during the Tang Dynasty. Zheng He, China's Muslim navigator in the Ming Dynasty, travelled to Jeddah, Mecca and Medina, and he described them as paradises where people enjoyed peace and harmony. The interactions and mutual learning between the Chinese and Islamic civilizations are an important part in the history of inter-civilization exchanges.
The establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Saudi Arabia in 1990 opened a new chapter in their relations. In particular, since the establishment of the strategic and friendly relationship between the two countries in 2008, China-Saudi Arabia relations have progressed by leaps and bounds, with enormous growth made in all-round corporation. 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 the biggest trading partner of Saudi Arabia for the first time. Two-way trade reached $69.1 billion in 2014, growing by 230 times over that at the time of the establishment of diplomatic ties. Today, one in six barrels of crude oil China imports comes from Saudi Arabia, and one out of every seven Riyal Saudi Arabia earns from its exports comes from China.
China and Saudi Arabia are also expanding the cooperation, with numerous cooperation projects being undertaken in infrastructure, investment, labor and agriculture. The light rail line constructed by a Chinese company in the sacred city of Mecca 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 successfully completed the genetic map for date palms, leading to increased yields, better strains and stronger capacity of 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 honor, enabling Saudi visitors to intimately learn about a dynamic and innovative China that enjoys both a traditional cultural heritage and success of modern development.
As a Chinese saying goes, "devoted friends afar are not kept apart by distance". The growing friendship and cooperation are bringing our two peoples closer than ever before.
There is so much inspiration we can draw from the flourishing ties between China and Saudi Arabia: Mutual respect, mutual trust and equality are the solid foundation of the sound and steady growth of the bilateral relationship; tapping our respective strength for mutual benefit provides powerful impetus for our relationship to deliver long-term benefits to our two peoples; and openness and amity between our peoples are the inexhaustible source of strength for sustaining China-Saudi Arabia friendship
A review of our respective progress in economic and social development shows that China and Saudi Arabia have so much in common: Both countries have followed development paths suited to their national conditions; both of us have achieved future-oriented sustainable economic development in diverse ways; and both countries have endeavored to improve our people's lives. Our highly compatible visions on development will greatly boost the growth of China-Saudi Arabia relations
The Chinese people are making tireless efforts to realize the two "centenary goals", namely, to finish the building of a country of initial prosperity in all respects when the Communist Party of China celebrates its centenary in 2021 and turn China into a modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced and harmonious when the People's Republic celebrates its centenary in 2049. We are also endeavoring to achieve the Chinese dream of great national renewal. Saudi Arabia has started the implementation of a new five-year plan and vigorously pursued a strategy of diversified economic development to achieve all-round, balanced and coordinated development.
Similar development aspirations, same development missions and converged development interests provide enduring impetus to the in-depth growth of China-Saudi Arabia relations.
China and Saudi Arabia, both countries with important influence, will embrace a great historic opportunity of advancing their bilateral relations. By making this visit, I look forward to working together with the leaders of Saudi Arabia to elevate the bilateral relations, upgrade mutually beneficial cooperation and deliver more benefits to our two peoples.
---Let us forge a strategic partnership of mutual support, sincerity and mutual trust. We should bear in mind the strategic nature of China-Saudi Arabia relations and ensure their long-term and sound growth, form synergy between our respective development strategies, increase mutual understanding to and support each other on issues relating to our respective core interests and major concerns, and cement political mutual trust.
---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 corporation, enhance cooperation in infrastructure and investment, and prioritize three hi-tech sectors, namely, aerospace, peaceful use of nuclear energy and renewable energy, in our efforts to enrich practical cooperation. China welcomes Saudi Arabia's joining the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank as a prospective founding member; and we will work with Saudi Arabia to accelerate efforts to build the China-Gulf Cooperation Council Free Trade Area. All those efforts will reinforce both our bilateral and multilateral cooperation and yield greater benefits to both countries.
---Let us forge a partnership of expanding cooperation and solitary. China will enhance cooperation with Saudi Arabia multilaterally to maintain regional peace and stability and promote common development. To advance regional connectivity and common development, China has launched the initiative of jointly building 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 west crossroads of the Belt and Road, will become an important participant of, contributor to and beneficiary of this initiative.
---Let us forge a friendly partnership of frequent exchanges and mutual learning. Frequent exchanges will deepen friendship. China will step up exchange and cooperation with Saudi Arabia in areas such as education, media, think tanks and the youth and enhance people-to-people and cultural exchanges and at various levels. I welcome more Saudi Arabians to visit China, and I am sure there is much you can do personally to contribute to China-Saudi Arabia friendship through these visits.
Let us join hands to deliver an even brighter future for China-Saudi Arabia relations!
(Xinhua News Agency January 18, 2016)