Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Chinese ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Li Chengwen, has confirmed that China is now Saudi Arabia’s largest trading partner. The diplomat was invited to speak during an event hosted in the home of Saad Bin Abdullah Al-Ajlan, the chairman of the Al Ajlan Company, in Riyadh.
The event was a way of commemorating the bolstered business ties between the two global economic superpowers.
“Saudi–Sino relations are distinguished by qualitative development in varying industries at all levels. Saudi Arabia has been China’s largest trading partner in western Asia and Africa over the past ten years and it is the largest state oil exporter to China,” said Li.
Speaking to an audience that included many leading businessmen in the country, the ambassador added: “Sino–Saudi relations are historical. In addition, economic cooperation and trade exchange between the two states is witnessing its golden age through the support of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and President Xi Jinping.”
Li highlighted the growth in trade between Beijing and Riyadh. He said that the rate of trade development rose by 14 percent over 2012, at a value of USD 73 billion, comfortably exceeding the trade volume target between the two states for 2015, set at USD 60 billion.
There are 140 Chinese companies operating in the Saudi Arabian market, Li said, the bulk of which are in the construction, telecommunications, infrastructure and petrochemicals industries. The total value of Chinese projects in Saudi Arabia is estimated to be in the region of USD 18 billion.
In light of these strengthening economic relations, Abdullah Ibrahim Al-Ajlan, head of the Al Ajlan Company in Saudi Arabia, shared his experiences with Asharq Al-Awsat of his dealings with Chinese business partners since 1979, prior to the resumption of diplomatic relations between the two states in 1990.
“At the start of my business life I imported goods from China and sold them in Saudi Arabia. Through these goods I was able to make good profits,” said Ajlan. He pointed to the diversity of trade and investment that has occurred between the two countries, and how China has become the largest trading partner for Saudi Arabia, globally.
Also among the attendees was engineer Abdullah Al-Mobty, the chairman of the board of the Council of Saudi Chambers. He addressed the size and growth of economic and trade relations. “Trade has risen between the two states from tens of millions of dollars to tens of billions of dollars,” he said.
China is currently the world’s second-largest economy, but is growing at the fastest rate, and is set to take pole position in the next few years. The manufacturing superpower relies heavily on natural resources. Therefore, China’s main interests are in the oil and gas sector, which are the primary sources of income for Gulf Cooperation Council states. As China aims to expand trade with the resource-rich countries, its trade with Saudi Arabia will act as the spearhead for future energy demands.
Mohamed Al-Ajlan, the vice-president of the Saudi–Chinese Business Council, told Asharq Al-Awsat that trade between China and Saudi Arabia is unlikely to suffer from the global economic downturn. He confirmed that China is among the largest consumers of natural resources, which is consistent with the views of global analysts.