London and Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Saudi Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has begun a state visit to China, the latest leg of an Asian tour that has included visits to Pakistan, Japan and India. The visit is expected to include high-level talks on economic, cultural and military cooperation between Saudi Arabia and China.
The Saudi Ambassador to Beijing, Yahya Al-Zaid, told Asharq Al-Awsat that a series of visits exchanged between Riyadh and Beijing has served to strengthen bilateral relations, with Crown Prince Salman’s visit to China this week only serving to further strengthen ties.
He affirmed that economic exchange between Saudi Arabia and China stood at 73 billion US dollars in 2013, while the number of Saudi students studying at Chinese universities has increased to more than 1,300.
He said: “These two numbers emphasize the importance of relations between Riyadh and Beijing.”
“Crown Prince Salman’s visit is very important, and takes place at a time when the world is witnessing political change, most prominently in terms of economic alliances. The timing of the Crown Prince’s visit is important and will serve to strengthen bilateral cooperation, particularly in terms of the economy, which remains the basis of Saudi–Chinese relations,” he added.
Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Beijing also highlighted the tourism and education sectors, praising the number of Saudi students studying in China and adding that “there may also be developments in the area of tourism exchange as well.”
The Chinese Ambassador to Riyadh, Li Chengwen, also hailed the timing of Crown Prince Salman’s visit to Beijing, saying it would strengthen strategic ties between the two countries.
In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, he described bilateral ties between Saudi Arabia and China as “strategic” and “friendly,” highlighting Beijing’s role in the Arab world.
He said: “Saudi–Chinese relations have witnessed ongoing development and growth over the past years, reaching the level of strategic partnership,” adding, “The important visit being paid by Saudi Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz will raise this to the highest level, and this serves the interests of the two brotherly peoples.”
“We in China take pride in this deep friendship between our two peoples, and the people of China have a great affection for the people of Saudi Arabia, based on mutual respect towards one another,” Chengwen added.
Saudi Crown Prince Salman is expected to meet Premier Li Keqiang, Defense Minister Chang Wanquan and other senior Chinese officials during his visit.
Last month, the Crown Prince visited Pakistan, Japan, India and the Maldives as part of a tour of Asia, discussing strengthening Saudi ties to the region.
Reporting by Fatah Al-Rahman Youssef from Riyadh and Adwan Al-Ahmari from London.