The Line city impresses Makkah governor, plans to book first 

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Makkah Gov. Prince Khalid Al-Faisal takes a look at The Line at  The NEOM exhibition at Jeddah Superdome. (SPA)
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The Line’s designs were revealed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman last month. (SPA)
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The Line’s designs were revealed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman last month. (SPA)
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Updated 12 August 2022

The Line city impresses Makkah governor, plans to book first 

  • Prince Khaled Al-Faisal visited the design expo at Jeddah Superdome
  • He was briefed on innovations to alleviate environmental challenges

JEDDAH: The architecture of the futuristic city, The Line, has impressed Makkah Gov. Prince Khalid Al-Faisal, who says he will be the first to book an accommodation once it is complete.

Prince Khalid made the remarks in a tweet following his visit to the NEOM exhibition to see the designs on Wednesday at the Jeddah Superdome.

The governor toured the exhibition that showcases the architectural innovations of the city.

He was also briefed on how the city would help alleviate the critical environmental challenges facing humanity.

Last month, The Line’s designs were revealed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

They showed the most important features of The Line, which is 200 meters wide, 170 kilometers long, and 500 meters high. It will eventually house 9 million people and have a 34 square kilometer footprint.

It will take up less land than other cities of comparable capacity and help to conserve 95 percent of NEOM’s land.

The Line imagines a future without streets, cars or emissions. It will be powered entirely by renewable energy and prioritize health and well-being over transportation and infrastructure.

The exhibition showcases all these aspects of the city. It opened on Aug. 1 and will be taken to other locations from Aug. 14, including Riyadh and the Eastern Province.

It offers 50 guided tours a day in Arabic and English.


President Xi’s 3-day visit aims to boost Saudi-Chinese diplomatic, trade ties

Updated 07 December 2022

President Xi’s 3-day visit aims to boost Saudi-Chinese diplomatic, trade ties

  • Saudi-Chinese Summit, Riyadh Gulf-China Summit and Riyadh Arab-China Summit to take place during visit
  • More than 20 initial agreements between the two countries worth over $29.3 billion to be signed during visit

RIYADH: Chinese President Xi Jinping is due to arrive in the Kingdom on Wednesday for a three-day visit during which he will meet Saudi and Arab leaders.

Three summits will take place during his trip: the Saudi-Chinese Summit, the Riyadh Gulf-China Summit for Cooperation and Development, and the Riyadh Arab-China Summit for Cooperation and Development. The participants will include more than 30 leaders and officials from the two countries and international organizations, highlighting the importance of the gatherings and their high regional and international profile, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Xi’s visit reflects the desire of the leaderships of Saudi Arabia and China to strengthen the bilateral relationship, enhance their strategic partnership and realize the political and economic potential it offers to serve their common interests, the SPA added.

More than 20 initial agreements between the two countries, worth more than SR110 billion ($29.3 billion), will be signed during the presidential visit, along with a strategic partnership deal, and a plan to harmonize the implementation of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 development and diversification project with China’s Belt and Road Initiative, the agency said.

Saudi Arabia aims to build a strong strategic partnership with China to support trade and investment. The Kingdom was the biggest recipient of Chinese investment in the Arab World between 2005 and 2020, accounting for more than 20.3 percent of the total regional investment, worth $196.9 billion.

The two countries are preparing to launch the SABIC-Fujian Petrochemical Industrial Group, a joint venture worth an estimated SR22.5 billion, in which SABIC has a 51 percent stake, that includes a high-capacity plant for the production of petrochemical products.

Beyond trade and investment, relations between the two countries have also continued to expand and develop more broadly in recent years, particularly in terms of cultural exchanges.

In 2019, for example, the Saudi Ministry of Culture announced the establishment of the Prince Mohammed bin Salman Award for Cultural Cooperation between Saudi Arabia and China, which will be officially launched during President Xi’s visit. It aims to promote the Arabic language, along with Arab arts, mutual understanding and cultural exchanges, reflecting the Kingdom’s desire to further enhance the cultural aspects of relations.

A number of Saudi universities and schools offer classes in the Chinese language, while Arabic is taught in 44 Chinese universities.


Factbox: Saudi-China energy, trade and investment ties

Updated 07 December 2022

Factbox: Saudi-China energy, trade and investment ties

  • Chinese delegation is expected to sign dozens of agreements with Saudi Arabia and other Arab states
  • China is Saudi Arabia’s largest trading partner, with bilateral trade worth $87.3 billion in 2021

Saudi Arabia will host a China-Arab summit on Dec. 9 attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping, with the leaders of the two countries expected to discuss trade ties and regional security.

Xi’s visit comes at a time when US-Saudi ties are at a nadir, uncertainty weighs on global energy markets with the West imposing a price cap on Russian oil and as Washington warily eyes China’s growing influence in the Middle East.

The Chinese delegation is expected to sign dozens of agreements with Saudi Arabia and other Arab states covering energy, security and investments, diplomats have told Reuters.

Below are some details about oil, trade and security relations between China and Saudi Arabia.

OIL TRADE

China is Saudi Arabia’s largest trading partner, with bilateral trade worth $87.3 billion in 2021. Chinese exports to Saudi Arabia reached $30.3 billion, while China’s imports from the kingdom totalled $57 billion.

Saudi Arabia is China’s top oil supplier, making up 18 percent of China’s total crude oil purchases, with imports totalling 73.54 million tons (1.77 million barrels a day) in the first 10 months of 2022, worth $55.5 billion, Chinese customs data shows.

Oil imports last year amounted to 87.56 million tons, worth $43.9 billion, making up 77 percent of China’s total merchandise imports from Saudi Arabia.

State-run Saudi Aramco has annual supply deals with half a dozen Chinese refiners including Sinopec, CNPC, CNOOC, Sinochem, Norinco as well as private refiner Zhejiang Petrochemical Corp.

REFINERIES

Aramco in early 2022 made a final investment decision to build a $10 billion refinery, petrochemical complex in northeast China, marking its single largest investment in China.

Named Huajin Aramco Petrochemical Company, the joint venture groups Aramco, Huajin Chemical Industries Group Corporation (000059.SZ) — a unit of defense conglomerate Norinco-- and Panjin Xincheng Industrial Group.

The project, expected to be operational in 2024, combines a 300,000-bpd refinery and 1.5 million tons per year ethylene plant, with Aramco set to supply up to 210,000 bpd crude oil.

Aramco’s only other similar investment in China is a 25 percent stake in Refining and Petrochemical Company Ltd. in Fujian province controlled by state refining giant Sinopec Corp. , which began in 2008 operating a 280,000 bpd refinery and a 1.1 million ton per year (tpy) ethylene complex.

Aramco in October of 2018 signed a memorandum of understanding with Zhejiang provincial government to invest 9 percent in Zhejiang Petrochemical Corp. that operates China’s single-largest refinery of 800,000 bpd. No further progress has been announced since.

Similarly, Sinopec owns 37.5 percent in Yanbu Aramco Sinopec Refining Co. (YASREF), a JV with Aramco that operates a 400,000-bpd refinery in Yanbu on the Red Sea coast.

FINANCIAL

China’s state-owned Silk Road Fund is part of a consortium led by US-based EIG Global Energy Partners that in mid-2021 closed a deal to buy 49 percent of Saudi Aramco’s oil pipelines business for $12.4 billion.

Silk Road is also part of a consortium led by BlackRock Real Assets and Hassana Investment Company that announced in February completion of a 49 percent stake acquisition in Aramco Gas Pipelines Company for $15.5 billion.

POWER

Saudi utility developer ACWA Power, partly owned by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, said in September that it agreed with Silk Road Fund to jointly invest in a 1.5 gigawatt (GW) gas-fueled power plant in Uzbekistan for $1 billion, part of Beijing’s One Belt One Road initiative.

State-run China Energy Engineering Corp. (CEEC) is building a 2.6-GW solar power station in Al Shuaiba in Saudi Arabia, also owned by ACWA Power, the Middle East’s largest solar project.

MILITARY, SECURITY

Saudi Advanced Communications and Electronics Systems Co. (ACES) signed a deal with China Electronics Technology Group to manufacture unmanned aerial vehicle payload systems in the kingdom, Saudi English-language newspapers Arab News and Saudi Gazette reported in March.

The UAE in February said it plans to order 12 L-15 light attack planes from China with the option of purchasing 36 more.


China's Xi visiting Saudi Arabia for three days amid bid to boost economy

Updated 07 December 2022

China's Xi visiting Saudi Arabia for three days amid bid to boost economy

  • China's economic growth has been on a decline and was dealt a major blow by rolling lockdowns due to COVID-19
  • Xi will attend the inaugural China-Arab States Summit and a meeting with leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council

BEIJING: Chinese leader Xi Jinping is attending a pair of regional summits in Saudi Arabia this week amid efforts to kick-start economic growth weighed down by strict anti-COVID-19 measures.

The Foreign Ministry said Wednesday that Xi will attend the inaugural China-Arab States Summit and a meeting with leaders of the six nations that make up the Gulf Cooperation Council in the Saudi capital of Riyadh. His state visit to Saudi Arabia will end on Saturday.

China is the world’s second largest economy and a major source of outward investment. To fuel massive demand, it imports half its oil, of which half of those imports come from Saudi Arabia, amounting to tens of billions of dollars annually.

China's economic growth had been on a steady decline for years and was dealt a major blow by rolling lockdowns imposed across the country as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chinese economic growth rebounded to 3.9% over a year earlier in the three months ending in September, up from the first half of the year's 2.2%, but still well short of the government target.

China’s COVID-19 infection numbers are lower than those of the United States and other major countries. But the ruling party is sticking to “zero-COVID,” which calls for isolating every case, while other governments are relaxing travel and other controls and trying to live with the virus.

China's ruling Communist Party shares many of the authoritarian tendencies of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, shielding Beijing from criticism over its harsh policies toward Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities. More than a million have been sent to detention centers where they report being forced to denounce Islam and swear fealty to Xi and the party.

Beijing denies the charges, saying they have been providing job training and ridding Muslims of extremist, separatist and terroristic tendencies.

The trip to Saudi Arabia marks a further move by Xi to restore his global profile after spending most of the pandemic inside China. Xi was granted a third five-year term in October, but street protests against “zero-COVID” policies last month saw the most significant public challenge to his rule and may have prompted a relaxation of some measures.


What makes China a potentially large source of foreign visitors to Saudi Arabia 

Updated 07 December 2022

What makes China a potentially large source of foreign visitors to Saudi Arabia 

  • Research by the China Outbound Tourism Research Institute indicates a “strong wave” in travel in 2023
  • Within 10 days of Saudi e-visa launch, 4,000 foreign visitors entered the country, with China topping the list

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s carefully laid plan to expand its tourism sector is showing fruition as it marches forward to meet its target of attracting 100 million visitors to the Kingdom by 2030.

This is evident from the fact that the Kingdom recently topped the G20 countries list for the flow rating of international tourists in the first seven months of 2022, with international arrivals reaching 77 percent of pre-pandemic levels.

For its part, China, home to almost a fifth of the world’s population, is a huge source of potential tourists.

Speaking to CNBC in October, Saudi Tourism Minister Ahmed Al-Khateeb said: “China used to be a very important market, but it is still closed. This year, we’ve seen a great demand from Europe and the US. I absolutely would love to see some of these restrictions ease because Chinese market is a very big market, not only for Saudi Arabia but for all the other countries.”

China, home to almost a fifth of the world’s population, is a huge source of potential tourists. (AFP)

China has a zero COVID-19 policy, which includes lockdowns, quarantining and rigorous testing, aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19, even as other countries ease travel and other restrictions and try to shift to a long-term strategy of living with the virus.

Following the launch of the e-visa in September 2019, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Tourism issued more than 350,000 tourist visas in the first three months of that year alone.

Within the first 10 days of the launch, 4,000 foreign visitors entered Saudi Arabia with China topping the list and the UK and the US in the second and third place respectively.

Research released by China Outbound Tourism Research Institute in May indicates a “strong wave” in Chinese outbound travel in 2023, with a return to 2019 numbers by 2024. “The preparation, the acquisition of knowledge and the adaptation of services needs to be done now, before the wave arrives,” said Wolfgang Georg Arlt, the institute’s CEO.  

Saudi Arabia is well prepared for the return of Chinese travelers, with many institutions adopting the guidelines of the Welcome Chinese Certification program, which is considered the international standard for travel and hospitality services for visitors from the country.

Saudi and Chinese flags at Tiananmen square in Beijing during Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visit to China in 2019. (AFP)

The Riyadh Airports Co., which manages and operates King Khalid International Airport, said that it is working on implementing standards designed to make the airport and its services more accessible and user friendly for Chinese visitors.

The company said the new facilities will improve the visitor experience for tourists from China by helping to overcome the language barrier and providing key services, including payment systems that are compatible with those in their home country. The initiative also highlights the availability of e-visas for Chinese travelers who want to visit the Kingdom.

An important part of the strategy to boost the Kingdom’s entertainment and tourism offerings is Red Sea Global. RSG is currently overseeing the creation of two luxury tourism destinations in Saudi Arabia: The Red Sea and Amaala.

Anton Bawab, group head of operations at RSG, foresees an upswing in the number of Chinese tourists once restrictions are lifted, and that the Kingdom and RSG’s destinations are prepared to welcome them.

“The Chinese market has shown tremendous potential for any country that opened up to it – Europe, Dubai, Maldives,” he said.

“Pre-COVID, Chinese tourists accounted for almost one fifth of global tourism spending. Saudi has huge potential to attract Chinese travelers, and RSG in particular. At the Red Sea, Chinese tourists can get a similar experience to the Maldives, which is a popular destination choice for them. But they can also couple it with culture, shopping and heritage.” 


How language and culture became pillars of Saudi-China friendship

Updated 07 December 2022

How language and culture became pillars of Saudi-China friendship

  • Celebration of Chinese New Year as part of Riyadh Season marked the start of a new era in bilateral relations
  • Exchanges of books, artistic fusions, and a cultural cooperation award have helped cement the relationship

RIYADH: Since Saudi Arabia and the People’s Republic of China formalized diplomatic relations in 1990, cultural ties between the two countries have blossomed into a robust relationship based on mutual respect.

Affirming the importance of this deep friendship, the iconic Boulevard Riyadh City in February this year celebrated Chinese New Year as part of the Riyadh Season entertainment festival.

The colorful occasion was attended by Chen Weiqing, the Chinese ambassador to Saudi Arabia, officials from the embassy, and a large number of visitors.

The celebration took several forms across the Boulevard zone. All its screens were lit red by midnight, displaying beautiful Chinese cultural images such as traditional houses and red lanterns, with congratulatory remarks written in Chinese, Arabic and English.

On the occasion Weiqing told Arab News: “The Spring Festival is the most important traditional festival for the Chinese people. The Boulevard Riyadh City lights up the symbolic red color of China, letting the Chinese people around the world feel the cordial greetings and best wishes from our Saudi friends.”

He added: “This is a great honor to celebrate our Lunar New Year, and we hope in this new year we will strengthen our bilateral relationship and friendship in different fields. This is the beginning of a new cultural era in bilateral relations. We have a lot of common principles, now we have a very strong cultural linkage, so I think in the future China and Saudi Arabia will be one of the closest partners.”

Further strengthening the cultural bonds, the world premiere of “Nine Songs” last Saturday filled the Saudi city of AlUla with excitement, with every seat occupied at the outdoor Wadi Al-Fann venue.

Chen Weiqing Chinese ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Li Xihong (Left) and Mansour Al-Zamil, General Secretary of King Fahd National Library (Right) unveil the Chinese Books Corner at the King Fahd Public Library. (AN photo/Meshaal Al-Qadeer)

Created especially for AlUla by Rui Fu, the Chinese musician, vocalist and artistic director, “Nine Songs” brought together a world-class ensemble of performers from across the globe. Fu’s vocals were accompanied by new compositions played on violin, harp, dulcimer, oud, guqin and taiko drums, with remarkable costumes, scenery and lighting adding to the theatrical display.

Fu’s new work is inspired by the Chu Ci (Songs of Chu), an ancient anthology of Chinese poetry from the first century B.C., while also responding to AlUla’s stunning geological structures.

In June this year King Fahd National Library in Riyadh added to its collection Chinese books donated by the National Library of China.

The books — covering subjects including history, economics, tourism and culture — are distributed in Arabic and English. They include literature on the Chinese language and some for children, which serve as an opportunity for Saudis to become familiar with the country and its culture.

Dr. Mansour bin Abdullah Al-Zamil, secretary of the King Fahd National Library, said: “We attach great importance to strengthening cooperation in the cultural field with the National Library of China.”

In July this year China’s Sinopec, one of the largest energy and chemical companies in the world, gifted 2,000 books on Chinese culture to King Fahd National Library.

It was marked in a ceremony attended by senior officials from both countries, including Beijing’s ambassador, who inaugurated the Chinese books corner at the library.

Chinese New Year starts after the rising of the second new moon after the winter solstice. (Supplied)

The section was established by Sinopec as part of its mission “to offer a window on China for Saudi citizens, provide reference books for students, beneficiaries, and graduates, and provide support for teaching Chinese in the Kingdom.”

Significantly, Saudi Arabia announced a cultural cooperation award with China on the occasion of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to the country in February 2019.

Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, the Saudi minister of culture, announced the “Prince Mohammed bin Salman Award for Cultural Cooperation between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the People’s Republic of China.”

The announcement was made during Prince Badr’s visit to the King Abdulaziz Public Library at Beijing University. The library was inaugurated in 2017 by King Salman during his official visit to China, when the monarch was also awarded an honorary doctorate.

The cultural award honors outstanding Saudi and Chinese academics, linguists and innovators. The categories include for the best scientific research in the Arabic language, artistic creative work, translation of a book from Arabic to Chinese and vice versa. In addition, there are prizes for personality of the year and the most influential personality in cultural circles for the year. The awards form part of the common objectives of both the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

“This partnership in the name of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is an embodiment for joint commitment to building cultural bridges between the two countries, developing the cultural exchange and enhancing artistic and academic opportunities for our citizens,” the minister has said.

During the crown prince’s 2019 tour Saudi Arabia and China agreed to include the Chinese language as part of the curriculum at schools and universities in the Kingdom. 

King Salman with Chinese officials at the launch of the King Abdulaziz Public Library at Peking University in Beijing. (SPA)

The agreement came during a meeting between the crown prince and a high-level Chinese delegation in Beijing, in a bid to strengthen bilateral friendship and cultural cooperation.

The inclusion of the Chinese language is aimed at enhancing the cultural diversity of students in the Kingdom. It is an important step toward opening new academic horizons for students of various educational levels, will serve as a bridge between the two people, and promote trade and cultural ties.

Moreover, King Abdulaziz Public Library in April this year signed a memorandum of understanding with the Bayt El-Hekma Chinese Group as part of the two nations’ cultural cooperation. The MoU includes joint translations and publications, mutual visits, and the holding of scientific meetings and specialized exhibitions.

Prince Badr held a virtual meeting with the Chinese ambassador in April 2021 to discuss ways to enhance Saudi-Chinese cultural exchange, including with regard to the Prince Mohammed bin Salman award and the Saudi-Chinese Cultural Year initiative.