In a significant move to diversify its economy and empower its youth, Saudi Arabia has announced the opening of a modern-day “Silk Road” between China and Arab countries. The announcement was made during the 10th Arab-China Business Conference, held in Riyadh over the weekend. The event, which saw participation from over 3,000 attendees, marked the largest gathering since its inception in 2005.
The first day of the conference proved fruitful, with the signing of more than 30 groundbreaking agreements valued at over 70 billion yuan (approximately 9.8 billion U.S. dollars). This impressive figure highlights the vast potential for economic and investment cooperation between China and Arab nations.
The economic and trade partnership between China and the Arab countries has long been characterized by complementarity. Traditionally centered around oil and gas, the cooperation has now expanded to encompass various sectors, including science and technology, renewable energy, minerals, supply chains, tourism, and healthcare. This diversification indicates a broader scope for collaboration and exchange of expertise.
Yin Ye, the CEO of China’s biotech giant BGI Genomics Co., Ltd., expressed optimism about the prospects in Saudi Arabia and the wider Middle East. “We think that, on the whole, Saudi Arabia and many countries in the Middle East are full of opportunities today. They also welcome Chinese enterprises with core independent intellectual property rights to come and cooperate with them,” Yin said.
High-ranking Saudi officials, including Minister of Investment Khalid Al-Falih, Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, and other senior figures, emphasized the importance of strengthening relations with China. Minister Al-Falih expressed his desire to visit China at the earliest opportunity, underscoring the eagerness to deepen ties between the two nations.
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Saudi Energy Minister Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud stressed the synergies between Saudi Arabia’s “Vision 2030” and China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The minister emphasized that Saudi Arabia seeks cooperation, not competition, with China. Addressing concerns about the growing Saudi-China relationship, particularly from Western nations, Minister Al Saud made it clear that Saudi Arabia welcomes the partnership and aims to build on shared goals.
The establishment of the modern Silk Road initiative signifies a major step toward boosting economic development and creating opportunities for Saudi Arabia and the Arab nations. By diversifying its economy and focusing on areas beyond oil and gas, Saudi Arabia is taking significant strides toward a sustainable and prosperous future. With China’s support and cooperation, the Arab countries are set to benefit from enhanced trade, technological exchange, and cultural ties. The “Silk Road” is poised to become a catalyst for growth and collaboration, ushering in a new era of economic prosperity for all involved.