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Chinese FM to Asharq Al-Awsat: Crown Prince’s Visit Paves Way for Comprehensive Cooperation

Chinese FM to Asharq Al-Awsat: Crown Prince’s Visit Paves Way for Comprehensive Cooperation

Friday, 22 February, 2019 - 07:00
China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi. (Reuters)
Riyadh - Fatehelrahman Yousif

Riyadh and Beijing have enhanced political trust and offered mutual support on issues involving each other’s core interests and major concerns, said State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat, he stressed the importance of the role played by Saudi Arabia in preserving regional peace and stability, saying Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to China will lay the foundations for effective and comprehensive cooperation.

Wang noted that each of Saudi Arabia and the China have contributed to pushing the peace process forward, noting that they are determined to carry on their fight to eliminate extremism by spreading the spirit of moderation and tolerance.

“Friendship between China and Saudi Arabia has a long history, and bilateral relations have developed rapidly since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1990. In recent years, China and Saudi Arabia have maintained frequent high-level interactions,” he remarked.

“President Xi Jinping and Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz have exchanged visits and the two countries have established the comprehensive strategic partnership and set up the China-Saudi Arabia High-level Joint Committee. All this boosted cooperation in all areas and contributed to a stronger momentum of growth in bilateral relations,” noted the minister.

“China and Saudi Arabia have achieved fruitful results in practical cooperation as the two countries seek greater complementarity between the Belt and Road Initiative and Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030. In 2018, bilateral trade reached US$63.33 billion and Saudi Arabia remained China’s largest trading partner in West Asia and Africa for 18 consecutive years.

“The two sides have identified the first batch of key projects on industrial capacity and investment cooperation worth US$55 billion. The development of industrial clusters in Jizan is well underway, and groundbreaking was held recently on the US$3.2 billion Guangzhou Pan-Asia PET petrochemical project, which was the first investment project in the clusters.

“Major energy and infrastructure projects, such as the Yanbu Refinery in Saudi Arabia, the Panjin Refinery in China’s Liaoning Province, the Rabigh Power Station and the Landbridge Railway are being advanced steadily or under close discussion.

“Cooperation on new and high technology has delivered successful outcomes. A Chinese satellite installed with an optical camera from Saudi Arabia was launched last year and accomplishing the first lunar probe by an Arab country. Two Saudi Arabia-made satellites were successfully brought into orbit by China’s Long March launch vehicle,” said Wang.

Furthermore, he noted the dynamic cultural exchanges between Riyadh and Beijing, citing the “Roads to Arabia: Archaeological Treasures of Saudi Arabia” exhibition that was attended by both heads of state, the “Exhibition of Chinese Cultural Relics” in Saudi Arabia, the joint archaeological excavation which unearthed relics indicating the maritime Silk Road at the port of Al-Serrian and the performance by the Chinese symphony orchestra and musicians at the World Heritage Site of Al-Ula.

Given the complex regional and international situation, the Crown Prince’s visit will go a long way in enhancing strategic mutual trust between the two countries, boosting practical cooperation in all areas and upholding peace and stability in the region.

Xi will meet with the Crown Prince and Vice Premier Han Zheng will co-chair with the Crown Prince the third meeting of the China-Saudi Arabia High-level Joint Committee. The two sides will sign a number of cooperation agreements on industrial capacity, trade, energy and shipping.

Addressing Saudi Arabia’s role in upholding security and political stability in the region, the minister remarked: “As a big Arab and Islamic country, a major energy producer and the only Arab member of the G20, the Kingdom plays an important role in the Middle East and has made a unique contribution to security, stability and development in the region.

“In the political field, Saudi Arabia follows an independent foreign policy advocating mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and non-interference in internal affairs of countries. It actively promotes friendly exchanges and is involved in resolving regional tensions,” he noted.

He cited its proposal of the Arab peace initiative to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, “which remains to this day the basis for redressing historical injustices and seeking a full and durable solution to this fundamental issue in the Middle East.”

On economic affairs, as a major oil producer and the largest Arab economy, “Saudi Arabia pursues economic diversification by implementing Vision 2030 and the National Transformation Program 2020, and strives for sustainable development of the country and economic rejuvenation of the Gulf region,” stated Wang.

“On the security front, the Kingdom is committed to international cooperation in fighting terrorism and extremism and has established the world’s first counseling and care center for de-radicalization.

“On culture, known as the cradle of Islam, Saudi Arabia advocates dialogue and exchanges between civilizations and cultures, and the return to ‘moderate Islam’. It actively hosts dialogues and forums on religions and civilizations to increase mutual understanding and cooperation among different civilizations.

“China has all along attached great importance to Saudi Arabia’s role in regional and international affairs from a strategic and overarching perspective. China firmly supports Saudi Arabia in upholding its sovereignty, security and stability, in playing a positive and constructive role in the evolving regional landscape, in developing friendship and cooperation with countries in the region, and in making greater contribution to peace, stability and development in the Middle East and the Gulf region,” stressed Wang.

Commenting on Riyadh’s efforts to combat terrorism and radicalization, he said: “Over the years, Saudi Arabia has developed a set of counter-terrorism and de-radicalization measures suited to its national conditions and regional realities. These measures have played an important role in safeguarding Saudi Arabia’s security and regional stability.

“Saudi Arabia intensified its fight against terrorist organizations, including cutting off its funding, playing an active part in international cooperation against terrorism and sponsoring the UN Counter-Terrorism Center.

“On de-radicalization, Saudi Arabia condemned the extremists’ perverse interpretation of Islamic teachings, encouraged religious tolerance and established multiple counseling and care centers to guide and reeducate those influenced by the extremist ideologies.

“Both China and Saudi Arabia are victims of terrorism and we have both been important participants in the international cooperation against terrorism. Our two countries have broad common ground on counter-terrorism and de-radicalization. We both advocate enhanced dialogues between civilizations. We both oppose linking terrorism with any particular ethnic group or religion. We both stand for a holistic approach and reject double standards in fighting terrorism. And we both believe that the views of countries suffering from terrorism deserve closer attention and that the UN remains the main channel for international counter-terrorism cooperation.

“China is ready to carry out policy dialogue and intelligence sharing with Saudi Arabia and strengthen our cooperation on related technologies, personnel training, stemming terrorist financing, fighting transnational organized crimes and sharing best practices of de-radicalization to safeguard our common security.

"Terrorism has long presented a huge challenge for China. Starting from the 1990s, terrorist organizations such as the ETIM have plotted and orchestrated several thousand violent terrorist acts involving explosions, assassinations, poisoning, arson and assaults. These incidents have inflicted heavy casualties and property losses on the people of different ethnicities across Xinjiang, and severely jeopardized Xinjiang’s social stability and economic development.

"While intensifying our fight against terrorist organizations, China has drawn on the experience of Saudi Arabia and other members of the international community in fighting terrorism and radicalization, and set up vocational education and training centers in Xinjiang in accordance with the law. This is a creative and precautionary measure against terrorism and radicalization and represents China’s meaningful effort to explore an approach for the global fight against terrorism. The measure is essentially in tune with Saudi Arabia’s counter-terrorism and de-radicalization efforts.

"The relevant measures are aimed at countering the influence of extremist terrorist ideologies. They are not targeted at any particular ethnicity or religion. They have been conducted strictly in line with legal procedures and in a way that effectively safeguards the rights of citizens. Thanks to these multi-pronged efforts, Xinjiang has achieved visible improvement in its public security. No violent terrorist attacks have occurred in the past two years, and people in Xinjiang feel much safer. Such an approach has been welcomed and supported by people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang, including the Muslim community," Wang added.

On China and Saudi Arabia’s efforts to strengthen coordination and collaboration to promote world peace and development, the minister said: “Being comprehensive strategic partners, China and Saudi Arabia have long had sound coordination and cooperation on major regional and international affairs.

“We both stand for equality in state-to-state relations and respect for sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity and for each other’s core interests and major concerns and independent choices of social system and development path by people of all countries. We maintain close coordination and collaboration at the United Nations (UN) and other multilateral forums and share the view that the Security Council reform should help increase the representation and voice of developing countries. We have stood together against politicizing human rights issues and double standards and work together to uphold the common interests of developing countries.

“China and Saudi Arabia are good partners in pursuing an open world economy. We both support an open, transparent, inclusive and non-discriminatory multilateral trading system and reject unilateralism and trade protectionism. The two sides have worked to advance negotiations on a free trade agreement between China and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), with a view to upholding free trade and delivering benefits to the people of China and the GCC countries. China supports Saudi Arabia’s G20 presidency in 2020, and is confident that under its presidency, the summit, the first ever to be held in an Arab country, will be a success and will serve to champion multi-lateralism and the spirit of partnership, spearhead innovative growth, promote inclusive development and steer the course for global economic governance.

“China and Saudi Arabia are good partners in promoting regional peace and development. It is our shared view that stability and development of the Middle East serve the common interests of the people of the region and beyond. It is important to remain committed to political settlement to regional crises and pursue dialogue and consultation to seek full, just and durable solutions.

“China is ready to work with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states to synergize our development strategies and pursue high quality Belt and Road cooperation, so that our development will become more interconnected and deliver more benefits to the people of our two countries and other partner countries,” Wang said.

Turning to the Middle East, he stressed: “Lasting peace in the world would not be possible without a stable Middle East. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China has been closely following the peace and security situation in the region. It has held an objective and just position and actively called for working toward a vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security.

“China has approached conflict in a Chinese way and actively facilitated peace and dialogue among parties, playing a positive and constructive role for the political settlement of regional issues.

On Palestine, China has been a staunch supporter of the cause of the Palestinian people. The four-point proposal on the Palestine issue put forth by President Xi Jinping in 2017 was warmly received in the region. At last year’s eighth Ministerial Conference of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum, Xi explicitly reaffirmed China’s support for the just cause of Palestine and called for efforts to renew the Palestine-Israel peace talks on the basis of the two-state solution and the Arab peace initiative.

“On South Sudan, China has consistently supported the peace process in the country and made it a priority to help South Sudan restore stability and development. On Libya, Yemen and other issues, China has been working alongside the international community to be a positive force for the early and peaceful settlement of these issues.

“China has dispatched a total of 27,023 personnel to peacekeeping missions in Lebanon, South Sudan, the Darfur region of Sudan and Western Sahara. They have contributed remarkably to restoring peace and stability in those countries and regions. Thirteen Chinese soldiers have made the ultimate sacrifice for peace in the Middle East. China has also provided mine sweeping and other assistance to countries like Kuwait, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and Somalia, as part of the successful security cooperation between China and regional countries.

“The Chinese navy fleets conducting escort missions in the Gulf of Aden have escorted more than 6,600 vessels passing through the Gulf of Aden and waters off the coast of Somalia, and rescued, protected and aided more than 70 vessels in danger.

“China has also provided strong humanitarian support to refugees in relevant countries to rekindle their hope for rebuilding their home in peace even in time of conflicts. At the opening ceremony of the eighth Ministerial Conference of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum, Xi announced that China will provide an additional 700 million yuan of assistance to Palestine, Syria, Yemen, Jordan and Lebanon, discuss with Arab countries the implementation of programs totaling one billion yuan on maintaining stability, and launch a special program for economic reconstruction through industrial revitalization with a US$20 billion credit line for closer cooperation with countries having reconstruction needs. These concrete measures have been applauded by the people of regional countries,” said Wang.

On Syria, he noted: “Counter-terrorism efforts have yielded important results, security is improving significantly and the humanitarian situation is improving. There has been a buildup of momentum for a political settlement. Under the good offices of the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Syria, major progress has been made in establishing a Constitutional Committee.

“An early and proper settlement of the Syrian conflict is crucial for the country’s stability and development and the well-being of its people. China has always maintained that political settlement is the only way out for Syria, that the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Syria must be upheld and respected, and that the future of Syria should be decided by its people acting in their own will.

“China supports the UN’s role as the main channel of mediation. We have proposed China’s solutions to the issue and sent our special envoy on missions of shuttling diplomacy to promote talks for peace. We call upon all parties in Syria to engage in inclusive political dialogue, advance the political process as soon as possible, and look for a solution that fits Syria’s realities and reflects the concerns of all parties in a balanced way. Members of the international community, for their part, should seize the opportunities and make concerted efforts to create a favorable external environment for settling the Syrian issue.

Turning to China’s remarkable achievements over the past 70 years since the founding of the People’s Republic, Wang said that Beijing’s greatest achievement was its pursuit “of a development path that suits China’s reality and has the support of all its people, namely the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics.

“This path of development has been shaped by 90 years of struggle by the Chinese people in pursuing the great social revolution under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, by 70 years of tireless exploration since the founding of New China, and by 40 years of reform and opening-up.

“China’s development has shown that, like ‘all roads lead to Rome’, there is more than one pathway leading to modernization and there is simply no such thing as a one-size-fits-all development model.

“The only way to find the right path of development is to open one’s mind, be down-to-earth, proceed from national conditions and the aspirations of the people and be responsive to the needs of one’s country in the context of changing times. The success of China’s development has broadened the avenues for other developing countries to achieve modernization and inspired countries that are exploring their own development paths.

“The development and rejuvenation of China, a big country with 1.4 billion people, represents a major contribution to the development of humanity. As a responsible major country, it never exports its social system to others. It firmly supports other countries, including Saudi Arabia, in choosing their own development paths.”

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