Xi Jinping quotes Prophet Mohammed as he lauds 'new era' in Arab relationship

President says he wants to usher 'new era' for Chinese-Arab relations during state visit to Saudi Arabia

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Chinese President Xi Jinping lauded longstanding cultural and economic ties with Saudi Arabia in a written statement released by the Chinese government on the second day of his state visit to Riyadh.

"China and Saudi Arabia have admired each other and conducted friendly exchanges since ancient times. The Prophet Mohammed said, 'Seek knowledge even if you have to go as far as China,'" he wrote.

Mr Xi said his visit to the kingdom would "usher in a new era" in Chinese-Arab relations.

He highlighted examples more than 2000 years of ties his country has had with Arab states, citing Chinese traveller Wang Dayuan, whom Mr Xi said made a pilgrimage to Makkah during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368).

"He described [it] as a place with beautiful sceneries, mild weather, fertile rice fields, and a happy people," Mr Xi wrote, adding that archaeological discoveries found in Saudi Arabia belonging to China's Song and Yuan dynasties "stand as testaments to all those friendly interactions", between the two nations.

Multibillion-dollar agreements are expected to be signed during the state visit. Mr Xi said China's collaboration with Arab states in building famous monuments such as the Lusail Stadium of Qatar, where major World Cup matches are taking place, the Central Bank of Kuwait and the Djamaa El Djazair Mosque of Algeria "have become landmarks of the China-Arab friendship".

Mr Xi said that co-operation extended to education as well.

"China has set up 20 Confucius institutes and two Confucius classrooms in Arab states. And over 40 Chinese universities teach Arabic as a major, contributing inexhaustible energy for growing China-Arab friendship," he said in the statement.

Bandar bin Ibrahim Al Khorayef, Saudi Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources, said non-oil exports to China last year amounted to more than $9.6 billion while exports to the country reached $27.8 billion.

"The Saudi Authority for Industrial Cities and Technology Zones [Modon] host seven Chinese factories in various fields including plastics, metals, ceramics, concrete and food industries in addition to around 10 other factories under planning and construction," the minister said on Thursday.

Mr Xi said he was "proud" of "good friend" Saudi Arabia for initiatives in green energy, adding that while diplomatic ties between the two nations have always been strong, real progress had been made in the past decade.

"China-Saudi Arabia co-operation has made major headway in the past 10 years," Mr Xi said.

"The two sides respect each other’s sovereignty and development path, respect each other’s history and cultural traditions, support each other in defending national security and stability, and undertake close strategic co-ordination."

Mr Xi will attend the first China-Arab States Summit, meeting GCC leaders in Riyadh.

Updated: December 08, 2022, 4:12 PM