Saudis strike Sh1 trillion deal with Chinese

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman cemented a Sh1 trillion ($10 billion) deal for a refining and petrochemical complex in China Friday last week, meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping who urged joint efforts to counter extremism and terror.

The Saudi delegation, including top executives from state-owned oil firm Saudi Aramco, arrived on Thursday on an Asia tour that has seen the kingdom pledge investments of Sh2 trillion ($20 billion) in Pakistan.

It seek to make additional investments in India’s refining industry. “China is a good friend and partner to Saudi Arabia,” President Xi Jinping told the crown prince in front of reporters. “The special nature of our bilateral relationship reflects the efforts you have made,” added Xi, who has made stepping up China’s presence in the Middle East a key foreign policy objective, despite its traditional low-key role there.

The crown prince said Saudi Arabia’s relations with China dated back “a very long time in the past”. “In the hundreds, even thousands, of years, the interactions between the sides have been friendly. Over such a long period of exchanges with China, we have never experienced any problems with China,” he said.

China has had to step carefully in relations with Riyadh, since Beijing also has close ties with Saudi Arabia’s regional foe, Iran. China is also wary of criticism from Muslim countries about its camps in the heavily Muslim far western region of Xinjiang, which the government says are for de-radicalisation purposes and rights groups call internment camps.

Extremist thinking

Xi told the crown prince the two countries must strengthen cooperation on de-radicalisation to “prevent the infiltration and spread of extremist thinking”, Chinese state TV said.

Saudi Arabia respected and supported China’s right to protect its own security and take counter-terror and de-radicalisation steps, the crown prince told Xi, according to the report, and was willing to increase cooperation.

Meeting the crown prince earlier on, Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng said the two countries should enhance exchanges on their experiences in de-radicalisation, China’s Xinhua news agency said in a separate report.

Chinese state media made no direct mention of Xinjiang in their stories on the crown prince’s meetings.  Aramco agreed to form a joint venture with Chinese defence conglomerate Norinco to develop a refining and petrochemical complex in the northeastern Chinese city of Panjin, saying the project was worth more than Sh 1 trillion ($10 billion).

The partners would form a firm called Huajin Aramco Petrochemical Company as part of a project that would include a 300,000-barrels-per-day refinery with a 1.5-million-tonnes-per-year ethylene cracker, Aramco said. Aramco will supply up to 70 per cent of the crude feedstock for the complex, which is expected to start operations in 2024.

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