State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi Gave an Interview to Asharq Al-Awsat
Recently, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi gave an interview to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper on the visit of Mohammed Bin Salman Al Saud, Crown Prince, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the third meeting of the China-Saudi Arabia High-Level Joint Committee. The following is the transcript of the interview.
1. What is your comment on the development of China-Saudi Arabia relations in recent years, in particular on their Belt and Road cooperation? How do you see the significance of this visit by the Crown Prince?
Wang Yi: Friendship between China and Saudi Arabia has a long history, and bilateral relations have developed rapidly since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1990. The two sides have enhanced political trust and offered each other firm support on issues involving each other’s core interests and major concerns. In recent years, China and Saudi Arabia have maintained frequent high-level interactions. President Xi Jinping and His Majesty King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud 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 contributed to enhanced cooperation in all areas and to a stronger momentum of growth in bilateral relations.
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 the Vision 2030 of Saudi Arabia. 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 of Saudi Arabia was launched last year, 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. There have been dynamic cultural exchanges between the two countries. The exhibition of “Roads to Arabia: Archaeological Treasures of Saudi Arabia” 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 are all vivid examples of exchanges and mutual learning between different civilizations.
Given the complex regional and international situation, the visit by the Crown Prince will go a long way to enhancing strategic mutual trust between the two countries, boosting practical cooperation in all areas and upholding peace and stability in the region. China attaches great importance to the visit and has extended high-level reception to the delegation. President Xi Jinping 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. I believe that the visit will achieve fruitful results, further substantiate and enrich the comprehensive strategic partnership between our two countries, and deliver real benefits to both countries and peoples.
2. What is your comment on the role of Saudi Arabia in upholding security and political stability in the region?
Wang Yi: As a big Arab and Islamic country, a major energy producer, and the only Arab member of the G20, Saudi Arabia plays an important role in the Middle East, and has made unique contribution to security, stability and common 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 between countries. It actively promotes friendly exchanges, and is involved in settling regional hotspots. In particular, it proposed the Arab Peace Initiative on the Palestine issue, 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 the Vision 2030 and the National Transformation Program 2020, and strives for sustainable development of the country and economic rejuvenation of the Gulf region. On the security front, Saudi Arabia is committed to international cooperation in fighting terrorism and extremism, and has established the world’s first counseling and care center for deradicalization. And on culture, known as the cradle of Islam, Saudi Arabia advocates dialogue and exchanges among 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 the role of Saudi Arabia 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.
3. How do you see Saudi Arabia’s efforts against terrorism and radicalization? How should China and Saudi Arabia cooperate in this field?
Wang Yi: Over the years, Saudi Arabia has developed a set of counter-terrorism and deradicalization 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 the flow of funding for terrorism, playing an active part in international cooperation against terrorism and sponsoring the UN Counter-Terrorism Center. On deradicalization, Saudi Arabia condemned the extremists’ perversive 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 deradicalization. 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. In the context of a grave situation on fighting terrorism and radicalization regionally and globally, 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 deradicalization 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 deradicalization 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.
4. What will China and Saudi Arabia do to strengthen coordination and collaboration on international affairs to promote world peace and development?
Wang Yi: Being comprehensive strategic partners, China and Saudi Arabia have long had sound coordination and cooperation on major regional and international affairs.
China and Saudi Arabia are good partners in pursuing a new type of international relations. 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 multilateralism 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 hotspots and pursue dialogue and consultation to seek full, just and durable solutions in the context of the region’s unique history, culture and religion. At the same time, development is the key to addressing many governance issues in the Middle East. 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 mutually reinforcing and deliver more benefits to the people of our two countries and other partner countries.
As the world’s political and economic landscape undergoes profound changes, China is willing to work together with Saudi Arabia to make greater contribution to peace, stability, development and prosperity of the Middle East and the world and to the building of a community with a shared future for mankind.