BEIJING: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrived in Beijing Thursday as the monarch aims to seal partnerships on a high-profile Asia tour following a diplomatic crisis over a journalist’s brutal murder.
Mohammed is expected to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping on his two-day trip to the Chinese capital following visits to Pakistan and India.
The tour has allowed him to show that Riyadh still has allies after the grisly murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi – a fierce critic of Mohammed – at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul tarnished the image of the kingdom and the prince.
The Chinese foreign ministry said Beijing’s ambitious Belt and Road global trade infrastructure initiative will be on the agenda, as the two countries look to improve their economic ties.
“Saudi Arabia has a lot of capital that needs to find profitable places to be deployed,” Saudi energy and industry minister Khalid bin Abdulaziz Al-Falih told China’s official Xinhua news agency.
“China is a great place to invest with a huge market and an improving environment,” he said.
The two countries will sign agreements and memorandums of understanding in the energy, investment, transport and technology fields, said the Saudi ambassador to China Turki bin Mohammed Al-Madi, according to the official Saudi Press Agency.
In Pakistan, the monarch signed a raft of investment deals worth up to US$20 billion for the cash-strapped South Asian country.
On Wednesday, the monarch met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose country counts Saudi Arabia as one of its key crude suppliers.
Crackdown on terrorism
After his meeting with Modi, Mohammed said the kingdom saw investment opportunities in “various fields to exceed US$100 billion”.
Mohammed also vowed to crack down on terrorism with Modi, as their meeting was overshadowed by a suicide bomb attack that India has blamed on Pakistan – a key Saudi ally.
His visit to China also comes on the heels of a visit by the parliament speaker of the kingdom’s arch-rival Iran, Ali Larijani, who met with Xi on Wednesday.
Saudi Arabia has accused Iran of backing militant strikes, and is part of an ongoing sanctions campaign against fellow Gulf state Qatar – which Riyadh believes is working with Tehran, and supporting and funding “terrorism”.
The kingdom has remained silent, however, over China’s treatment of Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minorities in the far-west region of Xinjiang.
Up to one million Uighurs and other minorities are being held in internment camps in Xinjiang as part of a draconian anti-terror and anti-separatist campaign, according to estimates cited by a UN panel.