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Sidelights on Wen Jiabao's Meeting with the Saudi-Chinese Business Council Members

"China-Saudi Arabia friendship is just like the date palm forest in the desert which always stands tall, never retreats and remains young and fresh against all types of adversities."

At 10:30, January 15 local time, visiting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, at invitation, visited the suburb farm of president of the Saudi-Chinese Friendship Association Jeraisy and held talks with members of the Saudi-Chinese Business Council. 15 Saudi entrepreneurs participated in the meeting.

Jeraisy is a successful Saudi businessman. His company started with only one employee. Thanks to his hard work and shrewd business sense, he built the Jeraisy Group over the past 50 years and expanded business to the sectors of telecom, computer, furniture and printing. Jeraisy is friendly with China and started business relations with Chinese enterprises as early as before China and Saudi Arabia established diplomatic ties. When the Saudi-Chinese Friendship Association was founded in 1997, he became president of the organization and went to China especially for the founding conference. In 2008, he was awarded by the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries as the People's Friendship Ambassador.

An oasis is surrounded by desert 50 km from Riyadh. The 5 million square meters of farm of Jeraisy is located there. Date palm trees stand in lines and camels and ostrich stroll around, presenting a pastoral scenery. Showing strong interest, Wen toured the farm by car.

Next to the tent on the hillside, local farmers in Arab robes received the distinguished guest from China with rhythmical music and dances. They invited Wen to join in their dances.

Wen later met with the families of Jeraisy and members of the Saudi-Chinese Business Council and held talks with the entrepreneurs on China-Saudi Arabia business cooperation.

Wen told Jeraisy that the data palm forest in his farm reminded him of the Tugai forest in the desert of China. Both of them have strong vitality.

A picture of Wen and Jeraisy meeting in Beijing nine years ago was hung up on a board and the badge of People's Friendship Ambassador was put on a table in the tent. Jeraisy is proud of his friendship with the Chinese people.

He was very excited about the visit of Premier Wen to his farm. He said that Saudi Arabia and China have a long history of exchanges. They respect the Chinese people very much. The bilateral trade volume was only US$100 million 20 years ago and is US$60 billion today. As a businessman, he has a dream which is to make China Saudi Arabia's largest trade partner.

Wen responded to Jeraisy's warm remarks that "I come to Saudi Arabia for friendship and cooperation. China and Saudi Arabia have a long history of contacts. There is the famous "Silk Road" in terms of land route. With regard to sea route, there was once a team of Chinese arriving at Saudi Arabia when Zheng He sailed west. Zheng He is also a Muslim. Our two nations both suffered from bullying powers and had similar history and experience in modern times and now stand at a crucial development stage. We can be friends and should be friends."

He said that we can describe our sentiment towards Saudi Arabia by three "respects". The Chinese people respect Saudi Arabia's role as a major power in the Gulf and the Islamic World; China respects Saudi Arabia's political system, development path and cultural tradition; China respects the measures taken by Saudi Arabia to develop the economy, improve people's livelihood and maintain stability.

Talking about China's economic and trade cooperation with Saudi Arabia in the future, Wen said that the two sides should make efforts in the following areas. First, build a long-term, stable and closer energy partnership and conduct comprehensive cooperation on the upstream and downstream of energy industry, technology and service; second, improve the trade structure and encourage mutual investment between businesses. Chinese enterprises are willing to participate in Saudi Arabia's infrastructure construction and use the most advanced technologies to build time-tested projects there; third, strengthen cultural exchanges and enrich the connotation of bilateral relations. Only with heart-to-heart communications and mutual understanding between the youth can China-Saudi Arabia friendship be based on a solid foundation.

Wen's remarks received rounds of applauses from the entrepreneurs.

He added that the production and consumer markets in Saudi Arabia, given the country's powerful economic strength, require good equipment and quality products. Enterprises investing in Saudi Arabia should make preparations in advance.

The chairman of a contracting company present at the talks has strong interest and deep insight of cooperating with Chinese enterprises. He noted that China, with an important position in the world, enjoys a bright future and is of great importance to them. The cooperation between the two countries has achieved huge success in the past. To further promote the bilateral economic and trade relations, the two sides should jointly invest in small and medium-sized enterprises and set up joint ventures, strengthen training of employees, and develop the third-party market and the Middle East market together. The two sides can also establish joint contracting firms to build mega projects in Saudi Arabia. The door of trade in Saudi Arabia is open to China.

He also told Wen that "Saudi Aramco and Sinopec signed a cooperation agreement yesterday".

Ajlan & Bros Co. has many investments in China. Vice Chairman of the company Ajlan put forward two suggestions: opening more round-trip flights between China and Saudi Arabia to facilitate business exchanges; strengthening small and medium-sized businesses' cooperation while developing cooperation between large ones.

Wen expressed complete agreement on those suggestions. He said that he would meet with King of Saudi Arabia that afternoon to discuss how to further grow the bilateral friendly relations within the strategic framework, including the topic of investment promotion.

His words encouraged the Saudi entrepreneurs. At the end of the talks, they thanked Wen for giving them this opportunity to express their desire for cooperation. They expect more exchanges with the Chinese friends in the future. They also told Wen that Riyadh is building the green city and a company in Jiangsu will supply street lamps using solar energy.

Showing strong interest in the message, Wen said that Chinese enterprises have the ability to enable Riyadh to use solar energy lamps and other places of Saudi Arabia to use such lamps as well.

Wen only stayed in the farm for a short period of 50 minutes, but his sincere and pleasant talks with the Saudi entrepreneurs made them to expect a better future of China-Saudi Arabia friendship and cooperation.

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