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Saudi Arabia holds opportunities for China beyond crude oil energy

China's largest foreign crude-oil supplier, Saudi Arabia, welcomes Chinese investors in business sectors beyond the traditional energy industry, a government official said.

China is a window on the world, and its government will improve cooperation between the two countries, said Governor of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority, Abdullatif A Al-Othman.

He spoke at the Saudi-China Investment Forum in Beijing on Saturday.

There are investment opportunities for China in Saudi Arabia's new energy, sea desalination and infrastructure construction sectors, said Zhang Guobao, chairman of the Advisory Board of the National Energy Committee.

Saudi Arabia has rich crude-oil resources and has put in great effort and investment to develop solar energy and raise domestic new energy consumption, Zhang said.

Both China's and Saudi Arabia's domestic oil consumption is rising. It therefore makes sense that countries with rich solar resources develop them into energy and export more crude, Zhang said.

China is the world's largest solar power producer, and potential exists for Chinese companies to invest in Saudi Arabia's solar industry, he added.

"In addition to the solar power industry, China's wind power generation ranks top in the world with mature technology," he said. "It is beneficial for both solar and wind power companies to further discussion with Saudi Arabia for future cooperation." 

Zhang said China's experience and technology in building railways can help Saudi Arabia develop a better public rail system. The project is under discussion in the country.

China can also help in the seawater desalination business for Saudi Arabia.

Mohammed bin Ibrahim Al-Suwaiyel, president of the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, said that other than crude oil, water is the most important issue for the country.

He said Saudi Arabia and China have established research projects on oil as well as water treatment with certain Chinese universities, focusing on technology innovation.

Chinese companies with experience in seawater desalination should pay attention to investment opportunities in Saudi Arabia, Zhang said.

Al-Othman said Saudi Arabia can attract Chinese investors with its advantages such as many well-educated people, its legal system and unlimited business opportunities.

"The privileged location of the two countries is beneficial for cooperation," he said.

Saudi Aramco, the country's national oil company, is involved in almost every aspect of the upstream industry.

Ahmed A Al Subaey, the company's executive director of marketing, supply and joint-venture coordination, said the company is trying to expand its downstream business.

Many opportunities exist for Chinese investors - including small and medium-sized enterprises - to participate in the oil and gas sector, he said.

According to CNPC Economics and Technology Research Institute, Saudi Aramco plans to raise its crude refining capacity to 8 million barrels a day in 10 years, surpassing ExxonMobil Corp, the world's largest oil and gas giant.

Zhang said Saudi Arabia has proposed possible cooperation on oil terminal projects with China in the past.

"China would be willing to cooperate with Saudi Arabia to establish oil terminals since there is no doubt Asia will become the most important area for Middle East crude oil transshipment in the future," Zhang said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Thursday the two countries should keep energy cooperation as a pillar and expand high-tech cooperation in areas like aviation, space and new energy to forge a closer partnership. 

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