RIYADH: Space diplomacy, climate change and environmental issues will be among far-reaching topics to be discussed at a major philosophy and science conference in the Saudi capital.
The event is being organized by the Kingdom’s Literature, Publishing and Translation Commission and will take place from Dec. 1-3 at King Fahd National Library in Riyadh.
Philosophers, scientists and artists will take part in the forum, which is being held under the theme “Knowledge and Exploration: Space, Time and Humanity.”
The three-day conference will include lectures, panel discussions, seminars and workshops on a range of issues affecting the future of the planet.
Mohamed Hassan Alwan, CEO of the Literature, Publishing and Translation Commission, said: “Last year’s ground-breaking conference succeeded in putting Saudi Arabia on the global philosophical map, and established the Kingdom as a regional center for philosophical dialogue.”
The second conference “will bring together leading philosophers, educational institutions and others to debate the important issues of our time, and help stimulate intercultural, international and interdisciplinary dialogue,” he said.
Speakers for the event will be announced nearer the date of the conference.
How language and culture became pillars of Saudi-China friendship
Celebration of Chinese New Year as part of Riyadh Season marked the start of a new era in bilateral relations
Exchanges of books, artistic fusions, and a cultural cooperation award have helped cement the relationship
Updated 19 sec ago
RIYADH: Since Saudi Arabia and the People’s Republic of China formalized diplomatic relations in 1990, cultural ties between the two countries have blossomed into a robust relationship based on mutual respect.
Affirming the importance of this deep friendship, the iconic Boulevard Riyadh City in February this year celebrated Chinese New Year as part of the Riyadh Season entertainment festival.
The colorful occasion was attended by Chen Weiqing, the Chinese ambassador to Saudi Arabia, officials from the embassy, and a large number of visitors.
The celebration took several forms across the Boulevard zone. All its screens were lit red by midnight, displaying beautiful Chinese cultural images such as traditional houses and red lanterns, with congratulatory remarks written in Chinese, Arabic and English.
On the occasion Weiqing told Arab News: “The Spring Festival is the most important traditional festival for the Chinese people. The Boulevard Riyadh City lights up the symbolic red color of China, letting the Chinese people around the world feel the cordial greetings and best wishes from our Saudi friends.”
He added: “This is a great honor to celebrate our Lunar New Year, and we hope in this new year we will strengthen our bilateral relationship and friendship in different fields. This is the beginning of a new cultural era in bilateral relations. We have a lot of common principles, now we have a very strong cultural linkage, so I think in the future China and Saudi Arabia will be one of the closest partners.”
Further strengthening the cultural bonds, the world premiere of “Nine Songs” last Saturday filled the Saudi city of AlUla with excitement, with every seat occupied at the outdoor Wadi Al-Fann venue.
Created especially for AlUla by Rui Fu, the Chinese musician, vocalist and artistic director, “Nine Songs” brought together a world-class ensemble of performers from across the globe. Fu’s vocals were accompanied by new compositions played on violin, harp, dulcimer, oud, guqin and taiko drums, with remarkable costumes, scenery and lighting adding to the theatrical display.
Fu’s new work is inspired by the Chu Ci (Songs of Chu), an ancient anthology of Chinese poetry from the first century B.C., while also responding to AlUla’s stunning geological structures.
In June this year King Fahd National Library in Riyadh added to its collection Chinese books donated by the National Library of China.
The books — covering subjects including history, economics, tourism and culture — are distributed in Arabic and English. They include literature on the Chinese language and some for children, which serve as an opportunity for Saudis to become familiar with the country and its culture.
Dr. Mansour bin Abdullah Al-Zamil, secretary of the King Fahd National Library, said: “We attach great importance to strengthening cooperation in the cultural field with the National Library of China.”
In July this year China’s Sinopec, one of the largest energy and chemical companies in the world, gifted 2,000 books on Chinese culture to King Fahd National Library.
It was marked in a ceremony attended by senior officials from both countries, including Beijing’s ambassador, who inaugurated the Chinese books corner at the library.
The section was established by Sinopec as part of its mission “to offer a window on China for Saudi citizens, provide reference books for students, beneficiaries, and graduates, and provide support for teaching Chinese in the Kingdom.”
Significantly, Saudi Arabia announced a cultural cooperation award with China on the occasion of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to the country in February 2019.
Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, the Saudi minister of culture, announced the “Prince Mohammed bin Salman Award for Cultural Cooperation between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the People’s Republic of China.”
The announcement was made during Prince Badr’s visit to the King Abdulaziz Public Library at Beijing University. The library was inaugurated in 2017 by King Salman during his official visit to China, when the monarch was also awarded an honorary doctorate.
The cultural award honors outstanding Saudi and Chinese academics, linguists and innovators. The categories include for the best scientific research in the Arabic language, artistic creative work, translation of a book from Arabic to Chinese and vice versa. In addition, there are prizes for personality of the year and the most influential personality in cultural circles for the year. The awards form part of the common objectives of both the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
“This partnership in the name of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is an embodiment for joint commitment to building cultural bridges between the two countries, developing the cultural exchange and enhancing artistic and academic opportunities for our citizens,” the minister has said.
During the crown prince’s 2019 tour Saudi Arabia and China agreed to include the Chinese language as part of the curriculum at schools and universities in the Kingdom.
The agreement came during a meeting between the crown prince and a high-level Chinese delegation in Beijing, in a bid to strengthen bilateral friendship and cultural cooperation.
The inclusion of the Chinese language is aimed at enhancing the cultural diversity of students in the Kingdom. It is an important step toward opening new academic horizons for students of various educational levels, will serve as a bridge between the two people, and promote trade and cultural ties.
Moreover, King Abdulaziz Public Library in April this year signed a memorandum of understanding with the Bayt El-Hekma Chinese Group as part of the two nations’ cultural cooperation. The MoU includes joint translations and publications, mutual visits, and the holding of scientific meetings and specialized exhibitions.
Prince Badr held a virtual meeting with the Chinese ambassador in April 2021 to discuss ways to enhance Saudi-Chinese cultural exchange, including with regard to the Prince Mohammed bin Salman award and the Saudi-Chinese Cultural Year initiative.
Birthplace of Saudi state comes to life with opening of Bujairi Terrace, Turaif
Marking the first phase of the $50 billion Diriyah Gate Development Authority project, the opening signals a new chapter in the area’s history
Updated 06 December 2022
Rebecca Anne Proctor
RIYADH: The prominent citadel of Salwa Palace, made from mudbricks three centuries ago in the historic Turaif district, the first capital of the Saudi dynasty, was illuminated on Dec. 4 with a spectacular light display in celebration of its opening to the public.
Just a few steps away, also in the historic Diriyah area, the Bujairi Terrace, a slew of high-end dining experiences ready to welcome over 3,000 people within an area of 15,000 square meters and featuring both Saudi and top international restaurants, opened to its first visitors.
It was a historic day for Saudi Arabia as the opening of both sites marked the first phase of completion for the $50 billion project of the Diriyah Gate Development Authority.
“This area is very special because it is the birthplace of the Kingdom,” Jerry Inzerillo, group CEO at the DGDA told Arab News. “It’s the ancestral home of Al-Saud, and it is the source of national identity and pride for all Saudis and all Arabs.”
To mark the special day, traditional performers in national dress put on a show and distributed gifts to visitors.
Stunning illuminated walkways lead the way through new buildings reflective of traditional mudbrick Arabian homes and lampposts decorated in the Najdi style typical to central Arabia. Palm trees line the Wadi Hanifa that separates the Bujairi Terrace from Turaif.
Visitors can walk over a bridge after dining at the Bujairi Terrace to visit the recently restored ruins of the original seat of the Al-Saud dynasty, taking the same steps as Saudi rulers did centuries ago.
What distinguishes the Bujairi Terrace from other high-end dining areas in the Gulf is the balanced offering of Saudi cuisine alongside top-notch international Michelin-star brands.
Maiz and Takya, two Saudi restaurants, offer a mix of traditional and contemporary cuisine within sleek settings decorated with a modern take on native Najdi patterns and architecture.
“We are offering specialties from the 13 provinces of Saudi Arabia,” Bader Al-Shaikh, a chef at Maiz, told Arab News.
“The idea was to create a place where people can dine in comfort and peace,” Hessah Al-Mutawa, owner of Takya, told Arab News. “We offer a contemporary fusion of traditional Saudi dishes.”
Inzerillo said that, in addition to the first 20 restaurants already present at the site — including well-known names like Angelina Paris, Café de L’Esplanade, Flamingo Room by tashas, which over the last few years has taken neighboring Dubai by storm — there are other 10 in the works for the second phase of development.
Six million trees and plants have also been incorporated into the area so that visitors can walk for hours, enjoying the natural and historic surroundings before and after dining at world-class restaurants.
Bruno, the famed French restaurant from the south of France, also opened in Bujairi, marking its second branch abroad after St. Petersburg, Russia. Saudi-owned gastronomical brands include GRIND, Somewhere, SUGAR and Sum + Things.
Upon the completion of the DGDA project, scheduled to be finished in 2030, Diriyah will be home to cultural, educational and entertainment shows, along with retail and hospitality facilities. The latter will include 38 hotels, in addition to a series of museums, cultural and academic institutes and retail areas.
The destination is expected to add around SR27 billion ($7.2 billion) to the country’s gross domestic product and create 55,000 jobs, with a focus on upskilling women.
The historic area of Diriyah, known for its Bedouin hospitality and culture, is experiencing a renaissance through a celebration of its past and present.
Inzerillo stated: “Now, from today, it is going to be one of the great gathering places in the world. Everybody will come.”
Saudi Arabia and China: Chronicle of a strategic partnership
Leaders have worked steadily since the establishment of diplomatic relations to strengthen bilateral ties
President Jiang Zemin became the first Chinese head of state to visit Saudi Arabia in 1999
Updated 50 min 13 sec ago
RIYADH: China’s President Xi Jinping embarks on an official visit to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday at the invitation of King Salman, during which the leaders of both countries will attend a Saudi-Chinese summit, a Gulf-Chinese summit, and an Arab-Chinese summit for cooperation and development.
Since diplomatic ties were established more than three decades ago, the leaders of both Saudi Arabia and China have worked steadily to develop and enhance the bilateral relationship. Here is a timeline of some of the key developments in the Saudi-Chinese relations.
The two countries established diplomatic ties in 1990.
Nine years later, China’s President Jiang Zemin became the first Chinese head of state to visit the Kingdom. The high point of the 1999 visit was the signing of the Strategic Oil Cooperation agreement.
In 2004 Saudi Arabia and China initiated a series of regular political meetings. Sinopec, the Chinese state-run energy company, signed an agreement to explore for gas in the Kingdom’s Empty Quarter.
Two years later, King Abdullah became the first Saudi head of state to visit China officially and sign several major agreements on energy cooperation.
The 2006 visit served as an opportunity to discuss broader issues of economic trade, technical accords and a vocational training agreement, and to finalize an urban-development loan from the Saudi Arabian Development Bank for China’s Xinjiang province.
The same year, China’s President Hu Jintao paid a return visit. He predicted that bilateral relations would “write a new chapter of friendly cooperation between China and Saudi Arabia in the new century.”
He and King Abdullah signed several agreements for energy exploration and security. King Abdullah adopted a pro-Asian “Look East” trade policy, with more than half of Saudi oil exports going to Asia.
In 2008, when a devastating earthquake hit China’s Sichuan province, Saudi Arabia demonstrated its support by pledging $50 million of cash aid and $10 million of materials.
In 2009 President Hu visited Saudi Arabia for a second time, during which he and King Abdullah discussed international and regional issues of common concern.
The year 2014 saw Saudi Arabia emerging as China’s biggest supplier of crude oil while the value of bilateral trade reached $69.1 billion.
Three years later King Salman visited China to cement Saudi ties with the world’s second-largest economy. The 2017 signed saw deals worth $65 billion being inked.
In 2019, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited China as part of a tour of Asia. He met Chinese President Xi Jinping and other high-ranking officials.
As both countries had their own long-term strategic development plans — China with its Belt and Road Initiative and Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 — the two leaders expressed their willingness to collaborate on connecting their initiatives.
They signed a cooperation agreement for the enhancement of research and studies in the maritime-transport industry.
The Saudi crown prince also agreed to allocate $10 billion to establish a refinery and petrochemical complex in China.
New independent cinema in Jeddah offers more choice for film lovers
Opening honors Arab world’s most talented voices
Total of 198 seats in main and community sections
Updated 34 min 56 sec ago
JEDDAH: The first Saudi independent cinema house has opened its doors to the public, offering further choice for the Kingdom’s film lovers.
The Hayy Cinema is located in the Hayy Jameel complex and has a 168-seat main theater and a 30-seat community screening room.
Among those who attended the opening ceremony on Dec. 5 were Hayy Jameel officials including Antonia Carver, director of art, and Sara Al-Omran, deputy director. Several representatives and participants from the Red Sea International Film Festival were also present including Antoine Khalife, director of Arab programs and film classics at the RSIFF, and famous Egyptian actor Hussain Fahmy.
Carver told Arab News it was an important moment for Art Jameel because it provides a showcase and training platform for young Saudi filmmakers.
In a statement, she said: “There is no better way to celebrate Hayy Jameel’s first anniversary than with the launch of the much-anticipated Hayy Cinema. This is Saudi’s first bespoke independent picture house, developed with the intent to nurture the local film scene — not only filmmakers but also the audiences who appreciate them.”
Hayy Cinema’s year-round programming will include Saudi, Arab and international features, shorts and documentaries and is set to host flagship film festivals for all tastes, including for children.
“We believe that Hayy Cinema’s focus on presenting and documenting the great breadth of global cinema, and in tracing the history of cinemas and films from the Gulf, complements the blockbusters of Saudi’s fast-growing commercial scene and government-led industry initiatives.
“With Hayy Arts being a museum space for the visual arts and Hayy Cinema for the moving image, both anchor Hayy Jameel, grounding the complex as Jeddah’s home for creative expression.”
Al-Omran said she was proud to be associated with the launch. “(It) demonstrates our commitment to supporting the Quality of Life Program by enhancing participation in cultural and entertainment activities.”
She said that Hayy Cinema would not only screen films but also provide a space for the training of young creators.
Raisa Lahcine, director of international relations at Louis Lumiere, the major French public higher education provider, who is in Jeddah to attend the RSIFF, told Arab News that Saudi Arabia was making promising infrastructure investments.
“It is nice for such an independent cinema to open here, and I am sure Saudi young filmmakers will benefit from it.”
Ruba Al-Sweel, communication manager at Art Jameel, said the cinema would promote dialogue between members of the local film community and provide opportunities for independent Saudi filmmakers.
Hayy Cinema’s year-round programming will include Saudi, Arab and international features, shorts and documentaries and is set to host flagship film festivals for all tastes, including for children.
The opening program has been co-developed with the RSIFF and celebrates visionaries of Arab cinema’s golden era. This includes a retrospective of five newly restored, groundbreaking films by Egyptian master Youssef Chahine, one of the Arab world’s most internationally celebrated filmmakers.
There is also a rare archival exhibition that highlights renowned photographer Gamal Fahmy’s contribution to filmmaking in the region.
How China’s Xi Jinping became the embodiment of a new, multipolar world
Xi Jinping’s rule likely to prove transformative as China eyes title of world’s pre-eminent economic power
Since taking power in 2013, Xi has pursued what he has called a “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”
Updated 06 December 2022
RIYADH: When Xi Jinping became China’s president in 2013, the world’s most populous country had already emerged as the second-biggest economy and appeared poised to reset the global geopolitical balance.
Nearly 10 years into his premiership, Xi has cemented China’s place as a regional power, expanded Chinese influence in Central Asia and Africa, and made enormous strides in everything from robotics and artificial intelligence to space exploration.
China today has the world’s largest internet infrastructure, with the number of users increasing from 564 million to 1.03 billion over the past decade, and a robust digital economy, which has increased in value from 11 trillion yuan ($1.6 trillion) to 45.5 trillion yuan.
In that time, China’s GDP has grown from 53.9 trillion yuan to 114.4 trillion yuan, now accounting for 18.5 percent of the world economy. Meanwhile, average life expectancy has risen to 78.2 years, and around 100 million people have been lifted out of poverty.
Over the course of his lifetime, Xi has borne witness to China’s transformative rise, from the first tumultuous decades after the communist revolution of 1949 to the nation’s rapid ascent to superpower status.
Xi was born in Beijing on June 15, 1953, the son of Xi Zhongxun, a senior Communist Party official, one-time deputy prime minister, and former guerrilla commander in the civil war that brought the communists to power.
As the son of a senior official, Xi spent his early years among China’s elite. However, in 1969 at the age of 15, Xi was among the many educated urban youths who were sent to live and work in the countryside during the Cultural Revolution — a period of immense social upheaval.
Xi would remain in the remote northeastern village of Liangjiahe, in Shaanxi province, for seven years, learning firsthand how the majority of his countrymen lived and worked. While there, Xi joined the Communist Youth League and then, in 1974, the Communist Party of China.
In 1975, Xi returned to Beijing to study chemical engineering at the prestigious Tsinghua University. It was the following year, on Sept. 9, 1976, that Mao died at the age of 82, ending a 27-year rule characterized by radical social and economic transformation.
Hua Guofeng, Mao’s handpicked successor, emerged as the nation’s new leader. However, he was soon sidelined by Deng Xiaoping, who would go on to introduce significant economic reforms in the 1980s, sowing the seed of China’s emergence as a global superpower.
After university, Xi joined the military as an aide in the Central Military Commission and the Defense Ministry. Then, in 1982, he was given his first position of authority as deputy and then leader of the Communist Party in Zhengding county, south of Beijing, in Hebei province.
In 1985, having proved himself as a skilled provincial official, Xi was appointed vice mayor of the city of Xiamen, a manufacturing hub in coastal Fujian province — a post he would hold for the next 17 years.
It was during this time, in 1987, that Xi married Peng Liyuan, a popular singer in the People’s Liberation Army’s song and dance troupe. The couple had one daughter, Xi Mingze, who went on to study at Harvard University in the US.
With the new millennium, Xi’s national standing grew rapidly. In 2000, he was appointed governor of Fujian province. Two years later, he was transferred to neighboring Zhejiang province, where he was appointed party chief — a post that outranks governor.
Now a rising star within the CPC, Xi was appointed party chief of Shanghai in March 2007. He was to remain in this post for only a few months, however, as that October he joined the national leadership as part of the nine-member Politburo Standing Committee. The following year, in March 2008, he was named vice president.
Xi then began building his international profile. The same year he became VP, he was placed in charge of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing — an event that marked China’s own re-emergence on the world stage.
In Aug. 2011, Xi hosted then-Vice President Joe Biden on his visit to China, nearly a decade before Biden became US president.
Then, in Nov. 2012, Xi secured the top job in the CPC, replacing Chinese President Hu Jintao as general secretary, beginning his first five-year term as president of China in March the following year.
Since taking power, Xi has pursued what he has called a “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” with his “Chinese Dream” vision.
Under his leadership, China has enacted reforms to combat slowing growth and has launched the multi-billion-dollar “Belt and Road” infrastructure project aimed at expanding China’s trade links with Central Asia and Europe.
The country has become more assertive on the global stage, from the South China Sea and Taiwan in the east to countries of Asia and Africa in the west.
In Oct. 2017, marking the start of his second term, and in recognition of his transformational premiership, the CPC enshrined Xi’s ideology, known as “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era,” in its constitution, as well as his signature Belt and Road initiative.
Such was Xi’s prestige at the outset of his second term that China’s legislature voted in March 2018 to abolish the nation’s two-term limit on the presidency.
Xi’s second term was not without its challenges, however. In July 2018, the US, under then-President Donald Trump, imposed tariffs on Chinese imports, triggering a trade war. China retaliated with tariffs on US goods.
Then, in Jan. 2020, China locked down the city of Wuhan as a new virus sparked what would become the COVID-19 pandemic. Although China has seen one of the world’s lowest per capita death rates, its “zero-COVID” policy has required the imposition of periodic lockdowns.
As one of the world’s major industrial powerhouses, and one of its top manufacturers, China has been eager to play its part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, weaning its power grid off coal, developing clean renewable technologies, and promoting sustainability.
In Sept. 2020, in a video speech to the UN General Assembly, Xi announced China’s aim to reach peak carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and to achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.
It was in 2022 that China under Xi truly emerged as a global force with influence over world events. In February, at the opening of the Beijing Winter Olympics, Xi met Russian President Vladimir Putin, announcing a renewal of the Sino-Russian relationship.
Three weeks later, Russia invaded Ukraine, leading to Western sanctions and NATO efforts to shore up the Ukrainian defenders. China, meanwhile, like many equidistant nations, refrained from criticizing Russia’s operation, but stopped short of backing Moscow militarily. This episode alone demonstrates just how far China has come in the new, multipolar world.
In October, Xi began a third five-year term as CPC leader, setting him on a course to become the nation’s longest-serving leader since Mao, and very likely its most transformative, as China eyes the possibility of becoming the world’s pre-eminent economic power.