Sailing into the future

By Khalid Altowelli (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-09-17 07:46
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 Sailing into the future

Khalid Altowelli, the Saudi Arabia Pavilion's press manager, says he is proud of his country's contribution to the Expo. Provided to China Daily

Friendship between China and Saudi Arabia continues to improve and prosper

I was quite taken by a comment I heard a couple of weeks ago on TV from an American filmmaker who made a documentary about Expo 2010 Shanghai. He told his host, referring to the significance of this Expo: "Expo 2010 will transform Shanghai, Shanghai will transform China and China will end-up transforming the world."

I felt a strange sense of pride because of this comment since I thought that there is a little part that I will have contributed to this transformation by working in a pavilion that has been a factor in the success of Expo - Saudi Arabia.

However, that vanity phase I went through watching the program didn't take away from the reality of what I got from participating in Expo on a professional as well as personal level.

Saudi and China celebrated the 20th anniversary of diplomatic ties in July at the Saudi Pavilion, but the pavilion itself is a manifestation of trade relations between China and the Arab world that have existed for thousands of years and is symbolized by nicknaming the pavilion the "Moon Boat", which is "sailing" west towards Saudi Arabia. The last 20 years of contemporary Sino-Saudi relations were a journey of discovery and trade between the two nations and the people who live in there.

For businesses, the journey started a bit earlier as large corporations, such as Saudi Arabia's oil giant Saudi Aramco - one of the sponsors of the Saudi Pavilion - have set up offices in numerous Chinese cities, along with multibillion-dollar joint-venture projects with Chinese corporations in both Saudi Arabia and China.

In addition, around 1 million barrels per day of Saudi oil is sold to China.

The same could be said of another Saudi sponsor of the Saudi pavilion, the Saudi petrochemical giant SABIC.

Saudi people got to know more about China, and its people and culture through this business route, as corporations such as Saudi Aramco started sending students to study at Chinese universities from 1998.

However, Saudi participation in Expo 2010 Shanghai, the largest-ever participation by Saudi Arabia in a World Expo, is another manifestation emphasizing the significance of this strategic relationship.

It gave Saudis participating in and visiting Expo a unique opportunity to meet and interact with Chinese people and admire their keen sense of curiosity and impressive determination to improve. Saudis have also been impressed by China's strides in development, fully on show in Shanghai.

On the other hand, the more than 3 million visitors, mostly Chinese that have passed through gates of the Saudi Pavilion got a rare chance to learn about Saudi Arabia, Saudi culture and Saudi people.

In the end, this Expo and the Saudi participation in it will generate a sense of friendship on both sides as the two nations go hand in hand in their journey of discovery and both may even end up transforming the world in the process.

The author is a journalist and press manager for the Saudi Arabia Pavilion.

(China Daily 09/17/2010)


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