China’s President Xi Jinping and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud shaking hands during a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing last week.
One indication of a shift in Saudi strategy came on the first leg of the tour in Kuala Lumpur.
Some 70 per cent of the oil for the project, set to start in 2019, will come from Saudi Arabia, giving the kingdom a key outlet for its crude in Asia, the world’s fastest growing market.
Crude and fuel products by many companies flow in and out of the pricing region, known as FOB Straits, but the only refineries now in this price region are operated by US Exxon, Anglo-Dutch Royal Dutch Shell, and Singapore Petroleum Corp (SPC), owned by PetroChina.
John Sfakianakis, director of the Riyadh-based Gulf Research Centre, said that the trip was “the beginning of a long-term strategy of Saudi Arabia to open itself to Asian investors and vice versa” as part of its Vision 2030 policy to diversify its economy beyond crude exports.