Asia is the biggest continent where more than one third of the world population lives. The continent’s population has quadrupled during the 20th century.
The strange irony is that some geographers only consider Europe – which we always call the European continent – as a “western addition to Asia”. Mr. Barry Cunliffe, an Emeritus Professor of archaeology at Oxford University argues this while explaining his geographic location by saying there is no logical and materialistic separation between the mother continent and its political addition.
Aside from this debate, Saudi Arabia has opened a new chapter with East Asia – the massive and calm East with its different directions. Each direction views itself as an important and different center regardless of how much economic or commercial blocs intertwined with the rest of the world. Each step toward the sun is calculated.
Malaysian President Najib Abdul Razak made a significant statement when he honored the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman, for choosing Malaysia as his first stop in his recent Asian tour. Abdul Razak noted that it is expected for Saudi investments to create thousands of job opportunities in a country, which has been one of the strongest and most stable Asian economies for years.
The roles that Asian banks and companies will play will be major in terms of Saudi Arabia’s plans to develop non-oil industries and expand international investmentsTurki Aldakhil
‘Purest land on earth’
The Malaysian cabinet’s statements suggest that they are very proud that Malaysian companies were picked to execute distinctive projects in “the purest land on earth” as Abdul Razak put it. He added that plans “also include operating and maintaining the South Line to the holy sites’ metro and working on the Jamarat Bridge and the area surrounding it in Mina.”
“It’s a source of pride for us that Malaysia is part of the team which designed the Makkah Royal Clock Tower Hotel in the Grand Mosque,” the Malaysian president concluded. The Saudi people can sense this pride whenever they meet a Malaysian citizen.
Malaysia’s king, Sultan Muhammad V, awarded the Saudi king with the Order of the Crown, the most significant Malaysian decorations, and commended the historical depth between the two countries especially as he addressed Saudi Arabia’s services to pilgrims and visitors of the holy sites. The Saudi king had delivered speech before him and said the kingdom always stands behind what serves Islam and Muslims across the world.
The value of trade and investments between the two countries is significant. This is a renewed old Saudi orientation and King Salman defined it through bilateral cooperation and economic relations and investments. The value of commercial trade seems to be capable of steadily increasing in the next years with countries in Asia that the Saudi king’s current tour will include.
Trade and investment
Speaking of Malaysia, the value of trade in the past 10 years was $32 billion between the two countries. This shows the extent of economic and investment relations run between them.
King Salman will head to Indonesia and newspapers have begun reporting on this visit ever since it was announced. These newspapers headlines voice great hope in the projects, which will be signed between Saudi Arabia and Indonesia as part of the king’s ambitious plan to reform the country’s economy and diversify investment.
The roles that Asian banks and companies will play will be major in terms of Saudi Arabia’s plans to develop non-oil industries and expand international investments.
The Saudi intent today seems clear and more serious on the level of economic integration and regional investments, which are distinguished by their historical depth. Indonesia will be the next stop, and then there will be Japan and China, the two more silent and productive giants.
This will be followed by Maldives and Brunei. It is a tour toward the East where directions do not end and wonders do not cease.
This article was first published in Al-Bayan on March 01, 2016.
Turki Aldakhil is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. He began his career as a print journalist, covering politics and culture for the Saudi newspapers Okaz, Al-Riyadh and Al-Watan. He then moved to pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat and pan-Arab news magazine Al-Majalla. Turki later became a radio correspondent for the French-owned pan-Arab Radio Monte Carlo and MBC FM. He proceeded to Elaph, an online news magazine and Alarabiya.net, the news channel’s online platform. Over a ten-year period, Dakhil’s weekly Al Arabiya talk show “Edaat” (Spotlights) provided an opportunity for proponents of Arab and Islamic social reform to make their case to a mass audience. Turki also owns Al Mesbar Studies and Research Centre and Madarek Publishing House in Dubai. He has received several awards and honors, including the America Abroad Media annual award for his role in supporting civil society, human rights and advancing women’s roles in Gulf societies. He tweets @TurkiAldakhil.