Feb. 21 (UPI) -- Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrived in Beijing on Thursday as both countries seek strengthened economic ties.
China, Saudi Arabia's No. 1 trading partner, is welcoming the crown prince at a time when it is seeking support from the Arab world for its Belt and Road initiative, Voice of America reported.
Beijing's ambitious project to build land and maritime networks has been met with mixed results; the Chinese have built a port in the coastal city of Gwadar but west of Pakistan it has made minor progress in the Middle East, according to the report.
The crown prince, who has been linked to the 2018 killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Kashoggi, could be seeking Chinese economic cooperation.
Riyadh's Saudi Vision 2030, a policy that seeks to move the country away from an oil-based economy to export-oriented goods and services, could find common ground with China's Belt and Road.
Niu Song, a researcher on the Middle East at Shanghai International Studies University, said Saudi Arabia is trying to diversify its partnerships.
"Although Washington remains its most important strategic partner, Riyadh seems to be preparing for a post-oil era, by enhancing its cooperation with other countries, which it hopes can bring about more chances to deepen cooperation with emerging economies," the analyst said.
While Belt and Road has made little progress in the Middle East, the call for infrastructure development has yielded significant results in East Africa.
China has been constructing buildings, roads and bridges in Tanzania and extending its economic influence in the country.
Beijing has also been supportive of Tanzanian policy. On Wednesday the government said it approves of Tanzania's sentencing of a Chinese businesswoman who smuggled elephant tusks.
Xinhua reported the Chinese government endorsed the 15-year prison sentence for "Ivory Queen" Yang Fenglan.
"We support the Tanzanian authorities in conducting a just investigation and trial of the case," Beijing's foreign ministry said.