Muhammad Zulfikar Rakhmat
Your Middle East - March 31, 2014
Although ties between Saudi Arabia and China emerged relatively late, today, the relationship has developed well beyond diplomatic, economic and political affairs. A strong focus on culture, technology and education might bring them into a new level of engagement.
Despite the fact that little has been documented on the figures of students in both countries, it is believed that the number of students going to study overseas from Saudi Arabia to China, or vice versa, has been increasing recently. According to a report published in 2011, there were approximately 1,100 Saudi students enrolled in different universities in several cities across China, and the number is expected to be higher this year.
Meanwhile, the Chinese government is encouraging their students to seek knowledge at Saudi universities. It was reported that there are 270 Chinese students enrolled in a number of universities in Saudi Arabia, among them approximately 200 students and teachers in King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). Estimates show that the largest single national representation in KAUST, excluding the Saudis, is in fact the Chinese.
According to research conducted by a Saudi graduate from Georgetown University in Qatar, Mohammed Al Sudairi, several major Islamic colleges in the Kingdom offer opportunities for Chinese Muslim students to pursue Islamic studies in Saudi Arabia. Historically, the story of Chinese Muslims studying in Saudi Arabia has not been widely documented. However, it is widely known that Chinese Muslims have long attended Islamic circles under prominent Muslim scholars in the Kingdom. Take for example Ma Wanfu, a Chinese Imam from Linxia who went to study Islam in Mecca in the 19th century.