On September 27th, 2017, the Yenching Academy was pleased to welcome Dr. Mohammed I. Al-Suwaiyel, former Minister of Communications and Information Technology of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, to give a talk on Arab Origins of Cryptology & Saudi-Chinese Cultural Interaction. The double lecture was hosted by Yenching Academy Graduate Student Union, and open to all members of Peking University.
The lecture was split evenly into two sections. In the first half, Dr. Al-Suwaiyel shared the history of cryptology, the art and science of making and breaking codes, and its long and rich history in the Arab World. He reviewed the impact that this history, particularly the valuable scientific contents of al-Kindi’s manuscript and selected works by other Arabic cryptologists in the 700-1400 AD period, have had on the development of the science to date.
The second half of the lecture focused on the interaction between the Chinese and Arab world, both in the past and the present-day. He went on to share the Saudi Vision 2030 Plan and how it offers a new and unique potential for mutually beneficial and sustainable interaction between the two countries, especially with the added rise and promise of the One Belt One Road Initiative. On this point, he shared his hopes of Saudi Arabia being used as a hub to connect China with Africa and the Arab World. Throughout the talk, Dr. Al-Suwaiyel emphasised the importance of cross-cultural exchange and communication, and stressed that though the two countries were indeed very different, there were many similarities, particularly cultural similarities, that the two shared.
After sharing his personal perspective, Dr. Al-Suwaiyel opened the floor up for questions and discussions with the audience. One attendee asked if the Saudi government has plans to strengthen the interaction between Chinese young people and Saudi Arabian people. Dr. Al-Suwaiyel reflected on the similarities between the two, before expanding on the on-going educational interactions of both Saudi Arabian students present in China and Chinese students in Saudi Arabia, including research exchange programs with the Chinese Academy of Sciences. While he thought that these developments were good, he said that they weren’t enough on their own and so he looks forward to greater collaboration and expansion between the two countries in these efforts.
Maurice Gajan, a 2017 cohort Yenching Scholar, asked how China can contribute to Saudi Arabia’s 2030 Vision. Dr. Al-Suwaiyel acknowledged the ongoing collaboration in science and technology, and the very rapid increase of commercialisation and trade between the two countries, but also acknowledged that there was still more room for growth, and re-emphasised the importance of cultural exchange to open more avenues. In addition, the audience spoke with Dr. Al-Suwaiyel about Sino-Saudi investment opportunities, tourism, and the issue of terrorism, particularly in the area of telecommunications.