Sheikh Mohamed’s visit to China: Another milestone in UAE-China comprehensive strategic partnership

The UAE-China bilateral relations have progressed steadily since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1984.

The strong economic, political, cultural, and people-to-people relations were elevated to a comprehensive strategic partnership during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s three-day state visit to the UAE in July 2018.

Now with the official announcement of the state visit of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, to China next week, another milestone in the relations between the two country will be witnessed.

Although relations flourished in almost all sectors, an impressive growth in bilateral trade during the past 35 years was remarkable.

Now, China is the UAE’s second largest trading partners, with almost US$60 billion bilateral trade in 2017, which is expected to reach up to US$70 billion by 2020.

The UAE provides Chinese businesses a platform to access vast emerging markets surrounding it with a total population of over 2 billion. Over 4,000 Chinese companies are operating in the UAE.

The UAE accounted for 30 percent of Chinese exports to Arab countries, and 22 percent of the Sino-Arab trade in 2017.

Among Arab countries, the UAE, with a total investment of over US$2.1 billion, has the largest number of investment projects in China as of 2017.

The total value of the Foreign Direct Investments, FDIs, from China in the UAE reached US$9.1 billion (AED33.42 billion) in 2017, according to the Chinese Business Council in the UAE.

Since Emiratis and Chinese travellers started getting visa on arrival at each other’s countries, tourism and people-to-people ties have developed further. The UAE is the first Middle East country whose nationals with ordinary passports enjoy visa-free entry to China.

In 2017, the number of Chinese tourist visiting the UAE exceeded one million for the first time and about 3.5 million Chinese tourists transited through the UAE.

The UAE hosts an estimated 200,000 Chinese nationals who constitute the largest Chinese diaspora in the Middle East. Most of them are living in Dubai and there is a small community of around 2,000 in Abu Dhabi.

The growing relations have reflected in cultural and educational domains as well. An initiative to teach Chinese language in 100 UAE schools is underway. The first batch of 20 Chinese teachers have already started teaching in 11 schools across the UAE.

Since the 2015 state visit of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Force, the high-level bilateral interactions have become more frequent.

The state visit of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, to China in April 2019 witnessed announcements of two mega projects worth a total of US$3.4 billion investments.

The first one was a megaproject to build a 'traders market' that would be built along Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Road opposite to Expo Dubai, over an initial area of 20 million square feet, which could go up to 60 million square feet.

The Chinese company Yiwu will invest US$2.4 billion in the project that includes large logistics warehouses and wholesale retail outlets, which will strengthen Jebel Ali Free Zone’s role in supporting regional and global trade movement.

The second agreement was signed with the China-Arab investment Fund, which would invest US$1 billion to implement a 'vegetable basket' project in Dubai comprising huge complexes and cold storage warehouses for importing, processing, packaging, storage and re-export of agricultural, livestock and fish products.

The two agreements were signed during Sheikh Mohammed’s visit to China, leading the UAE’s delegation to the ‘Second Belt and Road Conference for International Cooperation’ held in Beijing.

The Conference was attended by 40 world leaders and over 150 delegates.

The previous high-level visit - Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to the UAE in July 2018 - was a historic occasion for many reasons.

After the high-level talks, the two sides issued a joint declaration on establishing a comprehensive strategic partnership.

Leaders from both sides witnessed the signing of the cooperative document on the China’s ‘Belt and Road Initiative’.

President Xi was conferred with the Order of Zayed, the UAE's highest civil decoration.

Both sides also signed 13 strategic deals, including agreements and Memoranda of Understanding, MoUs.

The deals were on construction of embassies and cultural centres, energy cooperation, e-commerce, agriculture, cooperation on the ‘Silk Road’ Initiative and the 21st Century ‘Maritime Silk Road Initiative’, cooperation between state-owned oil companies, mutual cooperation in the customs issues, creating a platform for financial services and innovation on industrial capacity cooperation within the framework of the ‘Belt and Road’ initiatives, and partnership and investment in ‘Noor Abu Dhabi’, the world's largest single solar energy project.

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