Liang Qingwen and Zhang Bin Image Credit: Jumana Al Tamimi/Gulf News

BEIJING

As Chinese President Xi Jinping started a milestone three-day visit to the UAE on Thursday, Chinese economists and executives said sky is the limit for the economic relations between the two countries.

The fields for cooperation are diverse along with numerous opportunities, they said. “I believe there are many complementary characteristics between China and UAE,” said Ding Long, Deputy Dean of the School of Foreign Studies at the University of International Business and Economics.

Bilateral trade between the two countries in 2017 reached $53 billion (Dh194 billion). China is the biggest trading partner to the UAE, and the Gulf state is China’s largest non-oil trading partner, as well an important gateway to Africa and Europe.

President Xi’s visit to the UAE is expected to further strengthen those relations. It is his first foreign visit since his re-election for a second term in March.

The UAE praised the visit as a historic trip and said it takes the bilateral relations between the two countries to higher levels.

One of the reasons behind China’s Belt and Road initiative is to boost its relations with Arab countries, said Long in reference to President Xi’s in 2013 to have a network of trade routes linking China with Central Asia, the Arab region and Europe.

“The UAE market is a rewarding market and the country is a symbol of diversified economy,” said Liang Qingwen, regional manager for MENA region at the China Communications Construction Company Limited (CCCC).

It is the fourth biggest Chinese company in terms of size in China, and it is among the top construction companies in the world. It has carried out a number of projects in China and in different countries including Singapore, Malaysia, Norway and Kenya.

The company, Qingwen said, is trying “its best to promote our business in the Middle East,” including the UAE.

Besides oil, trade and commerce, safe energy is among the potential fields of cooperation between China and the UAE, which is carrying out several projects to produce solar energy.

Hanergy, the privately-owned Chinese multinational renewable energy company, with presence in 50 countries through mergers and acquisitions, is seeking to boost its presence in the UAE.

“UAE and the Middle East are focus areas in our strategic plan,” said Zhang Bin, Group Executive Director and senior vice-president, Hanergy.

The Chinese company does not have any project in the UAE at present. Bin said there is need in the Middle East to increase further awareness about solar energy.

The UAE is already playing a leading role in promoting renewable energy across the Arab region, and is being looked as a pioneer in renewables. Energy experts and economists said, according to the UAE energy plan 2050, the country aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 70 per cent, increase clean energy use by 50 per cent and improve energy efficiency by 40 per cent by 2050.

“The cooperation opportunities between the two countries are unlimited,” said Long. The two sides are seeking new fields for collaboration away from the traditional areas, he concluded.