The UAE is proud to wish its friend, the People’s Republic of China, a happy 70th anniversary. All across the UAE, during this October 1 anniversary and also what is known as the Golden Week — the week-long public holiday that has long been held in celebration of China’s birthday, there will be celebrations.
The 300,000 strong group of expats — the largest Chinese diaspora in the Middle East — as well as the numerous Chinese tourists on their Golden Week holidays, have already been out in force celebrating all across the UAE.
UAE landmarks such as Emirates Palace, Adnoc Towers, the Burj Khalifa and the Burj Al Arab were lit up in the bold red of China’s colours, beaming out Happy Birthday to China. All of this was a joy to see. In its own way, this is a demonstration of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, which was initiated by President Xi Jinping during his state visit to the UAE in July 2018.
This relationship was refined during the visit to the Belt and Road Forum by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. The partnership was deepened still further by the state visit to the People’s Republic of China, by His Highness Shaikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.
The Comprehensive Strategic Partnership is more than theory and talk — it is a living, breathing relationship that is evident through a number of practical ways.
For example, the number of Chinese tourist arrivals in the UAE now exceeds one million, and 3.5 million of the nation’s tourists transit through the UAE per year. This is primarily due to China’s visa-free policy. The UAE is also a significant hub for business and trade for China — our country is the gateway to more than 60 per cent of Chinese exports in the Middle East and North Africa and there are more than 4,000 Chinese companies operating in our country.
All of this is contributing towards trade flows of an expected $70 billion (Dh257 billion) for 2019 between the UAE and China, and the UAE is China’s number one trade partner in the Mena region. There are ambitious targets for these bilateral trade flows to reach $100 billion by 2020 and $200 billion by 2030.
How did we get here? The UAE and China have both, in their separate ways been building strong economies in their respective spheres.
The People’s Republic of China is a young and developing economy. In much the same way as China is celebrating 70 years this year, the UAE will soon be celebrating 50 years since its inception in 2021.
Our countries are both developing economies forged in the same era. Both were impoverished — it seems hard to imagine now but I heard tales from my father and grandfather of food shortages, this was in much the same way as China, which has over 40 years reduced poverty for more than 700 million people, the most remarkable of accomplishments. We both built up from great challenges of survival.
Since the 1970s, through a combination of diplomacy and a similar path of development, both countries have gravitated towards each other.
China and the UAE have succeeded through hard work, grit and determination. And strong leadership.
What we see now is a resurgent China booming, much of this flight is piloted from a history of strong leadership — China has had a series of guiding hands in Beijing, which have helped the country to soar. Now piloting is President Xi Jinping, whose personal leadership qualities and charisma are elevating China to even greater heights.
In the UAE, we too, have had such an approach of strong leadership guiding the nation, which has contributed towards the second largest economy in the Middle East. Right from the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founder of the UAE.
This great leader drove forward the foundation of his philosophy that the resources of the country should be fully used to the benefit of the people. This vision has been passed down to the UAE leadership including His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE.
The UAE has been, since the inception of both nations, been progressing in parallel with China on the same path of development. Both are developing economies, forged in a post-war era of stability. The wise leadership of each country has guided with a slow and steady hand to carefully make the most of opportunities.
UAE’s economic miracle
Such evolution has seen each respective country expand. For China, its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has grown an average annual rate of 9.3 per cent over the past 40 years and the country is now driving about 30 per cent of global economic growth. The UAE has also had its own economic miracle, as its economy has grown 36 times bigger since the union of its seven Gulf states in 1971 — this is an average annual growth rate of 13.2 per cent.
So now, as each friend has travelled from thousands of kilometres to sit across the table from each other, on the surface they may see different cultures, however their similarities run deep. Both have focus in technology and AI — our nation is considered the most advanced in Mena in terms of AI development, and in October 2017 our government launched the ‘UAE Strategy for Artificial Intelligence’, targeted towards future services, sectors and infrastructure projects.
Such a strategy is the first of its kind in the region. Similarly, in July 2017, China’s State Council issued the New Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan (AIDP), which forms the core of China’s AI strategy.
Both the UAE and China are advancing renewables and President Xi said in July, during the visit of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, that together, both the UAE expand long-term, steady and comprehensive strategic cooperation in the energy sector. At the Belt and Road Forum in April, both the UAE and China signed a communique, which sought to deliver cooperation that will be open, clean and green. This signals great intention for a mature and sustainable approach to infrastructure development.
In this same vein of technology, with both nations on a similar path of development, we have achieved great strides in space. This year has been momentous for both the UAE and China. For China, the landing of Chang’e 4 has seen a landmark first landing on the far side of the moon. And the UAE has just shared the proud moment of the first Emirati in space on September 25.
It is encouraging that both our nations share an aspiration to drive forward in the frontier of space. Like China, the UAE aspires to conduct missions to Mars. The Emirates Mars Mission will blast off from Earth during July 2020 and is set to arrive at Mars in 2021 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Founding of the UAE.
The People’s Republic of China and the UAE both have a similar growth story, as developing economies reaching their own summits. Their development in different areas is aligned so that bilateral cooperation is possible and in fact already being carried out
Belt and Road Initiative
Both the UAE and China are two countries that share a vision of a globalised world. The UAE is a great believer in the Belt and Road Initiative and the supporting Belt and Road Forum. Our country is deepening trading ties with China to support its global success.
The UAE welcomes global free flows of capital with Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX) and Dubai Financial Market (DFM) among the leading stock exchanges in the region, in much the same way as the Shanghai Stock Exchange (SSE) is a leader in Asia. Both ADX and SSE have been deepening cooperation with high-level delegations identifying and exploring cooperation opportunities for investors and business for both exchanges.
All of this shows how the People’s Republic of China and the UAE both have a similar growth story, as developing economies reaching their own summits. Their development in different areas is aligned so that bilateral cooperation is possible and in fact already being carried out.
The UAE is an active partner of China and in this respect, we stand alongside them with the best wishes for their 70th Anniversary celebrations. We look forward to soon welcoming China to the UAE’s 50th Anniversary celebrations in 2021.
Dr Ali Obaid Al Dhaheri is the UAE Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China