Over the course of this week, the People’s Republic of China will receive His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. This state visit is a great privilege granted for the UAE by the distinguished nation of the People’s Republic of China.
The Crown Prince arrived on Chinese soil one year to the day that the UAE had the great honour of welcoming President Xi Jinping, as he joined for an historical state visit on July 21, 2018. The relationship that has formed between our nations during this time is testament to a shared worldview and shared values. The Emirati people are grateful to have our wise leadership hosted in the great nation of China and this will be the fourth visit of His Highness to the country.
This year’s visit is of importance as it builds on the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership announced in July of last year — we hope to make exponential progress on that already strong foundation. Last July, the UAE and China signed a number of Memorandums of Understanding, which formed a blueprint for our cooperation and collaboration in many areas.
There has been a great deal of progress to build upon, with the foundations laid by our nation’s respective leaderships proving to be already strong. Our ambition is now even greater, as we look to expand areas of agreement and cooperation to more areas.
The best way to view the current state of Sino-UAE relations is to understand that it forms a series of agreements across a number of different sectors. We are currently engaging across energy, education, health care, artificial intelligence, infrastructure, manufacturing, and culture and tourism.
35 great years of relations
Diplomatic relations between the UAE and the People’s Republic of China are in a good place and the best they have been in history. This year also represents a great milestone for UAE-China relations as we celebrate 35 great years of relations between our nations. Relations were first established in two separate telegrams between the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founder of the UAE, and driving force behind so many of the values of the UAE nation; and the then-Chinese premier Zhou Enlai, whose great foresight recognised our fledgling nation. This small act by the great nation of the People’s Republic of China would pave the way towards great progress, as our journey reaches our current state of a strong friendship with great potential.
The UAE is now a significant hub for business and trade for China — our country is the gateway to 60 per cent of Chinese exports in the Middle East and North Africa and there are 4,200 Chinese companies operating in our country. There are more than 300,000 Chinese people who work in the UAE and who have made the country their home.
China is the UAE’s second-largest trading partner, with trade volumes between the two countries having doubled over the last five years. During a time when the global economy is growing slowly, the economic and trade relations between our two nations are developing rapidly, which is extremely encouraging.
Our citizens are becoming ever-more familiar with each other as people-to-people exchanges continue. Over 1.1 million Chinese tourists visited the UAE in 2018, thanks to the mutual visa-exemption arrangement between both nations. There are over 150 commercial flights every week connecting different cities in our countries. These numbers will serve to enhance understanding and connectivity.
Trade is a centrepiece of the UAE and China relationship. Growing strongly, trade is now estimated to be worth around $60 billion (Dh220 billion) annually. There are bold plans for this figure to grow to $70 billion; and also, for a doubling of the initial number within five years.
So, we can see, there has been a great deal of progress to build upon, with the foundations laid by our nation’s respective leaderships proving to be already strong. Our ambition is now even greater, as we look to expand areas of agreement and cooperation to more areas. There will be a series of governmental and business meetings planned during His Highness’ time here to this respect.
From my perspective, this is an exciting time. The UAE-China relationship has already achieved so much within the short space of a year, which has flown by extremely quickly. Imagine, if we achieve such a great amount upon a one-year foundation, the sky is the limit for what is yet to come. During this state visit from His Highness and the UAE delegation, the UAE-China friendship looks set to move towards new horizons.