Chang Hua Chinese Ambassador to the UAE Image Credit: Supplied


ABU DHABI: Chang Hua, the Chinese Ambassador to the UAE, has issued a statement on the occasion of the official visit to China by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. The statement highlighted the fact that the people of the United Arab Emirates and the People's Republic of China have similar dreams of better education, better jobs, more reliable social security, and better health care so that young generations of both countries can grow better, work better and live better.

He said that under the wise leadership of the late President, Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, followed by President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE has actively maintained national security and stability, adopted open, free and diversified policies, and allowed its people to lead a happy life, thus making itself a model in the Middle East.

He added that over many years, China and the UAE have cooperated in such areas as politics, economy and trade, civil aviation, public health and sports.

The following is the Chinese Ambassador's statement in full on the occasion:

The People's Republic of China and the UAE enjoy a long-term friendship, which dates back to as early as the 7th century when they conducted maritime trade. Before the establishment of diplomatic ties, the two countries cooperated in such areas as politics, economy and trade, civil aviation, public health and sports.

On 3rd December, 1971, founding President of the UAE, the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, informed the Chinese Premier, Zhou Enlai, of the independence of the UAE. Premier Zhou Enlai immediately sent a congratulatory message to Shaikh Zayed and announced that China would recognise the UAE. Both sides then aired their willingness to enhance friendship. Afterwards, China held an exhibition of export products in Dubai and set up the Changcheng Trading Centre there. Also, the Civil Aviation Administration of China set up an office in Sharjah. At the same time, Chinese table tennis teams and an art ensemble visited the UAE, and the Foreign Minister of the UAE visited China.

On 1st November, 1984, Chinese and UAE leaders made, bearing in mind the fundamental interests of the two peoples and acting with extraordinary political wisdom, the historic decision of establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries. Ever since then, the two countries, once connected by the ancient maritime silk road, have embarked upon a new journey together. In the last 31 years, bilateral political relations have become increasingly mature with fruitful cooperation in all fields and profound friendship among the peoples.

In the 1980s, I entered into foreign service and had the honour of witnessing and participating into the development of China-UAE relations. I was posted to the UAE from 2002 to 2006 and began to serve as Chinese Ambassador to the UAE from December 2014. It is indeed my honour to be able to come back to this land, familiar to me and loved by me. That experience has allowed me to better understand the strategic mutual trust between the two countries and the heartfelt friendship between the two peoples.

In December 1989, Chinese President Yang Shangkun visited the UAE, and was received at Abu Dhabi International Airport by Shaikh Zayed, with Shaikhs, dignitaries and other high ranking officials. A grand welcoming ceremony was held at the airport and Shaikh Zayed made a special arrangement for the motorcade to tour the major streets of Abu Dhabi. The streets were lined with crowds who spontaneously came to welcome the Chinese guests. This is a strong reflection of the friendship of Emiratis towards the Chinese, which greatly touched all members of the Chinese delegation.

President Yang Shangkun said that he never imagined Abu Dhabi to be so beautiful, adding that the people of the UAE were so hospitable.

In May 1990, Shaikh Zayed visited China and met with President Yang Shangkun at the Great Hall of the People. During the meeting, Shaikh Zayed presented an elegant statue of a peacock as a gift to President Yang and in return, President Yang presented the then UAE President with a piece of silk made in Suzhou on which was depicted a portrait of Shaikh Zayed.

What is unique about this portrait is that President Shaikh Zayed can be seen to be smiling from whichever direction it is viewed. Shaikh Zayed said to President Yang, "My gift for you has a price but your gift to me is priceless." Chinese leaders were deeply impressed by the wisdom of President Shaikh Zayed.

In 2007, Chinese President Hu Jintao made a transit stop-over in Dubai and was warmly received by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

In May 2008, the UAE Government made a generous donation of more than $50million and other vital items in kind to China after the big earthquake in Wenchuan, making it one of the world's biggest donors to disaster-stricken areas in China. The Chinese people still have a fresh memory of that generosity with strong appreciation.

In January 2012, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao formally visited the UAE and attended the opening ceremony of the Fifth World Future Energy Summit. This was the first visit to the UAE by a Chinese Premier since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. During the visit, the two sides signed a joint declaration on establishing a strategic partnership, making the UAE the first Arab country in the Gulf Region to set up a strategic partnership with China. Ever since then, bilateral relations have stepped up on new tracks of development.

In 2009 and 2012, His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of UAE Armed Forces visited China at the invitation of Xi Jinping, then Vice President of China. During the visit, Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed held talks with the Vice President and met with President Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao and Speaker Wu Bangguo. These visits have been extremely fruitful in areas such as energy, economy and trade, culture and education. During the visit, Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed nurtured a deep friendship with President Xi Jinping.

In February 2015, the Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, visited the UAE, during which he met with His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and held talks with Foreign Minister, Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan. This visit drew a clear picture for bilateral relations for the future.

In the international arena, China and the UAE have been conducting close cooperation in partnership with the Gulf Cooperation Council, Arab League and the United Nations, coordinating with, and supporting, each other. China is supportive of the UAE in its efforts to safeguard national sovereignty and choose its own way of development, viewing the UAE as a major strategic partner in the Middle East and Gulf Region. The UAE has been firmly standing side by side with the Chinese people on issues relevant to major and fundamental interests of China. China and the UAE have become friends and partners of mutual trust in safeguarding the interests of developing countries and regional peace and stability together.

As an ancient Chinese saying goes, a person should be independent at the age of 30. This means he can make some achievements in his career when he is 30 years old. This is particularly true with China-UAE relations for the last three decades, as bilateral economic cooperation and trade have been soaring, with a brighter future and more room for development.

Bilateral trade volume was less than $100 million at the time of establishment of diplomatic ties; the figure in 1995 exceeded US$1 billion, and by 2005 had exceeded $10 billion. Only after two more years, the figure was almost $20 billion. Despite the global financial crisis, bilateral trade volume has maintained good momentum in development, with the figure exceeding $30 billion in 2011 and $40 billion in 2012. In 2014, bilateral trade volume stood at $54.8 billion, hitting a new high.

For many consecutive years, the UAE has been China's second largest trading partner and the biggest export market in the Middle East and Northern African Region. Also, the UAE is an important trading hub for Chinese products. 'Made-in-China' has entered into the everyday life of the UAE people.

The UAE views China as an important emerging market in terms of investment while Chinese investors are more and more optimistic about the potential and future of the UAE market. As of the end of 2014, the UAE has had a direct investment stock of $1.15 billion in China with $6.19 million newly added in the first nine months of this year. There are over 4,000 Chinese enterprises now in the UAE with an investment stock of $1.66 billion, of which $85.62 million was newly added in the first nine months of this year. China's investment in the UAE touches many areas, such as energy, telecommunications, transport, real estate, trade, finance, securities, services, etc.. Chinese investors include both powerful state-owned enterprises and self-employed enterprises operating in the Dragon Mart of Dubai and other emirates.

I would like to especially touch upon the Dragon Mart in Dubai. It is the biggest Chinese market overseas, with the most shops and products and the most advanced business network. Also, it is the biggest trading hub of Chinese products in the Middle East. The owners of the more than 4,000 shops in the Dragon Mart are representatives of China's self-employed enterprises, as evidenced by the fact that they work hard to provide daily necessities for very little return, thus making important contributions to people's lives.

Energy cooperation cannot be neglected when we talk about bilateral economic cooperation. China started importing oil from the UAE in 1995. In 2014, China imported more than 11.65 million tonnes of oil from the UAE, a year-on-year increase of 13.4%. As China's economy further develops, so its demand for oil will increase. What is more important is that China-UAE energy cooperation is not merely oil trade, but comprehensive upstream and downstream cooperation with mutual benefit. For example, the pipeline connecting the Habshan oilfield in Abu Dhabi and Fujairah was undertaken by China National Petroleum Corporation, which is a milestone project in bilateral energy cooperation. Currently, Al Yasat Corporation, a brainchild of China National Petroleum Corporation Hong Kong Branch and Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, is operating on both land and sea in Abu Dhabi.

Financial cooperation is a new shining point in bilateral relations. The four biggest banks of China have all set up branches in the UAE. Abu Dhabi National Bank and Dubai National Bank have set up branches or started RMB business in Shanghai. During his visit to China in 2012, Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed initiated the setting up of a common investment fund of $10 billion between the two countries, which was echoed positively by Chinese leaders. At present, teams of the two sides are working hard for the setting up of the fund at an early date and an agreement is expected to be signed very soon. The UAE also joined the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, initiated by China, as a founding member.

The two peoples have been treating each other with sincerity and friendliness ever since we established diplomatic relations 31 years ago. When I worked in the UAE several years ago, there were not many Chinese people or enterprises in the UAE, but now there are many, many more. The people of the UAE have come to understand China through its products while most Chinese people working here have gradually integrated into local society and live happily together. At present, there are more than 200,000 Chinese in the UAE, the largest Chinese community in the Middle East and Northern African Region. Scattered across every sector of social life, they work hard and make contributions to people-to-people exchanges as well as the economic growth of the UAE.

Tourism exchanges are all the more on the increase. The two countries signed an MoU on tourism in 2007 and the UAE was listed as a tourist destination for the Chinese in 2009. Thanks to the quick development of civil aviation, diverse tourism resources and excellent services provided by the UAE, more and more Chinese are interested in coming to the UAE and seeing the sites, like the Shaikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Burj Khalifa, amazing Abu Dhabi and miraculous Dubai. Currently, there are around 150 flights each week between China and the UAE. In 2014, almost 500,000 Chinese tourists came to the UAE. The number of Chinese tourists serviced by tourism companies in the UAE has been increasing by 30%-35% every year. The UAE is also enlarging investment in tourism, hotel and retail sectors in China. Many hotels and shopping malls in the UAE hold activities with Chinese themes when the traditional holiday, Spring Festival, or the Chinese New Year, arrives.

Dialogues and exchanges between Chinese and Islamic civilizations are conducive to making both of them flourish as they can learn from each other during this process. As a proverb in Arabic goes, 'a fig-tree looking on a fig-tree becometh fruitful'.

Recent years have witnessed frequent exchanges between China and the UAE, as evidenced by the fact that Chinese artists, martial arts groups, acrobats and theater troupes come to the UAE to perform, and Emirati artists and painters have been to China for insight.

Young students of the UAE visited China as Youth Ambassadors for three consecutive years under the sponsorship of the Crown Prince's Court. More and more Chinese students come to the UAE for education, and as a result, Masdar Institute, the Petroleum Institute, New York University Abu Dhabi and the American University of Sharjah are becoming more and more popular in China.

Dr. Moza Sultan Al Kaabi, the first female Emirati orthopedic surgeon, who sadly passed away in August this year, spent many years studying in China, where she was awarded her Master's and Doctorate Degrees. She was also the first Emirati student to graduate in China and thus a messenger and witness of China-UAE friendship.

Under the auspices of the UAE Government, the Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Centre for Arabic Language and Islamic Studies was set up by the Beijing Foreign Studies University. In turn, China established two Confucius Institutes, in Zayed University and the University of Dubai. The two countries also began Chinese language courses at the Hamdan Bin Zayed School in Abu Dhabi in collaboration with each other so that more Emiratis can understand Chinese and the Chinese culture.

The last three decades since the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and the UAE coincide with the period during which the two countries developed quickly and created a lot of miracles. China became the second largest economy in the world and successfully held the Olympic Games in 2008 and World Expo in 2010 while the UAE ranked among the top 30 nations in terms of economic aggregate demand, becoming one of the most investment-friendly countries, the 14th happiest country in the world, and won the bid to host the World Expo in 2020. In spite of the global economic downturn, China and the UAE have maintained an economic growth rate of 7.4% and 4.6%, fully demonstrating their economic flexibility and vitality and adding new impetus to the world economy.

Over the last three decades, the two countries have been working hard to find a path of development suited to their own national conditions. China has been pressing ahead with reform and opening up, with a focus on people, through scientific development. The Communist Party of China, with Xi Jinping as the General Secretary, puts forward the 'China Dream', characterised by overall rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

Under the wise leadership of the late President, Shaikh Zayed and the current President, His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE has actively maintained national security and stability, adopted open, free and diversified policies and allowed its people to lead a happy life, thus making itself a model in the Middle East. I believe that the two peoples have a similar dream; that is, we dream for better education, better jobs, higher salaries, more reliable social security, better health care, more spacious houses and a more beautiful environment so that our children can grow better, work better and live better.

In August 2013, President Xi Jinping put forward the great initiative of building the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Maritime Silk Road during his visit to Kazakhstan and Indonesia. In February 2014 Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed, indicated the willingness, during his visit to South Korea, to rejuvenate the Silk Road so as to make it a platform for cultural exchanges, a bridge for increasing mutual understanding and accelerating exchanges of knowledge, science, technology and trade and a strong bond to face challenges in Arab countries, East Asia, South Asia and even the whole world.

This fully demonstrates the political wisdom of the two nation's leaders as they share a similar strategy and vision in achieving development. The Silk Road has been a road of trade, culture and cooperation between China and Arab countries since ancient times. Today, the international political and economic structure is full of opportunities, but also more challenges. Therefore, it is all the more important for the two rising countries of China and the UAE to rejuvenate the 'Belt and Road' with an innovative line of thinking so that regional economic development and cultural progress can be promoted. The five key goals of policy exchanges, better trade flows, infrastructure connectivity, currency circulation and people-to-people contacts set forth in the initiative of Belt and Road, are also priorities for China to push forward our cooperation with the UAE. Therefore, it has a far reaching bearing on deepening our strategic partnership.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Building the Belt and Road together calls for the wisdom and power of the two governments and the active participation and strenuous efforts of the two peoples to take those steps. Several thousand years ago, our ancestors traversed the vast Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean after braving many difficulties and brought silk, tea, porcelain and spices to other parts of the world. Today, our two countries stand together in combating various challenges and create one miracle after another on their lands, bringing tangible benefits to their peoples and promoting common prosperity in the world.
Confucius once said that we are happy to see a friend from afar.

At the invitation of Li Yuanchao, Vice President of China, His HIghness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of UAE Armed Forces, is visiting China again this week. During the visit, leaders of the two countries will discuss plans for future cooperation and usher in a new era of China-UAE relations.

The Chinese Government and people will welcome our honoured guest from afar with the greatest hospitality and grandest courtesy and try to achieve fruitful results in bilateral cooperation. I am confident that with the care and support of the leaders of the two countries and with efforts made by the two peoples, the China-UAE strategic partnership will surely embrace a brighter future guided by the vision of building the new Belt and Road together. It is more than certain that the Chinese people and people of the UAE will realise their dreams for prosperity.

The visit aims to further develop the friendship and strategic partnership between the two nations, and discuss regional and international issues of mutual interest. It comes as part of ongoing efforts aimed to reinforce the long-term and deep-rooted strategic relationship between the UAE and China.

The visit, which includes a series of meetings with senior Chinese officials, will provide an opportunity to expand trade, economic, social and cultural exchange, improve industrial and investment relationships, explore new and vibrant opportunities between the people of the two countries, and promote partnership in areas of mutual interest that will have a positive impact on both sides.

His Highness the Crown Prince will be accompanied on the official visit by a delegation of high-level UAE ministers and officials.