Chinese ambassador Ni Jian talking to reporters during a press conference on the upcoming visit of the Chinese president to the UAE, at the Chinese embassy in Abu Dhabi on Thursday. Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: The UAE enjoys the most fruitful cooperation with China among all Middle East countries and the two nations are keen to take these ties to a new level, the Chinese ambassador to the UAE said yesterday.

“At present, the China-UAE relationship is at its best. It is an exemplary model of mutual respect, friendship and win-win cooperation,” Ni Jian told a press conference in Abu Dhabi.

Ni said China and the UAE, who are natural partners in Belt and Road cooperation, need to follow the Silk Road spirit of peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and benefit, and seek greater synergy in national development.

He said that President Xi Jiping’s historic visit to the UAE, the first in almost 30 years, is a milestone in UAE-China ties and shows the importance China accords to its strategic relationship with the UAE that has stood the test of time.

Ni stressed that Xi’s visit to the UAE reflects the depth and strength of the developing relations and the desire to diversify them further to meet joint goals and aspirations.

He expressed his confidence that the visit would result in positive outcomes benefiting both nations and their peoples in win-win cooperation.

Rolling out the red carpet

The UAE has welcomed the Chinese president’s three-day visit starting Thursday, his first foreign visit since his re-election for a second term in March.

Xi will be accompanied by a high-level delegation that includes ministers, senior officials and businessmen.

Ni said a number of agreements in political, cultural and economic cooperation will be signed, which “will push forward relations between the two countries quickly and smoothly.”

Ni also said China will build a massive pavilion at Dubai Expo 2020 to showcase Chinese talent along side Emirati talent.

Xi’s visit is the first since December 1989 when president Yang Shangkun visited the UAE — the first such visit by a Chinese head of state.

Then Prresident Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan reciprocated by visiting China in 1990.

The relationship between the countries has been strong since December 1, 1971 when China officially recognised the UAE federation. The friendship was formalised on November 1, 1984 when both countries established diplomatic ties.

Two-way trade was pegged at roughly $53 billion (Dh194.64 billion) in 2017.

In early 2016, there were an estimated 4,000 Chinese businesses in the UAE, many linked to Dubai’s Dragon Mart, one of the largest markets of Chinese products outside China.

Ni said the Chinese expatriate community in the UAE is estimated at more than 200,000, the largest in the Middle East and more than a million Chinese tourists visited the UAE in 2017, up from 600,000 in 2016.

“The scope of our results-oriented business cooperation and people-to-people exchanges between the two countries has kept growing to cover a wide range of areas deepening friendship,” he said.

In a statement on Thursday, Shaikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, emphasised the keenness of President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan to develop relations with China.

Shaikh Mansour said Xi is scheduled to hold talks with His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

Talks are expected to focus on ways to strengthen bilateral relations on all levels, given the growing strategic cooperation between the two nations. Coordination and consultation on regional and international issues is also on cards.