UAE Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China, Dr. Ali Obaid Al Dhaheri, speaking to a group of journalists from UAE at the UAE Embassy in Beijing. Image Credit: Jumana Al Tamimi/Gulf News

Beijing: The pictures of leaders of both countries adorn the walls, giving a sense of warm bilateral relations.

The UAE Embassy in Beijing, located in the diplomatic neighbourhood of the Chinese capital, is a testimony to the bilateral relations between the two countries since they decided to establish diplomatic ties in 1984.

“Behind every picture, there is a story, each photograph narrates a tale,” said Ali Obaid Al Daheri, UAE Ambassador to China.

“These pictures give a glimpse of how strong the Emirati-Chinese relations are,” he told visiting media representatives from the UAE recently.

A big photograph of Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan occupies the central space, a reminder of his visit to the Great Wall of China in a landmark visit by a GCC leader to the Asian country in 1990. The UAE-Chinese relations are not recent and are rather “long standing and has a history that was scripted by UAE founder Shaikh Zayed,” said Al Daheri.

He said transparency, credibility, and common ground on views and vision are what distinguish the relations between the two nations. 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 and an important gateway to Africa and Europe.

The UAE is also a strong supporter of China’s Belt and Road Initiative which aims to connect Asia with the Middle East, Africa and Europe through a network of trade routes, including railways, roads, pipelines and utility grids.

According to Chinese and UAE officials’ statements last April, the foreign direct investments from Chinese companies in Abu Dhabi’s industrial free zone has touched $1 billion in less than a year.

Earlier this year, UAE citizens were exempted from pre-entry visa to China and now are allowed to stay for 30 days. The decision came after the UAE announced it would grant Chinese citizens visa on arrival in 2016.

“This is a great step to bring the two peoples closer,” said Al Daheri.

Nearly one million Chinese visited the UAE in 2017. According to the Chinese Embassy in Abu Dhabi, 10,000 Emiratis visited China in the same year.

There are tens of direct flights a week by UAE national carriers, Etihad and Emirates, to several Chinese cities.

It is estimated that nearly 200,000 Chinese nationals are living in the UAE, while there are nearly 4,000 Chinese businesses operate in the Gulf state.

The leaderships of the two countries are keen to develop further the bilateral alliance, and the goal is to “have a model relationship”, said Al Daheri.

The upcoming visit of President Xi Jinping to the UAE is expected to further strengthen those relations. The milestone visit of the Chinese leader starting on July 19 is the first foreign visit he makes since his re-election for a second term in March.

President Jinping’s visit to the UAE is a historic trip and is associated with high aspirations and ambitions that it will take the bilateral relations to higher levels, Al Daheri said.

Many agreements are expected to be announced during the visit that will further enhance the economic and commercial links, and boost the strategic and long-term vision of the two countries.

“A lot of bilateral agreements are to be signed (during the visit), not one agreement. The plate is very full,” said Al Daheri.

All of the expected deals are of “strategic nature”, and will enhance the economic relations in different fields.

The UAE hopes the current economic figures would increase multifold, and the bilateral relations would continue to grow, according to the UAE ambassador.

In the early eighties, the trade size between the two countries was around $60 million. Today, it is more than $53 billion, he said.