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Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed arrives at Beijing Capital International Airport commencing a state visit to China. UAE-China ties are a model for relations between countries, Chinese foreign minister said in an interview with WAM. Image Credit: WAM

BEIJING: The UAE "will become a shining pearl along the Belt and Road," a senior Chinese official said on Sunday, as His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, started his state visit to China.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed's visit to China "will go down as another milestone in the history of our relations," Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the Emirates News Agency, WAM in an exclusive interview.

"Chinese President Xi Jinping and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, will draw a new blueprint for China-UAE comprehensive strategic partnership," he said.

Exchange of views

The two leaders are expected to have a deep exchange of views on the bilateral relations, regional and international issues of mutual interest.

Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed arrived in Beijing on Sunday evening on a state visit at the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping. His last state visit to China was in 2015, while President Xi's last state visit to the UAE was in July 2018.

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Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and Chinese Minister Wang Yi greet delegates before a meeting in Beijing on Sunday. Image Credit: Reuters

China is the UAE's second-largest trading partner, with almost US$60 billion bilateral trade in 2017, which is expected to reach up to US$70 billion by 2020.

"Our relationship, having stood the test of the changing international situation, has become a good example of state-to-state relations and a front-runner in China's relations with countries in the region," Yi said.

Energy, finance, infrastructure, industry

"Our two countries enjoy solid political mutual trust and mutual understanding and support on issues bearing on each other's core interests and major concerns. With progress in energy, finance, infrastructure and industrial cooperation, our practical cooperation has been thriving in multiple areas," the minister said.

The relationship enhances both nations' common security, he pointed out. "Our close cooperation on law enforcement and security matters is a strong underpinning for our common security."

The UAE's participation in China's ambitious ‘Belt and Road Initiative' has further deepened the bilateral partnership, the foreign minister said.

The cooperation under the Initiative "not only benefits our two countries and peoples, but also serves as a positive example and a pacesetter for Belt and Road cooperation between China and Gulf countries."

"I believe as our two countries strive for substantive, steady and high-quality development of Belt and Road cooperation, the UAE will become a shining pearl along the Belt and Road."

The UAE was China's natural partner in the Initiative, he said, because of the UAE's "favourable location, rich energy and resource endowment, and peaceful and stable society, and as an economic, trade, financial and shipping hub in the Middle East and the Gulf region."

Complementary development

During President Xi Jinping's visit to the UAE last year, an intergovernmental Memorandum of Understanding was signed, taking the ‘Belt and Road' cooperation to a new stage, the minister pointed out.

Detailing the projects under the Initiative, the minister said that the two countries complemented each other's development.

"The China-UAE Industrial Capacity Cooperation Demonstration Zone is being built; the whole-industrial-chain cooperation in oil and gas is producing substantial results; the Khalifa Port Container Terminal Two in Abu Dhabi, a joint China-UAE project, is up and running and the Hassyan Clean Coal Power Plant is under construction," he explained.

Highlighting key areas of future cooperation, the minister said, "Looking ahead, it is important for the two sides to continue working on the existing projects and move towards a pattern of cooperation with energy as the centrepiece, and investment and infrastructure development as the two priority areas.

"It is also important for us to break new ground by expanding cooperation in artificial intelligence, 5G, aerospace, high-speed railway and other high-tech areas. We are convinced that with the personal commitment and strategic guidance of our two leaders, China-UAE relations will see greater development at a higher level and in broader areas."

China and the UAE have a shared interest in safeguarding peace and development in the Middle East and the Gulf region, the minister said.

China has important trade, energy and security interests in this region, and is ready to work with all sides and play a constructive role in promoting safe and secure international shipping lanes and stability in the region, he stressed.

People-to-people, cultural exchanges

"Our two economies have much to offer each other. After years of development, the UAE has become a leading country in the Middle East in terms of breadth, depth and outcomes of cooperation with China," he said.

As 200,000 Chinese nationals living in the UAE, constituting the largest Chinese community in the Middle East, Minister Wang Yi said that frequent people-to-people and cultural exchanges have consolidated public support for friendly relations.

With the strong support of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Sheikh Zayed Centre for Arabic Language and Islamic Studies at Beijing Foreign Studies University is playing an important role in teaching and promoting the Arabic language in China, he affirmed.

"Sheikh Mohammed's ambition to introduce Chinese courses in 200 schools in the UAE has become a flagship project for connecting our two peoples. China will continue its full support to the UAE in realising this goal at an early date," the minister added.

About China's participation at Expo 2020 Dubai, he said China would make its contribution to the full success of the event.

"China will work with the UAE to further deepen our exchanges and cooperation in culture, education, tourism, youth and other fields, with a view to bringing the hearts of our two peoples closer and consolidating the foundation for China-UAE friendship," the minister concluded.