Since China and UAE established a formal partnership in 1984, both countries have become the leading trade partners and the mutual relationship is all set to grow further in the near future.
Over the past few years, the two countries have been working harder to find the right development path. Especially, China has been pressing ahead with transformation and opening up, with a focus on people through scientific development. The China-UAE trade has grown from $63 million in 1984 to $60 billion in 2016 and is predicted to swell in the coming years.
The UAE is responsible for one-fifth of Sino-Arab trade and one-third of China-GCC trade. China exports mainly electronic appliances, mechanical tools and devices, while the UAE exports mainly copper, iron, plastic and more.
In 2016, Ahmad Mohammed Bin Ghannam, Executive Director of the International Economic Relations Sector, said that thanks to the UAE government, Chinese visitors to the emirates will now get visas upon arrival at the country’s international airports. He appreciated the step taken by Chinese government to start direct Yuan currency trading with the UAE. He is convinced that the bilateral trade between the two countries reaching $100-billion mark in the near future is not far-fetched one.
Keeping the promising potential of the UAE in mind, many Chinese banks have decided to make their way into the emirates. The largest lender of China, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China has established its branch in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) in 2008. There are branch offices of Bank of China Middle East, the Agricultural Bank of China and China Construction Bank in DIFC as well.
In October 2016, China Construction Bank which is world’s second-largest bank by Tier 1, listed a $600 million bond on Nasdaq Dubai last year, the only international exchange in the Middle East in relation to regulatory standards. The four largest Chinese banks have branches in the region’s biggest financial free zone, Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC) of which Nasdaq Dubai is a licensed market.
When it comes to investing in China’s banking sector, the UAE has been very active and has established many branches and offices on the Chinese homeland. Union National Bank was the very first Emirati lender to the whole China in 2007 that has an office setup in Shanghai, followed in 2012 by National Bank of Abu Dhabi and Emirates NBD.
Dubai Week was held in Beijing by DIFC to promote Dubai economy and make it an ideal place for investors worldwide. The UAE has also started making footholds in China and it is reported that the UAE’s investments in China is reaching to new heights. Emirati enterprises and businesses have around 650 projects in China. Many projects such as UAE Stock Exchange and Dubai Pearl Project strive hard to increase their position in China and to attract investors.
There are many Chinese businesses apart from the banking sector who have also started to see many opportunities in the UAE. The Emiratis’ customs services, free zone facility, state-of-the-art port and logistics park have made the UAE an ideal place for the Chinese to conduct business throughout the Middle East.
More than 2,400 Chinese companies have now become of members of Dubai Chamber. Most of these companies deal with electronics, building material, garments, novelty items and more. More than 1400 Chinese enterprises are planning to launch their branches in other countries and they see UAE as an important hub to grow their business.
Such massive economic growth has facilitated China’s access to untapped consumer market and avail many profitable opportunities. The UAE’s “Look East” policy has been interested in enticing Asian investment. Attracting Chinese stakeholders to promote the UAE economy to China has now become a priority for Abu Dhabi.
The UAE have made energy cooperation, obviously not to such extent as the Qatar and Saudi Arab have done so far, it’s still an increasing important aspect of UAE-China relationship. China imports around 15% of the Emirates’ petroleum compared to 12% by South Korea. Over the past few years, this energy partnership has further strengthened after a $330 million agreement between Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore Oil Operations (ADCO) and China Petroleum Engineering and Construction Cooperation (CPEEC). This deal is expected to increase ADCO’s daily supply at a more satisfactory rate. China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) has been involved in different other projects in the UAE, including the development of the country’s crude pipeline and Asab Oil Field.
When it comes to infrastructure sector, China and UAE have signed many agreements for construction projects worth billions of dollars. Dubai has invested in many Chinese ports and logistics centers in Tianjin, Hong Kong, Yantai and Qingdao. Chinese Ministry of Commerce and Beijing firms have also completed billion dollars’ worth construction projects in the emirates. This has led many Chinese infrastructure enterprises to invest in UAE projects.
Chinese companies such as Cherry, Foton, Dongfeng, and GAC Motors have also played their major role in the UAE’s automobile sector. As Emiratis seek more affordable car options, Chinese manufacturers entered the Emirati market with low rates. Chinese car sales are projected to increase 100% every year in the country and their market share is expected to reach double-digits by 2020.
The trend of travelling between the two lands is increasing. Currently, there are 21 daily flights from Dubai to China, operated by Emirates. Chinese nationals reportedly constitute around 4% of passengers at Dubai International Airport, accountable for 12% of sales at Dubai Duty Free outlets. In order to improve the experience for Chinese nationals, the retailer has hired Chinese employers at Dubai Airport outlets.
The strongest area of China-UAE relationship is education. The first Chinese international School in Dubai has opened many doors to foster the relationship between both countries. Breaking down linguistic and cultural barriers will contribute to even deeper political and economic relations in the future. The annual Chinese Spring Festival held in Dubai attracted an extraordinary number of Chinese tourists and locals.
The ties between China and the UAE are predicted to grow stronger in the years to come. Both are all set to expand the China-UAE partnership. Beijing sees great potential in the UAE. With all its natural resources and strategic position, the UAE is considered as a gateway to untapped consumer markets &lucrative investment opportunities. The growing interest of China in the UAE and other GCC countries must also be analyzed within a geopolitical context.
As China is gaining leverage on the international stage, especially after the Silk Road project and the Asian investment Infrastructure Bank, Beijing is now considering resource-rich Persian Gulf nations to use for mutual benefit.
It is important to note that China is the world’s most populous nation with the second largest economy in the world. With such a huge potential, China has a lot to offer to the UAE. Regardless of the world’s financial disability, the Chinese economy is still expanding at an impressive rate and is expected to surpass the US economy which is the world’s largest economy. Given China’s rise as an economic and political power, the ties between the UAE and China are expected to strengthen and flourish in the years to come.