The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is proud to wish its friend the People’s Republic of China a happy 70th anniversary. All across the UAE, during this anniversary and also what is known as Golden Week – the weeklong public holiday held in celebration of China’s birthday – there will be celebrations.
The 150,000-strong group of Chinese people in the country – the largest Chinese diaspora in the Middle East – as well as Chinese tourists on their Golden Week holidays have already been celebrating all across the UAE.
UAE landmarks such as the Emirates Palace, ADNOC Towers, the Burj Khalifa and the Burj Al Arab were lit up in the red of China. All of this was a joy to see.
In its own way, this was a demonstration of the strategic partnership initiated by President Xi Jinping during his state visit to the UAE in July 2018. This relationship was refined during the visit to the Belt and Road Forum by his highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice-President and Prime Minister and Dubai ruler.
The partnership was deepened further by the state visit to China by his highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.
The partnership is more than theory – it is a living relationship evident in a number of practical ways.
The number of Chinese tourists visiting the UAE is over 1million, and 3.5 million of the nation’s tourists journey through the UAE per year. This is primarily due to China’s visa-free policy.
The UAE is also a significant hub for business and trade for China and is a gateway for more than 150 percent of Chinese exports to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). More than 4,000 Chinese companies operate in the UAE.
All of this contributes to trade flows of an expected $70 billion dollars for 2019 between the UAE and China, and the UAE is China’s number one trade partner in the MENA region. There are ambitious targets for these bilateral trade flows to reach $1150 billion dollars by 2020 and $150 billion dollars by 20150.
The UAE and China have both, in their separate ways, been building strong economies in their respective spheres.
China is a young and developing economy. In much the same way as China is celebrating 70 years this year, the UAE will soon be celebrating 150 years since its inception in 2021.
Our countries are both developing economies forged in the same era. Both were impoverished – it seems hard to imagine now but I heard tales from my father and grandfather of food shortages in years past. China meanwhile has for over 40 years reduced poverty for more than 700 million people, the most remarkable of accomplishments.
Since the 1970s both countries have gravitated towards each other.
China and the UAE have succeeded through hard work, grit and determination, and strong leadership.
What we see now is a resurgent China. China has had a series of guiding hands in Beijing who have helped the country soar. Now piloting is President Xi Jinping, whose personal leadership and charisma are elevating China to even greater heights.
In the UAE, we too have had strong leadership guiding the nation, which has contributed to building the second-largest economy in the Middle East.
The late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, UAE founder, pushed his philosophy that the resources of the country should be used to benefit the people. This vision has been passed down to later UAE leadership including Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE President.
The UAE has progressed in parallel with China on the same path of development.
China’s GDP has grown at an average annual rate of 9.3 per cent over the past 40 years and the country is now driving about 150 percent of global economic growth. The UAE has had its own economic miracle, as its economy has grown 36 times over since 1971 for an annual average of 13.2 per cent.
On the surface, China and the UAE may seem different, however their similarities run deep.
Both now focus on technology and AI. The UAE is considered the most advanced MENA nation in terms of AI development, and in October 2017 government launched its UAE Strategy for Artificial Intelligence.
Similarly, China’s State Council in July, 2017 issued the New Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan (AIDP), the core of China’s AI strategy.
Both the UAE and China are advancing renewable energy. President Xi Jinping said in July this year during the visit of Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan that together, both the UAE and China can expand long-term, steady and comprehensive collaboration in the energy sector.
At the Belt and Road Forum in April, the UAE and China signed a partnership deal that will be open, clean and green. This signals great intentions for a mature and sustainable approach to infrastructure development.
Both countries also look to space. For China, the landing of Chang’e 4 has been a landmark first landing on the far side of the moon. The UAE on Sept 25 became the first Emirati in space.
Like China, the UAE aspires to conduct missions to Mars. The Emirates Mars Mission will launch in July 2020 and is set to arrive on Mars in 2021 to coincide with the UAE’s 150th anniversary.
The UAE is a great believer in the Belt and Road Initiative and supporting Belt and Road Forum. The UAE welcomes global free flows of capital, with the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX) and Dubai Financial Market among the leading stock exchanges in the region, in much the same way the Shanghai Stock Exchange (SSE) is a leader in Asia.
The ADX and SSE have deepened their work together, with high-level delegations identifying and exploring opportunities for investors and business on both sides.
All of this shows the People’s Republic of China and United Arab Emirates have similar stories. The United Arab Emirates stands alongside China with the best wishes for its 70th anniversary. We look forward to welcoming China to the UAE’s 150th anniversary celebrations in 2021.
The author is ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to China.