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Hamdan's China visit set to enhance bilateral ties

posted on 20/04/2004: 814 views

The official visit to Beijing of Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, his first ever to China, is of great importance and a step in the direction towards better economic, political and cultural cooperation between the two countries. The visit, observers say, comes at a time when bilateral relations need a shot in the arm and is in the best interests of the people in both countries. It gains momentum from the fact that it involves a country with great political and economic weight, given China's influence on the global scene which can contribute to the de-escalation of tension in the Middle East and maintain balanced ties with Gulf countries.

It is, however, expected that Sheikh Hamdan will exhort his Chinese hosts to work towards bolstering economic partnership with the UAE, coordinate with the UAE to pump more investment in their joint ventures and play a more vital role in restoring peace in the Middle East and reach a just solution to the Palestinian question. The Sino-Emirati relationship has been of a distinctive nature ever since the establishment of diplomatic ties in November 1984 and the ensuing inauguration of the UAE embassy in Beijing on March 19, 1987.

Reciprocal visits by senior officials of both countries are yet another evidence of the mutual desire to invigorate and boost cooperation in various domains. In this connection, the UAE officials paid several official visits to China, the most important of which was the state visit of H.H. President Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan on May 6, 1990.

On the Chinese side, late President Yang Chan Kun visited the UAE in December 1989 in what was deemed as a landmark in the history of the bilateral relations. According to Chinese officials, the UAE is the best trade partner of China in the whole Middle East region. In their view, the UAE has huge potential which can be exploited and developed for the benefit of both countries. Many a Chinese firm wish to enter the UAE's dynamic and attractive market. A Sino-Emirati joint committee has been set up with the objective of promoting the bilateral relations.

The two countries are encouraging their trading corporations and businessmen to take part in trade shows hosted by either country and enter in joint or unilateral investment projects. A good example of such endeavours is the twinning agreement between the two cities of Dubai and Shanghai. The idea of both Abu Dhabi and Beijing being linked by a twinning agreement was proposed by an Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry delegation to China in mid-April this year.

There is a possibility that a UAE-China friendship society may be formed and commercial promotion centres be set up in Beijing, Shanghai and Canton. The volume of trade between the two countries has surged to over US$5.8 billion in 2003 from about US$2.4 billion in 1998, with China's exports to the UAE rising to a little over US$5 billion and imports from UAE to US$773 million.

The figures show that trade between the two countries has doubled five times in 2003, yet the gap in their balance of trade remains wide and tilts in favour China. In 2001, trade volume between the two countries amounted to US$2.8 billion, with China's exports raking in US$2.3 billion of that amount. The figure increased to about US$3.9 billion in 2002 and US$5.8 billion in 2003, a rise of 49.1 per cent. China mainly exports machinery, factory equipment, automobiles, textiles, garments, shoes, toys, building materials, sanitary ware, electronic appliances, cables, furniture, chemicals and foodstuffs etc. to the UAE.

In return, it imports petrochemicals, marble and raw leather from the UAE. China is widely seen as one of the largest global markets as far as supply and demand are concerned. In that sense, China has become a major consumer of oil and gas while the UAE is a large oil producer. On the basis of this fact cooperation between the two countries in oil and gas sector ought to be bolstered. The fact that the construction tender of the Dubai Palm Island has been awarded to the China National Railway Co., stands as another testimony to the high level of cooperation between the two countries.

The project is the biggest to be won by a Chinese company in the UAE. This means that Chinese firms are becoming serious contenders to American and European companies for UAE's major tenders. On the cultural level, relations are progressing steadily. During his visit to China, H.H President Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan gave a financial donation to build the Emirates Centre for Arabic Language Teaching and Islamic Research at the University for Foreign Studies in Beijing and a printing press the Islamic Society in Datcheng province.

The UAE took part in the Gulf cultural week held in China in October 1995 and October 2000. In May 2001, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Information and Culture, paid an official visit to China during which he signed a cultural and media cooperation agreement. The official Chinese news agency, ‘Xinhua,' the People and Economy dailies have opened correspondent offices in the UAE.

On the educational front, the UAE has given scholarships to Chinese students in its universities and institutes. In 2001, the UAE Armed Forces dispatched a number of its personnel to China to attend a staff and command one-year training course at universities and military colleges there. For the first time, four UAE students were enrolled in the Beijing Culture and Language University to study the Chinese language for one year before they move to other specializations in other universities. (The Emirates News Agency, WAM)


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