The China Entrepreneur Club (CEC) – a delegation of China’s most influential entrepreneurs, economists and diplomats – met in Dubai for a series of high-level meetings and events aimed at strengthening economic and cultural relations between China and the UAE.
Trade between the UAE and China has surged in recent years, reaching US$35bn in 2012 and marking China as the Gulf state’s second-largest trade partner after India. The two countries signed a 35 billion yuan swap agreement the same year, the first deal of its kind in the Middle East and an indication of the ties between them.
Decades of blisteringly fast economic growth have transformed the Asian state into the world’s second-biggest economy and its largest exporter, providing consumer goods to tens of millions of people. Among the topics covered at the event was Dubai’s increasing global relevance as a business hub for China – a gateway to the Middle East, Africa and other key international markets – and the benefits of developing new strategic partnerships across the economic and cultural arenas.
The second stage of China’s economic revolution promises to be no less significant. In November, China unveiled its biggest shake-up in economic and social reforms for nearly three decades, in an attempt to allow its transition to a consumer, rather than export-led, economy. Its leaders vowed to support private sector expansion, competition for state-owned enterprises, and the growth of consumption and services.
For global markets, China’s planned reforms will have an enormous impact, marking its shift to a more sustainable business model. The emergence of its private sector also offers a wealth of opportunities for regions with close links to China, such as the Middle East, particularly as they begin to look abroad to maintain growth.
“The future of the Chinese economy is based in reform and the expansion of private companies, rather than of state-led firms or entities,” said Justin Tang, co-founder and partner of venture capital firm Blue Ridge China, during the three-day tour that examined enterprise opportunities for Chinese firms in the emirate. “Dubai, for example, is a most suitable place for investment. I think as Chinese companies expand into Africa and other markets, Dubai will be a natural gateway for that investment.”
“Dubai is bridging the gap between Asia and Europe,” said Xia Hua, chairwoman of the fashion conglomerate EVE Group. “Business in Europe has been comparatively stagnant for many years. Dubai is becoming something very unique.”
Dubai’s own economic curve has mirrored that of China in recent decades, said Hongbin Cong, managing director of Invest Dubai, Falcon and Associates. As China’s swelling middle class seeks out new opportunities for business and travel, the emirate is ideally placed to capitalise.
“Both China and Dubai’s economies have a promising future,” he said. “Dubai has recovered from the impact of the global economic crisis and China is entering a new period of reform. We will certainly see more collaboration between the two.”
During the visit, in addition to discussions with Government Ministers, the CEC had the opportunity to connect with business leaders at Emaar, Emirates, Jafza and Jumeirah. The aim of the trip was to help deepen the group’s understanding of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed’s vision for Dubai, and its history, economic growth and business infrastructure, as well as provide the CEC a platform to share the knowledge and experience they have gained playing a significant role in China’s economic development.
Following their visit, the overwhelming response from delegates was that the trip had changed their impression of Dubai as a place just for spending money, having seen firsthand how Dubai's uniquely competitive environment has enabled businesses such as Emirates and Jumeirah to grow into such globally successful companies.