Strength in numbers

The partnership between Dubai and China is a good example of how an increasingly close friendship between two countries can pay off in a multitude of different ways

Growing economic and business links between the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries and emerging economies are creating new and exciting opportunities across a multitude of sectors. Those strengthening ties, especially in trade and investment relations between the six-nation bloc and China, will play a significant role in the region’s future development. China’s ‘one belt, one road plan’ is a strategic initiative that aims to connect countries along the silk road economic belt and the 21st-century maritime silk road so that they can help to develop one another’s economy. Dubai, which sits on the crossroad of the belt and the road, is ideally placed to be further integrated into the Global South.

The relationship between China and the GCC region has been evolving and deepening over the past years, resulting in substantial benefits for both sides. On one hand, Chinese investment in the region has been rising, while GCC exports to China have maintained an upward trajectory. Trade between the two accelerated faster than with any other major trade partner between 2010 and 2013, according to a recent Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) report, commissioned by Falcon and Associates. The study, GCC Trade and Investment Flows, predicted that it is only set to grow, with the EIU forecasting the biggest chunk of GCC exports – close to US$160bn – going to China by 2020. Equally, China is expected to lead the import market and supply the region with US$130bn in goods, almost double that of 2013.

This trend is translating into growth for different sectors of these economies, from telecommunications to tourism. Chinese companies are increasingly competing for multi-billion-dollar deals in the region. At the same time, the GCC has cemented its position as an important gateway for Chinese trade flows into Africa and the wider Middle East region.

China’s diverse and fast-emerging middle-class population, enjoying increasing disposable incomes, is travelling more than ever before. Dubai’s offerings, from retail designer brands to luxury hotels, have made it an attractive choice for that segment

Hongbin Cong , Managing Director at Invest Dubai, Falcon and Associates

The UAE is an important piece of this puzzle. In 2013 alone, trade between China and the UAE rose 14 per cent year-on-year, to US$46.2bn. Approximately 60 per cent of this trade is re-exported to Africa and Europe.

As the Middle East’s trade and tourism hub, Dubai is at the heart of this. The emirate has become home to around 3,000 Chinese companies that have a Dubai Chamber membership, some 200,000 Chinese nationals also reside and work there, and four of the five largest Chinese banks now operate in Dubai International Financial Centre.

The country was also Dubai’s number one trade partner for the first nine months of 2014, after US$34.3bn of trade in the first nine months of the year, up 27 per cent on the same period last year, moved China ahead of India into the top spot.

Tourism is another key component of Dubai-China relations. China’s diverse and fast-emerging middle-class population, enjoying increasing disposable incomes, is travelling more than ever before. Dubai’s offerings, from retail designer brands to luxury hotels, have made it an attractive choice for that segment. Today, China is among the fastest-growing source markets for Dubai: in the 12-month period to March 2015, Dubai welcomed 344,329 Chinese hotel guests – a 24.9 per cent growth year-on-year.

In sport, Dubai’s sponsorship of China’s national table tennis team started in 2013 and is a deal intended to bolster existing bilateral ties.

With all this in mind, it is no surprise that the emirate is keen to highlight the growth opportunities it offers to China, as well as its mounting attraction as a tourism destination. From 8-15 May, Falcon and Associates – in cooperation with the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries – is staging a seven-day exhibition in Beijing, Dubai Week in China.

Dubai Week in China – in partnership with Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, Dubai Expo 2020, Dubai Inter-national Financial Centre, Emirates, Jebel Ali Free Zone, Jumeirah, and Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority – will celebrate the pioneering spirit of the emirate, informing and inspiring government officials, thought leaders, media and consumers that Dubai is relevant to them and presents unprecedented opportunities across business, tourism, culture and lifestyle.

It will be staged in Sanlitun Village, a bustling district in the heart of central Beijing, at the Orange, a venue which has a potential footfall of 27,000 visitors from nearby offices, designer retail outlets, hotels and restaurants.

As visitors experience the exhibition, they will get better insight into the unique opportunities across business, tourism, culture and lifestyle that Dubai has to offer.