UAE-China friendship: A foundation for the next 50 years of prosperity
Updated 13:29, 10-Dec-2021
Ali Obaid Al Dhaheri

Editor's note: Decision Makers is a global platform for decision makers to share their insights on events shaping today's world. Ali Obaid Al Dhaheri is the United Arab Emirates ambassador to the People's Republic of China. The article reflects the author's opinions, and not necessarily those of CGTN.


The United Arab Emirates (UAE) celebrates its 50th anniversary and golden jubilee on December 2. We are proud of the remarkable achievements made over the past five decades as an economic powerhouse and logistics hub of the Middle East and North Africa and as a major contributing member of global society.

In 1971, the UAE's total volume of GDP was valued at approximately $11 billion. By 2020, our GDP totaled $421 billion and the country enjoys a GDP per capita of about $43,000, one of the highest in the world. The Emirati economy has progressed from trading pearls to a fully diversified regional economic hub powered by science and sustainable development. Earlier in 2021, we became the first Arab country to reach Mars through our Hope Probe.

The UAE thrives because of a national strategy and belief in the value of tolerance and cooperation. We have developed a unique social and economic model that benefits the entire Middle East – one that empowers women, embraces diversity, encourages innovation and welcomes global engagement.

In 2021, the UAE signed the Abraham Accords with Israel, exerted diplomatic efforts to promote stability in Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea, and has sought to mediate peaceful solutions with Iran and Turkey and in Yemen. Our diplomatic credentials and reputation have been recognized with the recent election of the UAE as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

Strategic partnership and cooperation with like-minded countries such as China is the cornerstone of the UAE's success. We were an early member of the Belt and Road Initiative. Through forward-looking strategies such as "Projects of the 50," which will attract investment into AI and the fourth industrial revolution, "UAE Net Zero by 2050," and continued coordination with our close allies, the UAE has already established a solid foundation for our next 50 years of shared prosperity.

Fireworks on the Burj Khalifah tower during the New Year's Eve in Dubai, the UAE, December 31, 2020. /VCG

Fireworks on the Burj Khalifah tower during the New Year's Eve in Dubai, the UAE, December 31, 2020. /VCG

An international model for cooperation

Thirty-seven years ago, the UAE and China first established diplomatic relations. Today, China is the UAE's largest trading partner while the UAE is China's largest export market and the largest non-oil trading partner in the Middle East and North Africa.

Currently, the UAE-China trade relationship is valued at over $50 billion and is on track to expand to $200 billion by 2030. Today, the UAE is the largest logistics hub for China in the Middle East, with more than 60 percent of China's trade in the region transiting through the UAE. Membership in the Belt and Road Initiative is a major contributor to this expansion of bilateral trade, as is the strategic comprehensive partnership forged between the UAE and China in 2018.

The close ties and logistical links between our two countries have become invaluable over the last 21 months, enabling the UAE to become the vaccination hub of the Middle East for China's Sinopharm vaccine. In cooperation with Sinopharm, the UAE has been producing Hayat-Vax, the first indigenous COVID-19 vaccine in the Middle East. Moving forward, it is projected that the UAE's vaccine production capacity will eventually reach 200 million doses per year.

A global hub for innovation and international unity

For most countries, hosting a major global event in the midst of a worldwide pandemic would pose a daunting prospect. However, the UAE has successfully managed to launch this year's world expo Expo 2020 Dubai, the first to be held in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia.

The China Pavilion of Expo 2020 Dubai in Dubai, the UAE, October 1, 2021. /Xinhua

The China Pavilion of Expo 2020 Dubai in Dubai, the UAE, October 1, 2021. /Xinhua

As the largest cultural global event since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the UAE will welcome over 25 million visitors and at least 192 participating countries from around the world.

Notably, the UAE has committed to building a meaningful, measurable and long-term legacy from Expo 2020 Dubai, working to establish a benchmark for future world expos to measure up against. For example, over 80 percent of the expo's infrastructure will live on and be continued to be used in the future city of District 2020.

The UAE's commitment to innovation, sustainability and cosmopolitanism has made it the ideal choice for many world events. Apart from hosting the World Expo in Dubai this year, the UAE will be honored to hold the COP28 climate conference in 2023.

Laying a foundation for the next 50 years

It is my belief that the decision to select the UAE's Abu Dhabi as the location to hold COP28 will not only serve as a great opportunity for the UAE but also greatly benefit the world, as the Emirati people will be able to share all that they have learned in making the UAE a leader in green standards and sustainable technologies across the region. With the announcement of our ambitious "UAE Net Zero by 2050" strategic initiative, the UAE is the first Middle East and North African nation to commit to achieving net-zero emissions by the year 2050.

In order to achieve Net Zero by 2050, the UAE has launched ambitious and far-reaching domestic projects such as the mass construction of solar power plants, initiating a national transition to eco-friendly electric cars, and has constructed several sustainable low-carbon cities which will enjoy solar energy cheaper than any other traditional or alternative fuel sources and will also have access to carbon-free nuclear energy.

Internationally, the UAE has extended this vision of a green future and has invested approximately $17 billion in clean and renewable energy projects across six continents. Each of these changes and initiatives will support our ambition to achieve a sustainable future for vital industries in the Emirati economy and society, securing a greener future in the Middle East.

A final word

The UAE has accomplished much in its first 50 years. In recent decades, we've also accomplished much with our close Chinese friends. I look forward to our two countries deepening our fruitful relationship and continuing to improve the lives of future generations together whether it be through trade, new sustainable technologies, regulatory innovations, or even in space. More simply, I look forward to our two countries working together to build a greener, more prosperous future over the next 50 years.

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