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China-Middle East Aim to Lift Trade to New Heights by 2030 Amid Strained Ties with Western Partners

Officials from China and the Arab world said on Thursday that they expect a steady – and possibly dramatic – increase in trade over the coming years, as the Middle East develops and Beijing gets more involved there amid tense relations with its Western trading partners.

The value of overall trade between China and Arab states reached US$431.4 billion last year, up from US$222.4 billion a decade ago, according to Xinhua.

“China and the Middle East have always been good partners,” Chen Weiqing, Chinese ambassador to Saudi Arabia, said at a forum during the Belt and Road Summit in Hong Kong. “These past few years, China and the Middle East have been continuing to co-develop in a healthy way.”

China’s trade with just the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – home of the booming commercial hubs of Dubai and Abu Dhabi – should exceed US$200 billion by 2030, said Zhang Liming, China’s special ambassador to the Persian Gulf country. That figure was just US$75.6 billion in 2021.

Energy, travel and industrial supply chains are supporting growth in trade, Zhang explained.

Trade growth would reflect China’s diplomatic forays into the Middle East at a time when the US has edgy relations with both Beijing and some Arab states, said Naubahar Sharif, head of the Division of Public Policy at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

“I think China sees that as a ripe field to enter to help mend ties and not drive a wedge but play a deeper, more active and more participatory role,” Sharif said. “It’s hard to say whether trade comes first or politics comes first.”

In 2018, President Xi Jinping made a state visit to the UAE to solidify bilateral relations. And during his more recent visit to Saudi Arabia in December, Xi pledged to work towards widening the use of the yuan for settlements of Middle Eastern oil and gas purchases.

Source : scmp