Thu, 24 Oct 2019

UAE Crown Prince Ben Zayed Visits China to Boost Ties

Voice of America
24 Jul 2019, 07:05 GMT+10

CAIRO - China is playing host to Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed, who is in Beijing on a state visit. Like the UAE, China aspires to increase its role as a maritime trading player.

Arab media played up Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed's state visit to Beijing, where he met with top Chinese leaders and discussed trade and security ties. China was the UAE's second largest trading partner in 2017, with bilateral trade of $60 billion.

Sky News Arabia reported that more than 500 businessmen from Chinese and Emirati firms Monday attended a joint economic conference, where numerous business deals were discussed and signed. The report noted that the UAE and China began strengthening ties during a state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Abu Dhabi in 2018.

Mohammed Bin Zayed stressed the importance of stronger ties with Beijing, while thanking Chinese leaders for their warm welcome.

Bin Zayed said he is grateful for the cordial reception by his Chinese hosts and that Abu Dhabi was proud to host President Xi in July 2018, a visit which he said showed the depth of ties between the two countries.

The National newspaper, based in Abu Dhabi, reported that Crown Prince Mohammed and President Xi were due to "witness the signing of at least 10 agreements in the fields of economy, oil and environment." The newspaper added the two also would "discuss regional and international issues of common interest."

Paul Sullivan is an adjunct professor of security studies at Georgetown University. He tells VOA that China "is becoming a more important player in the region, every day," while the U.S., he suggests, is losing some of its traditional clout.

Sullivan said tensions in the Gulf are of major importance to both the UAE and China. "There could be some quiet discussions," he suggests, " to create a back door to Iran via China to help resolve the tensions."

"A war," he argues, "is an all-will-lose proposition, and both countries' leaders know this."

Tensions between Iran and the West have been stoked by Tehran's announcement that it had captured 17 U.S. spies and sentenced some of them to death. Iran alleged they had been collecting information "from sensitive sites" for the Central Intelligence Agency.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have rejected the Iranian claims. Trump said in a tweet Monday the report of Iran capturing CIA spies is "totally false."

Separately, tensions have risen over President Trump's decision to pull the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal and Iran's seizure of a British-flagged oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz. Britain had seized an Iranian tanker off the coast of Gibraltar earlier this month.

The Saudi-owned Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper reported that Crown Prince Mohammed is expecting a "strong and effective Chinese role in the Gulf," and that the UAE believes in "freedom and security of navigation in the Gulf and the region."

"Abu Dhabi," he added, "is working with China and other major countries to protect that freedom."

Washington-based Gulf analyst Theodore Karasik also tells VOA the UAE is "further cementing its relations with China as part of its 'Look East Program,' which seeks to boost trade and other sector development over the next decade."

The goal, he adds, is to make the UAE "a major hub or lily pad for Beijing's (Belt and Road) Initiative." China's Belt and Road Initiative, which he refers to, is a major infrastructure initiative to expand land and sea trade routes.

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