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Children enjoying the lion dance at Dragon Mart in Dubai as Chinese around the world usher in the start of the Lunar New Year. Duncan Chard / The National
Children enjoying the lion dance at Dragon Mart in Dubai as Chinese around the world usher in the start of the Lunar New Year. Duncan Chard / The National

UAE and China forge Dh148bn trade links

Sunday marks the biggest holiday in China, the Lunar New Year, and will be celebrated across the UAE by many immigrants and visitors.

From residents to tourists, the Chinese community in the UAE is growing rapidly and brings a welcome financial boost from one of the world's biggest economies.

With today marking China's biggest holiday - the Lunar New Year - the economic benefit of the burgeoning relationship between the UAE and China is only set to increase.

Closer trade links have led to a tourism and hospitality boom for the UAE economy and this is a pattern set to continue, said Huang Jiemin, the Chinese ambassador, as the celebrations bid farewell to the celestial dragon and usher in the Year of the Snake.

It is a year Mr Huang believes will be a prosperous one for the relationship between his home nation and the UAE. Reclining on a black leather chair and sipping Chinese tea from a porcelain cup, Mr Huang was happy - the Lunar New Year is his favourite time of year and having assumed the post last year, it will also be the first time he will celebrate it in the Emirates.

This posting is his third, following spells in Libya and Kuwait, and the fluent Arabic speaker said: "UAE is an important country and its location is crucial in the Middle East and the East. UAE has a very strong and stable economic climate."

It is easy, he said, to see why about 250,000 Chinese toured the UAE last year - 30 per cent more than in 2011 - while a further 200,000 work and study here and 3,800 Chinese companies are now Emirates-based.

"Abu Dhabi has a very nice character," he said. "It is a nice country with nice people."

When pressed, he admitted Abu Dhabi was his favourite emirate, but it is clear he has fallen for the country's charms.

He easily explained the growing influx of Chinese, be they visitors, students or businesses.

"Those with enterprising spirit are able to overcome tough times through hard work. They develop themselves and, at the same time, make a contribution to local society and the bilateral friendly relations between China and the UAE."

Those relations have strengthened since the Chinese prime minister, Wen Jiabao, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, exchanged visits last year, which led to the countries agreeing to a relationship of strategic partnership.

In that year, the volume of bilateral trade between the countries reached US$40.42 billion (Dh148.44bn), a 15.1 per cent year-on-year climb.

By the end of last October, China's annual investment in the UAE was $170 million. And its vast population, with a growing appetite for travel and luxury, has played a major part in the rise in Chinese visitors to the Emirates.

Chinese travellers spend about $55bn a year, and that will only increase.

So it is hardly surprising Abu Dhabi and Dubai are so determined to cash in on this new market.

The Dragon Mart shopping mall in Dubai's International City is currently undergoing its second phase of building and is set to be complete in 13 months.

The mall expects up to 70,000 visitors a day for its five-day Chinese New Year celebration.

Hotels have also noted a surge in Chinese tourists.

By the end of last year, 80 out of 150 rooms at Emirates Palace were booked by Chinese nationals for Chinese New Year.

The ambassador, who will participate in a three-day celebration, including a visit to the Jumeirah Hotel in Dubai for a party with 500 members of the local Chinese community, said he was delighted that the Spring Festival - "a carrier of traditional Chinese culture" - has caught the imagination of more and more Emiratis.

His love for the UAE is illustrated in his New Year message to the Chinese community.

He has chosen the Muslim greeting "Peace be upon you".

 

jbell@thenational.ae

cmalek@thenational.ae

Chinese New Year, a14

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