Xi’s visit to UAE highlights China’s rising interest in Middle East

Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan (L) meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates July 19, 2018. WAM/Handout via Reuters

ABU DHABI (Reuters) – China and the United Arab Emirates signed a raft of financial, business and trade agreements on Friday during a visit by President Xi Jinping to the UAE, underscoring energy-hungry Beijing’s rapidly growing interest in the Middle East.

Xi made the first visit by a Chinese leader to the Gulf state in 29 years, meeting two of its most powerful leaders, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi.

They announced 13 agreements and memoranda of understanding, including approval for the first Chinese state-owned financial services firm to set up in Abu Dhabi Global Market, a financial center, while the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company and the China National Petroleum Corporation agreed to explore joint business opportunities.

As both a major energy exporter and a hub for international trade, the UAE is an important part of Xi’s “Belt and Road” initiative to invest in infrastructure linking China by both sea and land to markets in Asia and Europe.

“We have many areas of political and economic agreement and a solid base of projects in the energy, technology and infrastructure sectors. More importantly (we have) a strong political will to start a greater phase of cooperation and integration,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid wrote in a Twitter post in Arabic on Friday.

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