As a node on China’s trillion-dollar Belt and Road infrastructure initiative, Sharjah is gearing up to become a gateway between Asia, the Middle East and Africa with its ports, airport and commercial and industrial facilities
Due to its transportation capacities and undisputed importance as a financial center, the UAE is a key component of China’s Belt and Road Initiative – a point underlined earlier this year when a memorandum of understanding was agreed between Shanghai Stock Exchange and the Abu Dhabi Global Market on the creation of a joint international exchange for investors involved in Belt and Road projects.
But the idea of connectivity between the regions is far from new, with seaborne trade links between China and the emirates stretching back to the seventh century. In 1984 modern diplomatic links were established, and in 2012 the UAE became the first Arab country in the Gulf region to enter into a Strategic Partnership with Beijing.
Sharjah, in particular, can play what Sheikh Fahim bin Sultan Al Qasimi, executive chairman of the Department of Government Relations, describes as a “trimodal role” on the route connecting East and West, thanks to its maritime connectivity, a revamped Sharjah International Airport and the industrial and commercial free zones for investors nearby. “This combination of air, sea and land access is quite unique.”
For Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, the executive chairman of the investment authority Shurooq, the future is promising between China and Sharjah. “We have a lot of passion, we have a lot of pride, and we have a lot of respect for Chinese culture, as they have towards our culture. Now is the chance for the private sector in both countries to work together to achieve results that are going to have a beneficial impact on future generations.”