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Home / Opinion / Ali Obaid Al Dhaheri

Moving from developing nation to advanced tech leader

By Ali Obaid Al Dhaheri | | Updated: 2020-08-11 11:01
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A staff member demonstrates 5G-based remote control of a robot during the 2019 World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) in East China's Shanghai, on Aug 29, 2019. [Photo/Xinhua]

This is a seismic age for technology, from the apps we use on our phones and new ways of working to high technology itself. In recent weeks we have seen both the UAE and China pushing their boundaries in advanced technologies to the stars.

Closer to home on Earth, there are also practical, day-to-day advancements. For our countries these represent a lively series of technologies that are close to our core growth strategies, often focused on the digital economy.

In this respect, our nations have both advanced in these fields. We have our own innovations in the digital economy and are each providing leadership in our own way. Here in China, we have seen a huge expansion in tech giants such as Alibaba and Huawei stepping up into the world stage, with unique expertise and offerings.

The UAE has had success with the online marketplace, which was eventually sold to Amazon, and similarly with the ride-hailing application Careem, which was bought by Uber. Other websites include, a $1 billion e-commerce platform which offers online shopping. Their success is such that it has now launched in China in order to kick-start operations across Asia – representative of how the bilateral UAE-China partnership is valuable for technology and entrepreneurship alike.

Both the UAE and China have developed long-term strategies to advance in technology. For example, in the UAE we have the National Innovation Strategy (NIS), which aims to take innovation in the UAE to new heights, where a culture of innovation is embedded among individuals, companies and governments. This approach primarily focuses on identified priority sectors that will drive future innovation.

In this time of the global pandemic our strategies have served us both well. Digital is accelerating. Cooperation that serves to enhance technology through combining perspectives and expertise will be most valuable and serve us both well.

Recently, July saw the opening ceremony for the first China-UAE Economic and Trade Digital Expo. The event was co-hosted by the Ministry of Economy of the United Arab Emirates and China Council for the Promotion of International Trade.

This event, despite the challenges presented by COVID-19, was a significant success. The very approach of carrying out the expo online was in itself symbolic for how effectively two nations have become trailblazers in their respective spheres for all things digital. I was quite taken by how effectively we have deepened relationships, all through the medium of digital and for digital.

The UAE and China have taken quite an intelligent, long-term view on digital, which has served them well, both through this experience and as we ready ourselves for life after the pandemic. I believe that this world will have an accelerated digital and tech focus.

Sustainable economic growth is a key element of the UAE’s diversification strategy. Likewise, in China, I see significant progress in boosting sustainable economic growth. Broad areas include 5G networks, high-speed rail, ultrahigh-voltage (UHV) transmission lines, new energy vehicle charging piles, big data, artificial intelligence, and the industrial internet of things, with an investment of $3.5 trillion.

This development represents a major opportunity for leading modern infrastructure hubs to work together with key partners including China to drive a new modern urban infrastructure. Our nation is an early adopter of e-government and smart city technologies, such as the internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and big data analytics. The UAE has much to offer and can deal with China on a level playing field in many respects.

The nations of China and the UAE have aligned interests and are at a similar stage of development, moving from developing to advanced economies and into high tech and digital at a similar level of speed and sophistication.

The first China-UAE Economic and Trade Digital Expo builds upon already solid foundations and deepens these relationships. A number of opportunities were identified at this event and the momentum is moving toward an active and dynamic series of partnerships in technologies, where the UAE and China are aligned and provide mutually beneficial opportunities.

The author is the UAE ambassador to the People's Republic of China.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of China Daily and China Daily website.

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