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"Be the first to the field and last to the couch," goes the famous Chinese proverb. Celebrated or otherwise, the expression pretty much sums up the collective national psyche in the world's fastest growing economy. As the Western World has amassed enormous debt and seen their business giants toppled, China emerged from the latest economic crisis victorious, boasting GDP growth of 10.7 per cent in the last quarter of 2009, significantly more than the 8 per cent target, and streets ahead of America's 5.6 per cent. Analysts believe that 2010 could be the year that China leapfrogs its archrival Japan to become the world's second largest economy in one of the world's most keenly contested tortoise-and-hare races.
The success is a combined result of shrewd governmental drive, mass manufacturing and countless multilateral trade agreements--from all over the world. The UN World Tourism Organisation anticipates that China will overtake France as the most visited country by 2015. Last year, over 50 million people visited--it's creeping up on France (74.2 million guests)--and almost a quarter were there on business.
The country has been unafraid of forging trade, manufacturing and industrial links with partners globally, initially by providing a vast pool of affordable labour to the world's international companies but now, in keeping with traditional development models, also offering services. Is there a country in the world that doesn't owe a debt to Chinese banks? Very few.
The potential of the Chinese market has not gone unnoticed in the Gulf. Nor has it historically--Arab and Persian pirates ransacked the merchant wealth of the city as far back as AD758. Today, Gulf investors are seeking more legitimate trade channels. At the inaugural Abu Dhabi and China Economic Forum in May, expert speakers suggested that bilateral trade could exceed US$100 billion by 2015, telling delegates that Arab countries are beginning to look East when doing business, tracing a 'New Silk Road', and vice versa.
Inwardly, Chinese companies continue to exploit opportunities in …