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Interview

Gao Youzhen, Chinese Ambassador to Qatar

His Excellency Gao Youzhen, Chinese Embassador to Qatar, discusses trade between China and Qatar, and that it can be divided into two parts: Chinese imports—energy resources from Qatar, both natural gas, oil and other hydrocarbon products and Chinese exports—mainly electronics and mechanical equipment. He further explains that China has achieved fast economic development not only in the production of everyday goods but also in light and heavy industries, science and technology and maritime development, which are the main areas being brought to Qatar today. Finally, Mr Youzhen discusses the cultural balance and synergy between China and Qatar, which he suggests may partly explain the success behind many of the joint ventures upon which the two countries have embarked.

 

You have now been Chinese Ambassador of Qatar for a year and a half. What has been the biggest challenge you have faced and which are your main priorities today?

The friendly relationship between the People’s Republic of China and the State of Qatar has witnessed rapid growth since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1988. All achievements are owed to the wise leadership and farsighted guidance of top leaders, as well as the joint efforts of people in both countries. Through their exchanges and dialogues, the Chinese President Xi Jinping and HH the Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, have expressed their strong willingness to attach great importance to raising our bilateral ties to a new high: one based on equality, mutual respect and mutual benefit. Together with Qatar, one of the most important partners in this whole region, we are working closely for better future.

Our main activity, and at the same time our biggest challenge, is to promote the development of the bilateral relations which rely heavily on some major pragmatic cooperative projects. Today, we have become important partners in investment, energy, construction, the petrochemical industry and many other fields. The potential for future cooperation is encouraging, with more institutions setting up offices or branches in each other’s capitals or other cities. Both sides are seeking further business opportunities and long-term cooperation.

Considering your extensive experience across the Gulf Countries (Yemen, Oman and UAE) what would you say are the biggest differences in business and diplomatic culture between Qatar, and these other countries?

The six countries within the GCC share a lot of background in economics, politics, history and religion. On top of that, they have the same common interests and partners. Since its establishment in 1981, the GCC has become the most dynamic organization, which, among many others, promotes solidarity to other countries.

All the countries have been blessed with extensive energy resources, although the level of those reserves is different in each country, which is where we find the biggest difference.

China is one of Qatar’s most important trading partners. Trade between the two countries grew from USD 8.5 billion in 2012 to USD 10 billion last year, mostly on the strength of energy exports from Qatar—namely, natural gas—as well as Chinese exports of electronics and building materials. In more detail, what does your business relation entail?

Our trade volume with Qatar is expanding. As you mentioned, the statistics for the first half of this year show that trade has surpassed the same period last year. Trade between China and Qatar can be divided into two parts: Chinese imports—energy resources from Qatar, both natural gas and oil, as well as some other products; and Chinese exports—electronics and mechanical equipment, daily use products, and many agricultural products, including fruits and vegetables like garlic, ginger, and cabbage.

China has achieved fast economic development not only in the production of everyday goods but also in light and heavy industries, science and technology and maritime development, which are the main areas being brought to Qatar today.

Moreover, a large chunk of the money China sends to Qatar in exchange for gas finds its way back to the Middle Kingdom; the Gulf country’s sovereign wealth fund received special permission as a foreign entity in 2012 to invest in China’s capital markets. Qatar invests heavily in Chinese banks and the stock market.

What is the role of the embassy in ensuring this fruitful relationship continues, and specifically to ensure that China can support its rapidly growing energy demand?

Aside from the general protection of any kind of Chinese business here in Qatar, our role is to assist Chinese companies in getting into Qatari market; introducing them to the Qatar government and major companies; giving them the chance to attend meetings and forums, which will serve as the venue to meet business leaders and other personalities from different industries where relevant and timely issues are discussed; holding meetings and workshops for companies to exchange experiences; facilitating visa applications for Qatari investors to China, and so on.

Looking towards energy cooperation, the two countries are working together to extract Qatar’s natural resources and meet China’s growing energy needs. For instance, two major Chinese companies, PetroChina and China National Offshore Oil Corporation, are engaged in the exploration of natural gas in Qatar. Another example: in 2010, Qatar Petroleum signed a deal with PetroChina and Shell to explore and produce an 8,100km2 gas field near Ras Laffan. A year later, the three companies entered into an agreement to build a petrochemical and refining complex in Zhejiang province in east China.

Nevertheless, it is important to remember that the direct trade in natural oil and gas is not huge because China has a big production of energy resources itself, including oil, natural gas and coal. China is now not only the biggest energy consumer but also the biggest energy producer in the world.

How do you think China can set an example to Qatar in terms of environmental experience and sustainability, helping guide the country towards one of its key Vision 2030 objectives?

The Chinese people are great admirers of brilliant Arab and Islamic civilization. Both sides are ready to have more and closer exchanges in culture, art and educational fields.

China and Qatar are both in a phase of rapid development. We are both striving hard for modernization and share common interests in tackling challenges and seizing opportunities in this fast changing world. Looking into the future, the Chinese government and its people have full confidence for greater achievements in joining hands with the Qatari government and its people to enhance our friendship and cooperation in maintaining world peace and security and for common prosperity in the years to come.

 

To read more interviews and articles on China, and to download the latest free report on the country, click here.

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