We have discussed previously on many occasions, that the Middle East will become a major hub within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). This is none more apparent than in Oman, which has already seen considerable Chinese investment, whereby China intends to invest up to 11 billion US dollars in Duqm, an Omani fishing village situated between the Gulfs of Oman and Aden.
The Duqm Special Economic Zone (SEZAD) is a significant development within Oman’s intention to diversify its economy beyond the oil and gas sectors. A Chinese consortium, consisting of six private firms, is currently developing over 25 projects for an industrial park consisting of a logistics centre, a commercial harbour and tourist site to include a solar energy operation, an automobile assembly factory and an oil refinery.
From Oman’s perspective the logistics and infrastructure sectors are critical components in allowing them to become a hub with the capacity to link several continents. From China’s perspective, Duqm is yet another example of how China will be able to secure better access to markets throughout the Middle East.
Geographically, Oman is a significant natural gas producer which lies strategically along the Strait of Hormuz, Gulf of Oman, Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea. In that regard Oman is geo-strategically well placed to benefit from the BRI and Chinese investment.
In recent developments, the Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi held talks in Beijing with the Omani Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs Yousef Bin Alawi Bin Abdullah. What has always been key to the relationship between China and Oman is mutual understanding, support, cooperation and trust.
Bilateral practical cooperation between the two nations continues to develop with respect to industrial parks, energy, production capacity, science and technology, finance and ports. Oman sees China as playing a significant and positive role in regional affairs and remains strongly committed to the BRI and has signed a Memorandum of Understanding on jointly promoting the construction of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.
From our own perspective, we see a very bright future for Oman and its position within the Middle East. Furthermore the Port of Muscat, situated on the Gulf of Oman has been known since the Second Century as a strategic maritime centre, linking Asia with Africa and Europe along the ancient maritime Silk Road. Fast forward 19 centuries and Muscat looks ripe to exploit the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.