Saturday, May 10, 2014

Exploring the China and Oman Relationship

Although not widely reported, the two countries have burgeoning ties that go beyond oil.

The Diplomat - May 10, 2014

China’s relations with the countries of the Persian Gulf have expanded considerably over recent years. Although ties between China and some of these countries have been well reported, China’s relationship with the Sultanate of Oman, the first country to deliver oil to China, has yet to be fully documented. Yet the two countries have ties that go well beyond oil cooperation.

Early Years

Although Chinese-Omani contact has been dated back to ancient times, it was only in May 1978 that their two countries established official diplomatic ties. In the early years, the relationship between Muscat and Beijing reflected China’s overall foreign policy in the region. Beijing’s fear of Moscow, particularly following the latter’s invasion of Afghanistan, had prompted it to strengthen diplomatic ties with the countries of the Gulf.

By the early 1980s, China began to view Oman not only in terms of its strategic significance but also as a country with abundant oil resources. The need to secure long-term energy supplies led the Chinese to revamp its foreign policy towards the region, and in 1983, Oman became the first Arab nation to export oil to China.

Over the years, energy cooperation has been the primary axis around which Sino-Oman relations revolve. According to a report published by Oman’s Ministry of National Economy, oil exports accounts for more than 89.6 percent of the country’s total exports to China, which is the world’s largest customer for Oman’s oil, accounting for more than half of its petroleum exports. China has invested approximately 600 million dollars in several sectors in Oman, including oil and petrochemicals, and has spent money to train Omani engineers and upgrade the efficiency of petroleum extraction. The Oman Oil Company (OOC) has reportedly signed a number of agreements with several Chinese enterprises including CNBC, Senok and China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation (SINOPEC) to develop bilateral projects on industrial estates and construct two storage facilities in Xingang port.

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