“China is a big country, and we consult people about where to put the money, in which Chinese province, in which industries, and so on,” said Mufti.
Regarding cross-border trade, the Chinese RMB is increasingly accepted by Arab importers. According to Norman Chan, CEO of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, exports and imports done in RMB by the UAE account for only 4 percent of the Gulf state’s total foreign trade “but chances are high that this figure will rise to double-digit in the coming years.”
Tian said ICBC has taken part in important syndications and witnessed growing volumes of RMB transactions. ICBC recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund Qatar Holding in order to boost bilateral cooperation and investments between Qatar and China.
The UAE’s biggest bank Emirates NBD jumped on Feb. 6 on the RMB- bandwagon by launching RMB-denominated accounts and deposits in order to support small and medium enterprises (SME) to conduct trade settlements. Commercial Bank of Dubai (CBD) recently launched Tianlong Chinese Banking, offering a range of retail products and services solely customized for Chinese nationals in the Gulf country. In order to reach out to potential clients, CBD sponsored the Festival of Spring in Dubai which marked the start of the Chinese Year of the Snake.
According to the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, there are 3,000 Chinese firms licensed in the UAE.
For Mark McFarland, chief investment strategist private banking at Emirates NBD, the Sino-Arabian financial journey is far from over. “We haven’t seen significant investments by Chinese nationals into local GCC markets yet, but there is a huge potential.”
McFarland, who worked for a couple of years as a banker in Hong Kong, said in the UAE, there are 200,000 Chinese expatriates, more than twice the number of British nationals. He noted that some wealthy Chinese people have already started investing in property in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and “the longer they stay in the country, the more they will consider Arab capital market as alterative vehicles of investment.”