Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the launch of both the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, currently known as the Road and Belt Initiative. Photo: Xinhua

China has become instrumental in transforming Oman’s infrastructure through its multibillion-dollar flagship Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the launch of both the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, currently known as the Road and Belt Initiative. 

The BRI aims to focus on infrastructure development and investment initiatives which will stretch from East Asia to Europe. Oman has joined over 60 countries across the globe, to benefit from China’s progressive initiative.

China has set aside $540 million to Oman for investment in different infrastructure projects as part of its Belt and Road Initiative. China signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Oman in 2018, as part of the BRI. Oman has become the most important partner of China with regard to the co-operation in BRI. However, before the BRI, Oman already shared a prosperous relationship with China. 

Oman was one of the most important partners to China in the entire Gulf region. China-Oman (Duqm) Industrial Park, a project under the BRI has evidenced the critical role played by the two nations in boosting their cooperation.

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According to Belt and Road Portal, the special economic zone set up in 2011, across the southeastern desert of Al Wusta Governorate, stretches over 2,000 square km with an 80-km coastline. It is currently the biggest in the Middle East and North Africa region. The planned overall investment for the park amounts to 67 billion yuan (about 9.7 billion U.S. dollars). 

China has invested more than $1tn in the initiative and has since invested more than $210 bn, the majority in Asia. The BRI aims to provide a framework of new transportation infrastructure built across China, which will not only act as physical connectors that pull multitudes of countries together, but also as stimulants for local economic activity. 

Oman holds a critical role in China’s expanding footprint in the Middle East. The Arab country holds an independent foreign policy, influence in the energy market. Its maritime location makes the nation an attractive partner to China’s BRI and of vital strategic significance in the construction and realisation of its planned projects. Oman has embraced China’s goal and expressed eagerness to leverage China’s growing influence in the Middle East to transform itself into a center of global trade and manufacturing.