Team Bahrain’s recent trip to China – touring commerce and innovation hubs including Shenzhen, Hangzhou, and Shijiazhuang – only served to deepen my conviction that our partnership has only just begun to fulfil its enormous potential. As China continues to build the Digital Silk Road and support the development of technology leaders, Bahrain represents a natural partner that can nurture the ingenuity of these visionaries and serve as a gateway to a region of 50 million people with a combined spending power of $1.5 trillion.
It is no secret that all facets of Chinese society have embraced digitisation and technological ingenuity at an accelerated pace in recent times. I have had the good fortune to witness the impact of some of these innovations first-hand, including on this most recent trip. Team Bahrain’s participation in the China Hi-Tech Fair exposed us to a range of local enterprises that have the potential to change the lives of millions beyond China’s borders.
For instance, the BGI (formerly known as the “Beijing Genomics Institute”) demonstrated state-of-the-art gene sequencing technologies, which can significantly quicken the research protocols used to combat some of the world’s deadliest diseases. The scientists and other employees at BGI showcased the power of this technology to create better health outcomes for people across the globe.
As we moved to other cities in China, we learned about new technologies in the fields of FinTech, smart cities, and artificial intelligence. The levels of talent, resourcefulness, and entrepreneurial audacity we encountered were impressive. But the trip involved much more than observation. Across the nine-day journey, we saw 15 agreements, signed between Bahraini businesses and their Chinese counterparts. We are excited about the partnerships these agreements will spur, and their potential to introduce technologies to Bahrain and the broader region through our position along the Digital Silk Road.
These businesses will be joining the likes of Huawei, which moved its regional headquarters to Bahrain in 2009. Economic ties have deepened substantially between our two nations in the past nine years, where we have witnessed the numbers of registered Chinese companies grow tenfold between 2013 and 2018. Inbound investment from China has also seen growth, from $30 million in 2013 to $300 million today.
The impacts of these ties on Bahrain’s economy are tangible and will lead us further towards a digital economy. Huawei’s contribution to accelerating the development of Bahrain’s 5G ecosystem, for example, has solidified our position as an early adopter of the technology and strengthened our title as the region’s leader in ICT Development. We hope to continue reaping these benefits as our liberal lifestyle, business-friendly regulatory environment, and competitive business landscape continue to attract Chinese companies to invest in the Kingdom as the Gateway to the Gulf market.
As we approach our 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations with China, we are delighted to expand our successful partnership model to new sectors including ICT, tourism, manufacturing, and transportation and logistics services. China and Bahrain are nations built on common values as open and innovative business hubs. Our mutual economic interests, as expressed in our latest partnership agreements, will further our track record of fruitful collaboration. As Chinese companies continue to invest in entrepreneurs and foster the development of life-saving technologies, partnerships with Bahraini companies will allow these solutions to digitise Bahrain and achieve greater reach throughout the Gulf market.
I want to thank our Chinese partners who welcomed Team Bahrain with such open arms during our recent visit. We will continue to play our part in encouraging deeper collaboration to create another 30 years of ingenuity and inspiration.