China reforms provide hope for UAE investors

Investors in the UAE are hoping planned reforms to the Chinese economy will help to gradually ease barriers to investment.

Such obstacles have already stalled attempts by the UAE Central Bank to activate a US$5.5 billion currency swap agreement between the two nations, signed nearly two years ago.

In a sign that shackles on the world’s second largest economy may be slowly removed in the coming years, the ruling Communist party last week delivered a blueprint for reform. It promised to give the market a “decisive” role in steering the market. The communiqué also urged fewer investment restrictions.

“Part of the liberalisation reforms include the gradual opening of Chinese markets which will give more opportunities to retail investors to tap Chinese growth,” said Francisco Quintana, the chief economist of Asiya Investments, a Kuwait-based investment firm. “Also, the gradual liberalisation of the currency will be on the agenda.”

Still, he said it would likely take some time for reforms to materialise, given that the blueprint was a 10-year policy framework.

The wording of the document was keenly awaited by investors as a window into the future policy direction under the president Xi Jinping. The communiqué disappointed some observers because of its vague wording, while further details of the plans are expected to be released this week.

But analysts say the reform pledges signalled a recognition by officials that in the longer term China will have to open up more to foreign investors to help develop its financial markets and prop up slowing economic growth.

Until now, Hong Kong, Singapore and London have been among the few places outside mainland China to benefit from an easing of controls in China’s financial system. In the latest development, all three signed deals with China in recent weeks to enable easier investment in the country’s domestic markets.

But the UAE is trying to position itself to benefit from the next wave of reform.

Until now, the most meaningful step towards enhancing trade and investment ties between the two countries appeared to be the currency swap deal signed in January last year. China has signed a string of similar deals with other nations in recent years as a way of bolstering trade and supporting the international use of the yuan.

But the UAE Central Bank said last week that it was still waiting for approval from its Chinese counterpart to activate the deal.

"The MOU [memorandum of understanding] has been signed and to activate it an account has to be opened with the Central Bank of the UAE and the other country," said Saif Al Shamsi, the assistant governor of monetary policy and financial stability at the UAE Central Bank. "There is communication between the two parties to activate the opening of the account but we are still in the same area."

Another sign that China’s reform efforts are likely to be gradual emerged with the release of official data last month showing aggressive intervention in currency trading in recent months by the People’s Bank of China.

Analysts say the move reflects a concern by authorities that the yuan does not rise too fast. It has gained 2.4 per cent against the dollar so far this year, even as currencies of other emerging economies such as Indonesia and Brazil have been sold off.

Philippe Ghanem, the managing director and vice chairman of ADS Securities, an Abu Dhabi-based foreign exchange brokerage, said last week’s reform agenda was likely to be supportive of the yuan.

“A lot of political decisions are based on what’s happening in markets,” he said. “It is likely to mean the renminbi [the yuan’s other name] will gain power.”

The company started trading in yuan last month in response to growing interest in the currency.

But others are more sceptical about the scale and pace of reform efforts.

“The Communist party has an incentive not to internationalise the renminbi,” said Bessma Momani, the associate professor in political science at the University of Waterloo in Canada. “It’s very afraid what it will do to inflation in the interior of the country, which poses deep political concerns to the governing system.”

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High fever (40°C/104°F)
Severe headache
Pain behind the eyes
Muscle and joint pains
Swollen glands

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Company name: Almouneer
Started: 2017
Founders: Dr Noha Khater and Rania Kadry
Based: Egypt
Number of staff: 120
Investment: Bootstrapped, with support from Insead and Egyptian government, seed round of
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Company: Eco Way
Started: December 2023
Founder: Ivan Kroshnyi
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Industry: Electric vehicles
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The burning issue

The internal combustion engine is facing a watershed moment – major manufacturer Volvo is to stop producing petroleum-powered vehicles by 2021 and countries in Europe, including the UK, have vowed to ban their sale before 2040. The National takes a look at the story of one of the most successful technologies of the last 100 years and how it has impacted life in the UAE. 

Read part four: an affection for classic cars lives on

Read part three: the age of the electric vehicle begins

Read part one: how cars came to the UAE



Name: Xpanceo

Started: 2018

Founders: Roman Axelrod, Valentyn Volkov

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Smart contact lenses, augmented/virtual reality

Funding: $40 million

Investor: Opportunity Venture (Asia)

The biog:

From: Wimbledon, London, UK

Education: Medical doctor

Hobbies: Travelling, meeting new people and cultures 

Favourite animals: All of them 


5pm: Wathba Stallions Cup – Handicap (PA) Dh70,000 (Turf) 2,200m
Winner: Al Hazeez, Saif Al Balushi (jockey), Khalifa Al Neyadi (trainer)
5.30pm: Shams Gate Tower – Maiden (PA) Dh80,000 (T) 1,200m
Winner: ES Sudani, Antonio Fresu, Hamad Al Marar
6pm: Al Bahr Towers – Handicap (PA) Dh80,000 (T) 1,200m
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6.30pm: Capital Gate – Maiden (PA) Dh80,000 (T) 1,600m
Winner: Shugga'A Baynounah, Dane O’Neill, Nisren Mahgoub
7pm: Etihad Towers – Conditions (PA) Dh80,000 (T) 1,600m
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7.30pm: Fairmont Marina – Maiden (TB) Dh80,000 (T) 1,600m
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Company Profile

Company name: Hoopla
Date started: March 2023
Founder: Jacqueline Perrottet
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 10
Investment stage: Pre-seed
Investment required: $500,000

Indoor cricket World Cup:
Insportz, Dubai, September 16-23

UAE fixtures:

Saturday, September 16 – 1.45pm, v New Zealand
Sunday, September 17 – 10.30am, v Australia; 3.45pm, v South Africa
Monday, September 18 – 2pm, v England; 7.15pm, v India
Tuesday, September 19 – 12.15pm, v Singapore; 5.30pm, v Sri Lanka
Thursday, September 21 – 2pm v Malaysia
Friday, September 22 – 3.30pm, semi-final
Saturday, September 23 – 3pm, grand final

Saturday, September 16 – 5.15pm, v Australia
Sunday, September 17 – 2pm, v South Africa; 7.15pm, v New Zealand
Monday, September 18 – 5.30pm, v England
Tuesday, September 19 – 10.30am, v New Zealand; 3.45pm, v South Africa
Thursday, September 21 – 12.15pm, v Australia
Friday, September 22 – 1.30pm, semi-final
Saturday, September 23 – 1pm, grand final


By 2030, Abu Dhabi aims to achieve:

• 39.3 million visitors, nearly 64% up from 2023

• Dh90 billion contribution to GDP, about 84% more than Dh49 billion in 2023

• 178,000 new jobs, bringing the total to about 366,000

• 52,000 hotel rooms, up 53% from 34,000 in 2023

• 7.2 million international visitors, almost 90% higher compared to 2023's 3.8 million

• 3.9 international overnight hotel stays, 22% more from 3.2 nights in 2023

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Mental health support in the UAE

● Estijaba helpline: 8001717
● UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention hotline: 045192519
● UAE Mental health support line: 800 4673 (Hope)
More information at

All you need to know about Formula E in Saudi Arabia

What The Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix

When Saturday

Where Diriyah in Saudi Arabia

What time Qualifying takes place from 11.50am UAE time through until the Super Pole session, which is due to end at 12.55pm. The race, which will last for 45 minutes, starts at 4.05pm.

Who is competing There are 22 drivers, from 11 teams, on the grid, with each vehicle run solely on electronic power.

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Diriyah project at a glance

- Diriyah’s 1.9km King Salman Boulevard, a Parisian Champs-Elysees-inspired avenue, is scheduled for completion in 2028
- The Royal Diriyah Opera House is expected to be completed in four years
- Diriyah’s first of 42 hotels, the Bab Samhan hotel, will open in the first quarter of 2024
- On completion in 2030, the Diriyah project is forecast to accommodate more than 100,000 people
- The $63.2 billion Diriyah project will contribute $7.2 billion to the kingdom’s GDP
- It will create more than 178,000 jobs and aims to attract more than 50 million visits a year
- About 2,000 people work for the Diriyah Company, with more than 86 per cent being Saudi citizens