Chinese film star Bai Baihe made an appearance in Abu Dhabi on Sunday as a festival celebrating Chinese cinema kicked off, in what marks the start of a week dedicated to celebrating the country's culture.
Ms Bai - one of the highest paid stars of Chinese film - is in the city to help launch China Film Week as the UAE gets ready to welcome Chinese president, Xi Jinping, on Thursday in what will be one of the largest state visits ever hosted by the UAE.
The visit coincides with a celebration of Chinese culture across the country and the film festival is part of that.
China Film Week was launched by Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism, Wang Xiaohui, a top official at China's publicity department, Ms Bai and other dignitaries at Manarat Al Saadiyat. Go Away Mr Tumour was screened afterwards.
Earlier on Sunday, an Arabic version of the second volume of Mr Xi's book, The Governance of China, was launched by Noura Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, Sultan Al Jaber, Minister of State, Mr Wang and the Chinese ambassador to the UAE, Ni Jian among others.
A pavilion celebrating UAE and Chinese culture has also been built at the Saadiyat venue which will be the centrepiece of UAE China Week
This festival of Chinese and Emirati culture will launch on Tuesday and runs until July 24. People can expect music sessions and traditional Chinese performances along with an Arabic programme including oud playing, storytelling and henna.
Ms Al Kaabi said that the UAE-Chinese cultural week is set to become an annual event.
“We are thrilled and honoured to have the inauguration of the cultural week between the UAE and China and what started it was the important Arabic version of the second edition of president Xi Jinping’s [book],” she said.
“This week we are going to focus on understanding Chinese culture and also understanding on what areas we can collaborate whether it’s in literature, film or TV.”
The UAE and China held talks on boosting ties across media, culture and film and also held a symposium about Mr Xi’s book. Part of the panel was the UAE’s former ambassador to China, Omar Al Bitar.
"The UAE wants to build relationships with countries in the West as well as in the East," he told The National.
“I was instructed to develop relations in all fields – economic, cultural, education and technology. During my time, we succeeded in developing these relations and pushed them onto new horizons," said Mr Al Bitar, who was in the role from 2010 until 2016. “The ‘belt and road’ initiative of Xi Jinping is a golden opportunity for nations to develop and we think the UAE will play a pivotal role in that regard."
Mr Al Bitar said the visit by Mr Xi on Thursday was very important for the country. “I think it will consolidate what has been achieved in the past and pave the way for deeper relations with China.”
Mr Xi arrives on Thursday and Chinese culture, commerce and politics are in the spotlight all week. On Saturday it was announced that Chinese TV dramas will be dubbed into Arabic and broadcast to the Middle East, while a UAE-China Economic Forum will take place on Friday.
The UAE’s Rulers have also welcomed the state visit with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, predicting it will usher in a new era of cooperation.
Sheikh Zayed, the UAE Founding Father, visited China for the first time in 1990. And Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, said this 1990 visit laid the foundations for Thursday.
"The People's Republic of China and the United Arab Emirates play a pivotal role in the stability of the region and its economic future," he said.
"Over 28 years ago, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan visited China, founding the strategic relationship between the two countries that has yielded fruitful trade and investment as well as cultural relations for more than three decades."