The Silk Routes of the GCC Versus China's One Belt One Road

By Jean-François Seznec

Dr. Jean-François Seznec is Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business and at Johns Hopkins' School of Advanced International Studies. He teaches classes on finance, energy, and politics in the Persian Gulf. He is a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council, a Scholar at the Middle East Institute and was Board Member of the Stimson Center from 2010 to 2015.   Seznec is Managing Partner of the Lafayette Group, a US-based consulting and investment company. He has 25 years' experience in international banking and finance of which ten years were spent in the Middle East.

Even before Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative, there has been a silk road in place between the Far East and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region for some time. Any visitor to Dubai will note the prominence of Chinese products in the markets. For the past 12 years, Chinese firms have operated a 150,000 square meter trading center, perhaps the largest outside China, called the Dragon Mart with 3,950 stands representing Chinese firms selling their wares, retail and wholesale, to visitors from all over the region.

Even more important is the role of Jebel Ali. The free trade zone of Jebel Ali [“JAFZA”] in Dubai is the third largest container port in the world. It receives containers from all over the world but principally re-export shipments from the Far East to the countries in the Gulf region and Africa. Dubai has built a fully streamlined zone with over 7,000 firms that maintain mammoth warehouses and/or factories feeding from the harbor. The containers come to the warehouses, are unloaded and their contents redistributed either by sea or in smaller packages by air cargo through the largest air cargo facility in the world, which is fully integrated into the free zone. Hence, large Chinese, Japanese, and Korean companies use Dubai as a distribution center for their products and spare parts for the whole region including Africa.

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