Trade between Oman and China has risen substantially in recent years. That trend reflects Beijing’s priority in developing its economy in part through foreign trade and investments. In the past few decades, China has enhanced relations with not only Oman, but also with countries across the Middle East, Asia, Africa, South America, and others.
In particular, China has succeeded in using ‘soft power’ to develop relationships internationally. A principal way it has done this is through knowledge exchange in the field of information and communication technologies (ICT). Access to advanced solutions from Chinese companies has helped countries like Oman to create a more connected and intelligent society, whereby digital transformation has increased overall national competitiveness as part of the Oman Vision 2040.
Understanding how China has cultivated its technological capabilities in a relatively short period of time is important to anticipate the future development of Oman’s own digital economy. It also puts into perspective recent geopolitical headwinds that threaten to impact organisations’ access to cutting-edge solutions over the next decade.
China continues to heavily invest in technology research and development, increasing its share of global technology spending from 5 per cent in 2000 to more than 23 per cent by 2020. In China’s latest Five Year Plan announced this spring, it has put technology as a national priority, and worked to unify the country’s efforts to build scientific capabilities. China continues to set technological benchmarks that other countries are inspired to adopt, from Artificial intelligence, cloud computing, 5G technology to others.
Huawei, for example, is currently leading on 5G technology around the world. The US sanctions did affect the company’s business by restricting semiconductor access and other companies from working with Huawei. However, the company continued to grow in 2020, and has proceeded with more than 3,000 innovation projects in 5G technology in more than 20 different sectors including coal mining, steel production, ports, and manufacturing.
The company has continued to inject large investments in research and development, bringing its total spending during the past 10 years to US$110bn. The company is also a member of more than 600 standards organisations, and has recently entered new fields like the electric vehicle industry.
Whether from the East or the West, the success of any technology company in the modern era ultimately comes down to transparency. It is why companies like Huawei have announced opening their largest Global Cyber Security and Privacy Protection Transparency Centre in Dongguan, China, earlier this year, which will serve as an open platform to support cybersecurity testing and joint innovations from across the world. Establishing a global ICT ecosystem for future generations is dependent on these open collaborations with local, regional, and international entities, regardless of their country of origin.
As innovation becomes a more global, fact-based, and collaborative effort, Oman will be in a better position to reap the benefits, spurring its own socio-economic development through digitisation.
TARIQ HILAL AL BARWANI is a popular ICT Expert and Founder of Largest Community Knowledge-Sharing Platform, Knowledge Oman
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