Connecting the dots between Middle East and Hong Kong

Earlier this month, driving at night from Cairo to the Red Sea, I was reflecting on the game I’d just played on the stupendously beautiful golf course at Cascades Somabay. Occasionally, I’d look up to the stars shining brilliantly in the night sky over the desert.

Then, I began thinking of the early Arab influences on Chinese astronomy, one of the many examples of cultural connections between our two civilizations. Although I’m no astronomer, I stopped the car to stare up at the stars.

I was amazed!

Below the stars, a long line of brightly shining, connected dots was speeding across the night sky.

Arabs are practical people and know not to trust desert illusions, never mind UFO fantasies. And later, when I was on the other side of the Gulf in the UAE, a practical explanation emerged: the bright, connecting dots were Elon Musk’s Starlink Satellites.

In Dubai, I had the honor of meeting and talking with John Lee Ka-chiu, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, where he addressed a business forum. Building on the fact that the UAE is already Hong Kong’s largest trading partner in the Middle East, he declared that the two economies had much to gain from a free trade agreement. This is very good news for business connections.

I was also struck by an agreement between the Hong Kong Science and Technology Park and its UAE counterpart, the Dubai Science Park. Here is a striking example of contemporary scientific and cultural connection between two future-oriented societies.

I’ve spent much of my career building cultural and economic ties between countries, identifying synergies, and building bridges that businesses can use for mutual profit. It’s always been clear that there are multiple opportunities for Hong Kong and GBA businesses to build connections with Arab countries in the region still misleadingly called “The Middle East.’

John Lee and his delegation to the UAE and Saudi Arabia deserve congratulations for their initiative with the two most important players in the region. They have connected some of the dots. 

But there are still more dots to connect. Geopolitical and economic stars are aligning, but more cultural and inter-personal connections must be forged. Only when there is true understanding between Chinese and their interlocutors in the UAE and Saudi Arabia will the relationship reach its full potential.

The author is Egypt’s former Consul General to Hong Kong and London.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.