Sino-Brunei relations date back to the 13th Century, when Brunei’s waterways were first used by ancient Chinese maritime traders. Today, Brunei’s role as a “natural linkage” along the 21st Maritime Silk Road makes the Sultanate an ideal regional trading hub for China. Second Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Pehin Lim Jock Seng delivers a strategic overview of how this relationship is developing as the two nations mark the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations.
What are some historic moments anchoring the 25th anniversary of Sino-Brunei diplomatic relations?
Official diplomatic relations with China began in 1991, followed by missions that were set up in 1993. But our relationship goes back much further. In the 15th Century, a member of the royal family, one of our sultans, went to China. There is a tomb in Nanjing where he is buried called the Brunei Heritage Garden.
How would you describe the current Sino-Brunei trade relationship?
Japan is still our largest trading partner. But trade with China has shot up very fast and will become neck and neck with Japan, thanks partly to large projects such as the 26.3 billion-yuan ($4-billion) downstream facility being built by China’s Hengyi Industries, now in its first phase of development. Within a couple of years, China will play a very important part in our diversification process.
What sectors are most likely to see growth?
At the moment, we are seriously looking to diversify by developing derivatives from oil and gas in order to start-up industries. There are also numerous opportunities to work with Guangxi in terms of agricultural products.
What export strategies are being considered?
We are thinking of working with New Zealand as a cattle and dairy product partner, who would produce cattle and milk with advanced technology, export them to Brunei to acquire halal certification, and then export the value-added products to China.
How would you sum up the Sino-China relationship?
We have been working with China on all aspects, both in government and business, and we want to continue this good relationship. We very much appreciate China’s contribution and support and we want to expand on this.