Many kilometers south of Muscat, Duqm is Oman's up-and-coming playground for industrial ambitions. And China sees immense opportunity offered by the port city for its One Belt, One Road initiative, which aims to establish China's command of regional and global trade routes.
Oman's goals, though less grand than China's, would greatly advance Oman's significance in the region as a manufacturing and industrial hub, rivaling free trade zones (FTZs) and special economic zones (SEZs) in the UAE. Oman Wanfang, an LLC and consortium of Chinese companies, is a major player in building up Duqm's industrial capacity. The company, which is a manifestation of advancing Sino-Arabian relations, signed a usufruct agreement with the Special Economic Zone Authority of Duqm (SEZAD) to develop an industrial park neighboring Duqm Port in May 2016. According to Oman Wanfang's Chairman Ali Shah, the industrial park will be divided into three sub-segments: heavy, light and medium, and mixed-use industry. In total, Oman Wanfang has 35 projects in the industrial park and signed 10 of the projects in April 2017. Oman Wanfang's investment in Duqm totals USD10.7 billion and covers a geographic expanse of roughly 12,000sqm. Some 1,500 jobs are expected to go to Omanis in addition to increased training exchange between the two countries.
However, work on the industrial park has been slower than expected, and Oman Wanfang's position as one of the first to come to SEZD has led to some bumps in the road when working through SEZAD policies. However, with full support from the government, the Chinese company was able to overcome these issues much more quickly in Oman than elsewhere in the region.
The reciprocated interest between Oman and China was further solidified by several bilateral visits and, most recently, SEZAD's “Invest in Duqm” promotional campaign throughout China in September 2017. The trip ended with a signed MoU between Oman Wanfang and the Chinese Petrochemical Industries Federation, which promotes Duqm and investment in the SEZ among Chinese companies in the petrochemical industry. During the “Invest in Duqm” campaign, SEZAD Chair HE Yahya bin Said Al-Jabri visited three cities in China: Yinchuan, Dalian, and Shanghai.
Duqm Industrial Park is a representative project of China's One Belt, One Road initiative to connect and foster cooperation between China and Eurasia. This park has been recognized as one of the 20 major projects by the National Development and Reform Commission of China, and as one the 16 major overseas industrial parks in the official papers of China's Ministry of Commerce.
Though several seas apart, Oman and China look to Duqm as a crucial city for industry and trade.