The Belt and Road Initiative continues to enhance trade relations between China and Brunei

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN (Xinhua): A container ship loaded with shrimp slices, melons and aquatic products left from Muara seaport in Brunei, bound for Qinzhou Port in the south of China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. The cargo will later be delivered by rail to southwest China for sale.

Muara Port is Brunei’s largest port, while Qinzhou Port on the Beibu Gulf is an important hub for trade and economic exchanges between China and the member states of the Association of South-East Asian Nations.

In the past, cargo delivered between two ports had to be transferred through a third port, which could take two to three weeks or longer. Today, the direct container shipping route has reduced the shipping time to just one week, with about 30 percent reduction in costs, according to Guangxi Beibu Gulf International Port Group Co., Ltd.

China and Brunei have had close exchanges since ancient times, and the ancient Marine Silk Road was a major trade route for both sides.

In 2013, China launched the Belt and Road Initiative to promote new drivers for global development, injecting new impetus into economic and trade exchanges between China and Brunei.

Guangxi Beibu Gulf International Port Group Co., Ltd. and Brunei’s Darussalam Assets formed a joint venture in 2017 to operate the Muara Port container terminal and bulk cargo terminal, with a total investment of 1.03 billion yuan (about 144 million US dollars) and an operation period of 60 years.

“It quickly and efficiently injected new vitality into Muara Port and fully unleashed the port’s potential,” said Fazilah Yassin, chief operating officer of the joint venture, adding that the port has been profitable for six consecutive years, achieving annual net income growth of 24 percent on average.

The data shows that Muara Port completed more than 1.55 million tons of cargo throughput in 2022, an increase of 20.03 percent compared to the previous year, and doubled its operating income from 2017. The number of local employees at the port increased from 120 in 2017 to 260 today, with more than 96 percent of local workers.

The number of container liner routes between Muara Port and the surrounding ports has increased from six to 10, and cargo trade has become more convenient and efficient, greatly accelerating the efficiency of international logistics.

In 2022, bilateral trade between China and Brunei will reach a record high of 3.08 billion US dollars, according to data released by China’s customs authority.

In addition to infrastructure, investment is expanding in many other areas, with more and more Chinese businesses seeking cooperation and development in Brunei.

On Pulau Muara Besar (Great Muara Island), a joint venture between China and Brunei is the largest single foreign direct investment project in Brunei. The refinery and petrochemical project invested by Hengyi Petrochemical Co., Ltd. of China produces refined products such as diesel and gasoline, and chemicals such as benzene, expanding Brunei’s oil and gas industry chain. The first phase of the project has an annual crude oil processing capacity of 8 million tons.

Across the sea in Guangxi, another Hengyi petrochemical project, currently under construction, is expected to be operational by the end of 2024.

“We will bring Brunei project products as raw materials to produce chemical products to promote petrochemical industrial cooperation between the two areas,” said Wang Tieming, deputy general manager of the company’s Guangxi project.

Zhai Kun, a professor at the School of International Studies, Peking University, said Brunei is rich in resources with realistic needs for development, while China has a vast market and rich experience in infrastructure, industrial development and other fields.

“China and Brunei complement each other in cooperation, which is of typical importance, and the cooperation model is enlightening for other countries,” said Zhai. – Xinhua

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