The warm relationship that Brunei Darussalam enjoys with the People’s Republic of China, buttressed by several cooperation agreements that have been forged in the areas of economic and trade relations, mutual benefit and assistance, was highlighted by President of the Chinese Enterprise Association in Brunei (CEAB) Wang Xiao Lin yesterday.

Wang, who is also General Manager of Bank of China Brunei Branch, was delivering his welcoming remarks at the CEAB’s 2019 Chinese New Year dinner held last night at Emperor’s Court Restaurant, Manggis Mall.

Newly appointed Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Brunei Darussalam Yu Hong was also present.

Wang noted in particular the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Brunei Darussalam in November last year, a visit he says “further enhances the excellent relations between Brunei and China especially in terms of cooperation, as well as deepening the political, economic and cultural exchanges between the two countries and developing Chinese-owned enterprises in Brunei”.

The CEAB president shared that the association is not just actively invested in its own activities, but is also greatly involved in major events in the country, such as making donations to Chinese schools and networking with other local associations, among other activities.

He highlighted that the Bank of China actively serves enterprises set up in Brunei by Chinese companies, as well as local firms and individual customers, adding that the bank has weathered the initial storm of setting up in country, recording profits in its second year in 2018 after a year of losses in 2017.

Wang gave a number of other examples of Chinese-back projects and businesses that have flourished since commencing operations in Brunei.

One of these is the completion of the underground engineering and steel structure of Hengyi’s PY project, of which the process pipeline has almost been completely installed.

Beijing Tongrentang, a Chinese pharmaceutical company, is currently in its 10th year of operations in Brunei, providing Bruneians with excellent Chinese medicine as a substitute for ailments unable to be cured by Western medicine.

The construction of the Hengyi Pulau Muara Besar (PMB) Project, overseen by Sinochem Second Construction Company, meanwhile was completed with 7.77 million man-hours without a loss-time injury (LTI), with the construction quality meeting the standardisation requirements.

The Muara Port Company, another joint venture between the Brunei government and a Chinese company, Guangxi Beibu Gulf, increased container throughout by eight per cent in 2018 compared with the same period in the prior year, and increased bulk cargo throughput by 18.5 per cent.

The Pulau Muara Besar Cross-Sea Bridge by China Harbour Engineering Company (B) Sdn Bhd was completed on May 18, 2018, becoming the first large-scale infrastructure project completed by a Chinese-funded enterprise in Brunei.

“Huawei Brunei also continues to help local operators to strengthen 4G and home broadband coverage, and will upgrade the network for the Brunei government in the next five years. Its ‘Future Seed Plan’ that continues to repay society has also received wide attention,” Wang added.

Meanwhile, the ambassador explained that 2018 is a milestone in the history of relations between Brunei and China, due to the President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping’s visit to the sultanate, during which bilateral relations were elevated to a strategic partnership.

“The two leaders of state reached broad consensus on comprehensively strengthening cooperation in various fields,” he said. “Brunei and China have signed a joint plan for the construction of the ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative, which pointed out the direction for the next phase of cooperation between the two countries, and also for Chinese cooperation, including Chinese enterprises in Brunei.”

The ambassador underscored the great success achieved in 2018 in terms of Brunei-China cooperation, and pointed out that after three years of intense construction, the Hengyi Petrochemicals Refinery and Aromatics Cracker plant on PMB is finally expected to be completed and put into operation in the middle of the year.

“The Temburong Bridge is also expected to be completed and opened to traffic by the end of this year,” Yu added.

He noted as well that Chinese companies are increasingly aware of their need to fulfil their social responsibilities.

“Since 2014, Hengyi Petrochemicals has sponsored more than 60 Bruneian students to study in China,” said the ambassador.

“Huawei’s ‘Seed Project’ also invites Brunei students to China every year. These acts of giving back to the local society are of great significance for establishing the reputation of Chinese-funded enterprises and for the long-term development [of Brunei].”

The dinner also saw the handing over of ‘Best Enterprise for the Year 2018’ certificates to nine companies and the presentation of badminton and basketball competition prizes.