（Written by Huang Yunyun / Translated by Xie Zhibin）In recent years, Chinese enterprises have gradually become the major foreign investors in Brunei, covering fields like ports, petrochemicals, fisheries, tourism, etc. Especially in terms of ports cooperation, the two countries have joined hands together, creating many job opportunities, bringing advanced technology and management experience for Brunei, and making great contributions for the effective docking between Brunei Vision 2035 and the Belt and Road Initiative.
Chinese enterprises inject new vitality to Brunei’s Ports
Brunei is rich in oil and gas resources, but petroleum and natural gas are non-renewable. Therefore, the Brunei government has been committed to reducing its dependence on resource exports and looking for other economic growth points. The Brunei Vision 2035 aims to promote economic diversification. In the context of economic globalization and international trade activities, the port industry has become a breakthrough for Brunei’s economic development. The major ports of Brunei include Muara Port, Bandar Seri Begawan Port, Kuala Belait Port, Seria Port, etc. Among them, Muara Port is the only deep-water port, serving as the main hub for Brunei’s international trade. However, limited by the relatively lagging operation and management concepts and technologies, the potential of Muara Port has not been fully released for a long time. The port lacks competitiveness, due to low work efficiency and high logistics costs.
Brunei has been strengthening its cooperation with China, bringing new opportunities for ports development. Dato Seri Setia Dr. Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew bin Abdullah, Minister at Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Finance and Economy II, Brunei, gave an exclusive interview with the reporter of China-ASEAN Panorama, “Brunei and China have been cooperating for a long time. The Memorandum of Understanding on the Brunei-Guangxi Economic Corridor (BGEC), signed during the 11th China-ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO), has brought two countries even closer”. After years of development, the Economic Corridor, which is the leading project of Brunei-China cooperation has become one of the most influential regional cooperation platforms. In this context, the ports cooperation between Guangxi and Brunei has been further deepened.
In February 2017, Brunei-China cooperation can be epitomized by the successful establishment of Muara Port Company Sdn Bhd (MPC), a joint venture Company between the Government of Brunei Darussalam, represented by Darussalam Assets Sdn Bhd and Guangxi Beibu Gulf Port Group, a Chinese State-owned enterprise. The Muara Port has been officially taken over by MPC in July 2018. It means that Brunei-Guangxi Economic Corridor (BGEC), the flagship project, has been put into practice. The participation of Chinese enterprises has injected new blood into Muara Port. The effective financial management system, terminal operation system, port vehicles, and other equipment have optimized the efficiency of port operation and reduced transportation costs for customers. The development ideas of mechanization, informationization, and modernization have greatly enhanced the comprehensive competitiveness of Muara Port. “Since the establishment of MPC, we have been able to raise the efficiency of container port operation by 60%, achieve higher trade volume by 20%, foster human capital development, and provide more jobs and business opportunities for the local economy,” said the Minister.
Explore more possibilities for ports cooperation between China and Brunei
Muara Port is located at the center of the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA). The cooperation and management of the reflect the closer relationship between China and Brunei. The Minister believes that Brunei-China cooperation can not only strengthen the connection between China and BIMP-EAGA countries but also benefit China-ASEAN cooperation as well as the construction of the Belt and Road Initiative. Since the establishment of the China-ASEAN Port Cities Cooperation Network in 2013, the two countries have actively explored the connectiontivity and development between China and ASEAN port cities, promoting each other’s cooperation in ports and shipping logistics, ports industry, tourism, people-to-people exchanges, etc.
At present, China is working with ASEAN countries to build a New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor (hereinafter referred to as NILSTC), fostering a three-dimensional logistics network. The Beibu Gulf Port, as an important node of the sea-rail combined transportation of NILSTC, connects to inland China in the north and ASEAN countries in the south with significant geographical advantages. Meanwhile, Beibu Gulf Port has made great achievements in the construction of “smart port”, and its comprehensive capabilities have been significantly improved. In this regard, the Minister believes that the two countries can explore new cooperation spaces in the construction of NILSTC, based on the previous pragmatic and friendly cooperation.
The modern port is more than a transportation hub, it has the strength and capacity to attract industrial agglomeration. The China-Malaysia Qinzhou Industrial Park and the Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park (also known as “Two Countries, Twin Parks”) have jointly created a new model of international industrial cooperation. It shows as a practical outcome of the Belt and Road Initiative, bringing inspiration for port cooperation between China and Brunei.
The two countries are actively discussing the coordinated development model of “port-industry-park”. Learning from the successful experience of “Two Countries, Twin Parks”, and focusing on major industries, like food manufacturing, electronic information, modern logistics as well as real estate, Brunei wants to attract more Chinese enterprises and investors.
The cooperation between China and Brunei has a long history, and the relationship between the two sides have become a model of peaceful coexistence, and mutual understanding and respect. The Minister said that they are looking forward to strengthening effective docking between Brunei Vision 2035 and the Belt and Road Initiative, expanding cooperation in various fields, to inject more vitality into bilateral relations. Besides, petrochemicals, agriculture, and fishery, it's expected to develop new cooperation with China in ports management, construction, and operation in the future.
Source: China-ASEAN Panorama