Related Articles Commentary Paper SIIS Report
Nov 12 2019
BRI in Oman as an example: The Synergy of Infrastructure Digitisation and SEZs
By SIIS & China Investment Research


While many analysts, observers, agencies and governments seem focused on plotting "Belt and Road Initiative" (BRI) projects as dots on a map, this paper will not only demonstrate the various components in the title, but also explore the inter-connectivity of each, both within a country (Oman) and extending into a region(the Middle East). There are now over 130 countries which have signed the BRI MoU with China, Oman’s case shows that it has implemented and utilized all 3 components of infrastructure, digital and SEZs, and now all 3 components are becoming fully functional, which may represent the path and characteristics in BRI’s future development.

Oman is located in the transportation hub of South Asia, West Asia, and East Africa along the Arabian Sea and the Red Sea, an important place for economic and trade shipping between Europe and Asia. It also stands at the intersection of the Silk Road on land and Maritime Silk Road. After China's "Belt and Road Initiative" was put forward, the Omani government and many sectors of the business community responded positively. Over the past 40 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Oman, The two sides have achieved fruitful results in the political, economic and cultural fields, laying a solid foundation for BRI cooperation. On May 25, 2018, China and Oman celebrated the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. The cooperation between China and Oman is the contemporary embodiment of the historical inheritance of the ancient Maritime Silk Road.

The "Belt and Road Initiative" meets the fundamental needs of Oman's economic development. Oman's economy used to be heavily dependent on resource-based industries such as oil. In order to achieve the goal of economic diversification, the Government of Oman formulated plans such as Oman Vision 2040 in 2016, aimed at enhancing the contribution of agriculture, modern industry, tourism, fisheries and mining to GDP and promoting the construction of airports, seaports and industrial parks. China has technical advantage in all these industrial sectors, and China can provide important technical support, labour training and management experience for Oman.

Economic development is conducive to promoting regional cooperation and harmonious coexistence among the ethnic groups. The geopolitical situation and tension affects investment. Oman is neighboring with Saudi Arabia and Iran, the competing rivals in the Gulf region. Oman shares with Iran the Strait of Hormuz, one of the oil transportation routes. Oman is in an important strategic location and faces more geopolitical risks at the same time. U.S. sanctions against Iran, internal conflicts between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and the domestic conflicts in its neighbour Yemen have created a lot of instability for Oman since 2015. Focusing on economic development will be conducive to get rid of the lasting conflicts. The cooperation between China and Oman has just provided important reference value for the promotion of China's "Belt and Road Initiative" in the Middle East.


Henry Tillman, Founder and Chairman of Grisons Peak (, a 16 year old UK based merchant bank and independent consultancy. Grisons Peak launched a Chinese macro research product, China Outbound Investments, focused on all forms of Chinese outbound investment, driven from a proprietary database founded by Mr Tillman in 2008. All activities of Grisons Peak are focused on the BRI.

YANG Jian, Vice President and Senior Fellow at Shanghai Institutes for International Studies (SIIS). Director of the Institute for International Organization and Global Governance, Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, Deputy Director of the China-Nordic Arctic Research Center, and Vice Chairman of the Pacific Society of China.

YE Qing, Director of Institute for Foreign Policy Studies, Shanghai Institutes for International Studies (SIIS). Deputy Director of the Institute for International Organization and Global Governance, Shanghai University of Finance and Economics.