As bilateral relations and trade reach new highs, China builds new embassy in Brunei

Brunei's Ambassador-at-large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs HRH Princess Hajah Masna (R) with China’s ambassador to Brunei Yu Hong (2nd L) laying the foundation for the Chinese embassy's new premises.

The Chinese Embassy yesterday officiated the construction of their new embassy in Brunei on the back of trade and tourism reaching all-time highs between the two nations.

The new embassy’s premises, located within the diplomatic enclave along Jalan Kebangsaan, covers 20,000 square metres and will be the first embassy property built specifically for the Chinese diplomatic mission in Brunei since they’ve set up in 1993 after ties between the two countries were officially established in 1991.

Embassy officials said the project is expected to be completed in under five years, and will be split into two parts which include office buildings and living quarters for the ambassador and embassy staff.

China’s ambassador to Brunei Yu Hong said that although building an embassy has been in their long-term plans for several years, the commencement of the project is timely given the “recent elevation of bilateral relations” between the two countries to a “strategic cooperative partnership” following Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Brunei last November where he met with His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Luo Zhaohui, who attended the project’s foundation laying ceremony, said trade between Brunei and China has grown to US$1.8 billion last year – an increase of over 70%.

“We have a lot of potential areas to grow.. we have reached a lot of consensus on bilateral issues,” he said, reiterating further growth under China’s Belt and Road initiative.

China now accounts for Brunei’s biggest tourist arrivals by air after overtaking Malaysia in 2017. Last year, arrivals from China swelled another 21% to 65,653.

Business with China is expected to have a direct impact in raising Brunei’s GDP over the next few years, with the Sultanate’s largest foreign direct investment in recent years – the Hengyi Industries’ oil refinery and petrochemical plant at Pulau Muara Besar – playing a major role.

Bilateral cooperation also extends to the Brunei-Guangxi Economic Corridor, which aims to connect and facilitate trade and investment between Brunei and the southern Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

Partnerships under the corridor include privatization of the container terminal in Muara through a joint venture between the Beibu Gulf Port Group and the Brunei government to form Muara Port Company.