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China Stands Ready to Join Hands with Europe on the New Journey of Reform and Opening-up

Remarks by H.E. Ambassador Zhang Ming At the Meeting of Delegation for Relations with The People’s Republic of China of the European Parliament

18 April 2018, Strasbourg

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am glad to come to the beautiful city of Strasbourg and meet the Delegation for Relations with the People’s Republic of China. The European Parliament brings together the best minds of Europe, and is the maker of many important policies and legislations of the EU. My trip to Strasbourg has helped me understand the Parliament better. I have met with old friends, and also make many new friends. I believe that the meeting today will bring our friendship and cooperation forward.

When Mr. Jo Leinen and I met last time, he asked me to say more about the 19th Party Congress and the NPC and CPPCC annual sessions. Indeed, these are highly relevant topics because of their importance to China and China-EU relations.

The Party Congress announced that socialism with Chinese features has entered a new era, and laid out a great vision for China’s future. The NPC and CPPCC sessions introduced concrete steps that aim to translate that vision into reality.

By 2020, we will finish building a moderately prosperous society in all respects. Building on that, we will work hard for a further 15 years to basically achieve modernization by 2035. Then, we will work hard for another 15 years to develop China into a great modern country in every dimension by the middle of this century. This is our roadmap for the next decades.

Last week, Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered a significant speech at the Boao Forum for Asia, which reaffirmed China’s solemn commitment to further reform and opening-up. Today, I want to discuss with you how to understand China’s reform and opening-up in the new era, and how to make the best of the great opportunities from that to advance China-EU relations.

First, how to understand the path and direction that China is taking? Some European friends are asking if the West has got China wrong, because China did not go for the Western-style political system and development model in the course of reform and opening-up. China has a five-thousand-year history and more than 1.3 billion people. Our past and current circumstances are so unique that we must follow a path of development that is unique to China. Our successful practice is a proof that there is more than just one path to modernization. Reform and opening-up is a game-changer for China. We will follow through on our commitment to reform, and never deviate from the right path and direction.

Second, how to understand the new changes and innovation in China? China wants to achieve high-quality development. To make that happen, innovation is crucial. We must have new thinking and new practices. China is already a frontrunner in some high-tech industries, like 5G, artificial intelligence and quantum technology. For years, China has remained number one in the world in terms of patent applications. The 2017 annual report of the European Patent Office shows that China has become one of the top five origins of European patent applications. China will seek continued progress in innovation. No one can stop our efforts. In fact, there is no good reason to stop us, because China’s technological advances will benefit the whole world.

Third, how to understand the speed and level of China’s opening-up? Opening-up was key to China’s economic and social development in the past 40 years, and by the same token, high-quality development can only be achieved through greater openness. China’s door of opening-up will not be closed, and will only open even wider.

In Davos last year, President Xi Jinping said that to grow its economy, China must have the courage to swim in the vast ocean of the global market. Just one year later, China has delivered on its commitment with concrete actions. As you have learned from President Xi’s Boao speech, China will significantly broaden market access, improve the investment environment, strengthen IPR protection and take the initiative to expand imports.

China earnestly and fully honors its commitment made upon accession to the World Trade Organization. We will expand opening-up with great resolve, and our efforts are more intensive than ever before. We are ready to share opportunities with the rest of the world in this process. China is firmly against unilateralism and protectionism, and rejects any action that violates the WTO rules or any attempt to start a trade war.

For China as a developing country, its opening-up must proceed at a pace that fits its stage of development. We will not pursue opening-up in an indiscriminate way or sacrifice our principles under coercion or intimidation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This year marks the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening-up. The great Chinese philosopher Confucius said that, “A man will have no more doubts at the age of 40.” We will remain firmly committed to reform and opening-up, no matter how the global environment may change. There is no doubt about that. As we forge ahead, we will continue to enhance cooperation with other countries to build world peace, contribute to global prosperity, and uphold the international order. This is in the interests of all countries and people around the world.

This year also marks the 15th anniversary of the China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership. This is a good opportunity for China and the EU to open up new prospects for cooperation, and further deepen our partnership, in order to better promote peace, growth, reform and cultural exchanges.

--We need to have greater mutual trust. China always supports the European integration process, and supports a united, stable and prosperous EU in playing a bigger role in global affairs. I am confident that the 20th China-EU Summit to be held in China later this year will send a positive message to the outside. I hope that the EU side could look at China with a fair and open mind and mutual respect, instead of through the lens of ideology, and will join hands with China to seek shared progress.

--We need to have broader cooperation. China’s huge market will bring about great possibilities for our cooperation. As China’s reform and opening-up shows stronger momentum, it is advisable for the EU to seize the opportunities and work with China to expand cooperation, in particular, to seek faster progress in creating synergy between Europe’s development strategies with the Belt and Road Initiative.

This year, we celebrate both the China-EU Tourism Year and the Year of European Cultural Heritage. We can use the two initiatives to best effect, carry out more cultural events and people-to-people exchanges, and consolidate public support for our relations.

--We need to jointly strengthen the multilateral system. China and the EU, both being beneficiaries of and contributors to free trade, have a joint responsibility to preserve the rules-based multilateral trading system. We are all like passengers on the same boat. Should someone try to drill a hole in the boat, it is imperative for everyone else to act in unity to stop the move, for the good of themselves, if not others. Given the international uncertainties, we need a stable China-EU relationship. We need to accelerate the BIT talks to unleash more potential for two-way investment, and make it easier for Chinese and European enterprises to enter each other’s market.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Since the Delegation was established in 1979 after the first direct elections for the European Parliament, China and the EU have seen increasing exchanges between our legislatures, which have contributed to the growth of China-EU relations despite our differences on certain issues. Next month, some of you will be in China for the 41st inter-parliamentary meeting. Chinese people often say, “Seeing it once is more helpful than hearing about it a hundred times.” I believe that the first-hand experience will help you understand China more deeply and, with that, better promote China-EU cooperation. I wish you a good trip. I look forward to working closely with you in the years ahead.

Thank you.

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