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Ambassador:China and the EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development

Remarks by H.E. Ambassador Zhang Ming at the International Conference: “The EU, China, and the SDGs: a likely alliance?”

7 May 2018

European Economic and Social Committee

Your Excellency Vice President Jyrki Katainen,

Ladies and Gentlemen,


It is a great pleasure for me to be invited to this conference, and to share my thoughts on how China and the EU could work together to promote sustainable development. I am glad to see that China and the EU have much in common on this important topic.

We have the shared commitment to peace and development. Our world is, on the whole, peaceful. Yet, 10% of global population still live in poverty due to different reasons, like harsh natural conditions, political conflicts, and unequal distribution of wealth. We are still facing many prominent challenges, like development imbalances, refugee issues, public health concerns and climate change. To create prosperity for all, sustainable development is not an option, but a MUST.

China and the EU have similar philosophy on sustainable development. The EU Sustainable Development Strategy adopted in 2001 recognizes that in the long term, economic growth, social cohesion and environmental protection must go hand in hand. Sustainability has been mainstreamed in the EU policy-making process.

For us Chinese, our ancestors taught us that man must live in harmony with nature, and that it is not wise to drain the pond to catch fish. Nowadays, sustainable development is China’s national policy. We make great efforts to conserve the environment, and reconcile environmental protection with economic growth and social development. We have introduced the concept of innovative, coordinated, green, open and inclusive development. We are linking the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda with our domestic strategies. We have published a national plan to implement the SDGs, which translates each target into specific tasks.

China and the EU share the view that sustainable development is a joint responsibility that requires wide contribution. For years, the EU has always been a major actor in the global cooperation on sustainable development, and has made great contribution technologically and financially. We in China have benefited from the EU’s input, and we will not forget that.

China is also an active contributor to the international development cooperation, especially the South-South cooperation. We have established an assistance fund for South-South cooperation, the China-UN peace and development fund, and the South-South climate cooperation fund. We have set up the Academy of South-South Cooperation and Development, and started enrolment accordingly. We are carrying out the “Six 100s” initiative, namely making available to other developing countries 100 poverty reduction programs, 100 agricultural cooperation projects, 100 aid-for-trade programs, 100 environmental protection and climate change programs, 100 hospitals or clinics, and 100 schools or vocational training centers.

Last month, the China State International Development Cooperation Agency was inaugurated. It will serve as a platform for China to reach out to its global partners to promote development that benefits all.

To work together toward the SDGs, we have more favorable conditions now. The European economy is getting on a stronger footing, and the Chinese economy is entering a new phase that features high-quality development. However, we have to admit that the road ahead is not a smooth one. It will remain a tough and difficult journey. To finish the journey, we must join forces in the following aspects:

First, to advance cooperation at the global level. In September 2015, world leaders adopted the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. The Agenda, underpinned by the economic, social and environmental pillars, covers every country, developed and developing ones alike. This is not only a great vision for the future, but also a solemn commitment that must be fulfilled. It is by no means an easy job to turn the 17 SDGs and 169 targets into reality. All countries must transcend differences and take solid actions together. Development should remain a priority on the G20 agenda, and an important dimension of macro-economic policy coordination. We respect the diversified national conditions, and consequently, the diversified pathways toward sustainable development. We encourage countries to translate the Agenda into their domestic strategies and plans, following the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities”.

Second, to jointly uphold multilateral rules and keep global recovery on the track. Sustainable development would be out of the question without solid economic recovery and a rules-based trade and investment environment. The international community need to enhance policy coordination at the global level, foster an open and inclusive world economy, and strengthen global economic governance.

The current environment for development is not resilient enough, and cannot afford reckless acts of unilateralism and protectionism. We must firmly uphold the multilateral trading system that is free, open and non-discriminatory, and fight protectionism in any form or under any pretext. China and the EU have a joint responsibility in this regard.

Third, to think creatively and look for new areas of cooperation. With regards to the challenges in the field of development, the root causes can only be found in the course of further development, and only new thinking could produce the right remedy. Countries need to set economic, social and environmental priorities, pinpoint the most urgent tasks, and secure “early harvests”.

China stands ready to step up dialogue with the EU in the areas of environmental protection, clean energy, urban sustainable development and circular economy, in order to find green solutions to our shared challenges. We need to make continued efforts to achieve the climate targets set in the Paris Agreement, act in line with our respective INDCs, and provide financial support to the least developed countries. We need to deepen cooperation in green finance, and foster the relevant initiatives to facilitate the flows of green capital.

Fourth, to develop synergy between our strategies, and build a green “Belt and Road”. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Sustainable Development Agenda have similar objectives, philosophies and approaches. Advancing the BRI and its early harvests contributes to the attainment of the SDGs. We hope to work with the EU to connect national and regional strategies with the Agenda, and do as much as we can for the fulfillment of the SDGs.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We all live on the same planet and have a stake in a shared future. No one should be left behind. China is ready to join hands with the EU to open up new prospects for our cooperation in sustainable development. Let’s work together toward freedom from want, toward shared prosperity and toward a better future for each and every one of us.

Thank you.

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