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Ambassador: Jointly Building the Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
2018/05/29

(Remarks by H.E. Ambassador Zhang Ming At the China-EU Dialogue on the Belt and Road Initiative, 23 May 2018, Egmont Palace)

Your Excellency Mr. Dimitrios Papadimoulis, Vice President of the European Parliament,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Friends,

Good afternoon. It is a great pleasure to be here today and share my thoughts on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Since many of you are directly engaged in the China-EU cooperation, I assume this topic is highly relevant and significant.

Last May, the first Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation was held in Beijing. The participation of European leaders, think tanks and businessmen was a testament to the interest of Europe in the BRI. Just a year later, we are proud to see how much has been achieved since the Forum.

Good progress has been made in the implementation of the 279 deliverables under 76 categories in five key areas. 255 deliverables are already turned into concrete actions. Let’s look at how far we have been going in the past five years since the initiative was first introduced:

--China’s trade with countries along the Belt and Road has exceeded 4 trillion US dollars and stock investment is over 60 billion US dollars.

--Forty-three countries along the routes have direct flights to and from China.

--A total of 7,600 trips have been made by the freight trains between China and Europe.

--Chinese companies have built 75 economic cooperation zones in over 20 Belt and Road countries, creating more than 2 billion US dollars of tax revenues and over 200,000 jobs for the host countries.

--The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank now has 86 members.

All this illustrates that the BRI, though originating in China, delivers benefits well beyond its borders. I would say that the initiative enjoys great prospects and a strong momentum due to the following reasons.

First, the BRI aims at economic cooperation as a driver of development. World Bank President Mr. Jim Yong Kim said that the BRI can be a catalyst for a new approach to development. The BRI promotes economic development through infrastructure, trade and finance connectivity, provides a predictable policy environment through policy connectivity, and secures public support through people-to-people connectivity. All parties work together to get connected and improve access, to turn places on the back burner into frontrunners of openness, and to deliver a better life to their people, especially those living in poverty.

Second, the BRI follows the principle of wide consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits. Although the initiative was put forward by China, its opportunities belong to the whole world, and its success could only happen through joint efforts. We do not intend to compel others to follow our orders or build our own backyard garden, still less to seek the sphere of influence. Rather, we reach out to our partners in a spirit of mutual respect, mutual trust and mutual benefit. So far, China has signed cooperation documents with over 80 countries and international organizations, and has established mechanisms for government consultation and business matchmaking. All parties have an equal say, and all projects are determined through joint discussions.

Third, the BRI values the spirit of multilateralism and openness. Following the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, the BRI is open, inclusive and transparent. It is not something behind closed doors. We are seeking greater synergy between the BRI and the implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, the development initiatives of G20, Shanghai Cooperation Organization, APEC and China-ASEAN cooperation, as well as the strategies of AU, EU and CELAC. By so doing, we will make the whole greater than the sum of its parts.

Fourth, the BRI projects are high-quality, high-standard, and oriented toward diversified needs. The BRI follows international rules and market principles, and emphasizes the importance of economic and environmental sustainability. There is not any attempt to artificially lower the standard, make back-room deals or harm the environment. Known for their high quality and high standard, Chinese projects have been recognized as the Outstanding Projects of the Year from 2013 to 2017 by the International Federation of Consulting Engineers. The BRI involves a great number of countries which differ in stage of development, areas of strength and aspirations. We respect the diversified needs of each and every participant, and let the market forces decide.

In the past seven months, I have been talking to European friends from different sectors. When it comes to the BRI, I have heard both supportive and skeptical voices. Indeed, it takes time to get familiar with and better understand such a new thing as the BRI. However, we are optimistic about the China-Europe cooperation on the initiative.

In fact, we have already achieved a good start. The BRI and Europe’s development strategies have much in common. Governments of 11 EU member states have signed cooperation documents with China. A number of projects on infrastructure, logistics, e-commerce and finance are well underway. In Serbia, a Chinese enterprise bought a troubled steel mill and turned it around in less than a year. In Greece, the Port of Piraeus has regained its position as one of the largest European ports. In the United Kingdom, China is partnering with France to build a nuclear power plant, a stellar example of three-party cooperation on the BRI. Last year alone, the China-Europe express cargo trains made 3,673 trips, more than the total number combined during the previous six years, reaching 36 European cities in 13 countries.

Yet, this is not enough. Both China and Europe want to make the pie bigger. For this to happen, our two sides need to make efforts in the following aspects.

First, to inject more certainty into global cooperation. It seems that the greatest certainty about today’s world is its uncertainty. This is not what we want to see. This is not the right way to go. The BRI could offer a solid platform for cooperation to boost global economy and to add a sense of certainty to the global landscape. The BRI aims to promote peace, development and stability. It could contribute to a more balanced development across Europe, thereby facilitating the European integration process rather than hold it back.

Second, to promote cooperation with an open mind and in a rules-based manner. Countries at different levels of development may have different needs and approaches to cooperation. There is NOT a universal model that works in every situation. The best practice takes into account and fits well with the actual circumstances. We need to step up exchanges to find a pattern of cooperation that suits local conditions, serves long-term interests and complies with rules. We need to tear down the invisible wall in our minds, be more open and inclusive, and foster a sustainable, efficient and friendly environment for cooperation.

Third, to bring out the full potential of our win-win cooperation. Currently, the EU’s investment in China only accounts for 4% of its total overseas investment, and the Chinese investment in the EU only takes up 2% of FDI that flows into the EU. This is not commensurate with the size of our economy. We need to further implement the China-EU 2020 Strategic Agenda for Cooperation, and advance the negotiation of a bilateral investment treaty as a priority task. Regarding the BRI, we could work together to explore a third market, and harness our respective strengths to open up more possibilities.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I have noticed that many of you have traveled all the way from China and other European countries to this dialogue. I believe that with your contribution, this event will be a great success. And with your commitment and actions, the BRI cooperation will be productive and beneficial to all.

Thank you.

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