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Development through Openness, Mutual Benefit though Cooperation
Keynote Speech by H.E. Ambassador Zhang Ming at the 8th China-Europe Forum
2018/12/01

Managing Director Gunnar Wiegand,

President Chi Fulin,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to join you at the 8th edition of China-Europe Forum. Since its inception in 2011, the Forum has brought together policymakers, business representatives and leading academics from across China and Europe. The discussions have played a meaningful role in promoting mutual understanding, mutual trust, and cooperation between China and Europe.

Now, China-Europe relations are embracing new opportunities. It is all the more important to consider how to build on the momentum and shape the future. In that sense, this Forum could not have come at a better time. I wish to thank the organizers for making this event possible and extend a warm welcome to all of you. Before benefiting from your insights, I would like to share a few thoughts.

Forty years ago, Mr. DENG Xiaoping made a bold decision to resume the College Entrance Examination after a 10-year pause. I was one of the millions who sat for the exam. Thanks to that, I was able to go to college, join the foreign services later, and speak to you today as an ambassador. Similar stories happened to many people of my age and younger generations in China.

Mr. DENG Xiaoping’s decision was not only a game-changer in our personal life, but also a clarion call to kick-start China’s reform and opening-up. Since then, China’s development potential has been greatly unleashed. With knowledge, hope, vitality, and above all, the hard-working spirit of the Chinese nation, we have made a big difference.

China’s per-capita GDP has surged from US$160 to over US$8,800. Over 700 million people have shaken off poverty. Living standards have greatly improved. China has become the largest exporter and the second largest importer, and contributes to more than 30 percent of global growth annually.

These achievements have been made possible through the persistent efforts of Chinese people, as well as the support of and cooperation with global partners like Europe. In December 1978, Siemens set up the first electrical and electronics exhibition in Shanghai, becoming one of the first foreign companies getting involved in China’s reform and opening-up.

Forty years later, still in Shanghai, the first China International Import Expo (CIIE) was held, with the participation of 15 EU member states and over 800 European companies. The UK, Germany and Hungary were Guests of Honor.

The two expos, forty years apart, illustrate how far China-Europe cooperation has gone.

It is interesting to note that some European friends, while recognizing China’s efforts to further reform and opening up, have expressed a desire to see bigger steps and faster pace. I would say, such desire echoes the direction that China is moving toward. Opening-up was key to China’s development in the past 40 years, and there is not a single reason to give up the good policy in the future.

At the CIIE, Chinese President XI Jinping said that in the coming 15 years, China’s imports of goods and services are expected to exceed US$30 trillion and US$10 trillion respectively. China will accelerate opening in such areas as medical service and education. Negotiations on a China-EU investment agreement will be sped up. These announcements are definitely good news for China-Europe cooperation.

Indeed, it’s easier said than done. But we are making every possible effort to deliver.

Since the start of this month, we have cut tariffs on another 1,585 items, bringing the overall tariff level from 9.8% to 7.5%, far lower than the level that China committed to upon WTO accession. Last April, we pledged to ease market access in the car industry. It was turned into action in just six months. BMW became the first foreign automaker that holds majority stakes in a joint venture.

China’s business environment has visibly improved. According to the latest World Bank report, China’s global ranking in terms of ease of doing business has jumped from 78 to 46. We have promulgated nearly 20 laws and regulations on IPR protection, and have paid a greatly increased amount of royalties to foreign IP holders. We never allow and strictly prohibit forced transfer or theft of technology.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

China’s reform and opening-up has been accompanied by the growth of China-EU relations. The great Chinese philosopher Confucius said, “A man of 40 no longer has doubts.” After a journey of over 40 years, China-EU relations have become more mature.

From the signing of the first official trade agreement in 1978 till now, China-EU trade and investment has increased by more than 250 folds. The two sides are connected by over 7 million mutual visits each year and over 600 flights each week. More than 11,000 trips have been made along the China-Europe express rail link.

The theme of this Forum--Cooperation, Competition and the Search for Common Ground—provides a lot of food for thought. In a rapidly-changing world, it is advisable for China and the EU to take a fresh look at cooperation and competition, and act together to bring a greater sense of certainty. It is crucial to bear in mind the following things:

First, China and the EU are partners, not rivals. In 2003, we established the comprehensive strategic partnership. In 2014, during President XI Jinping’s visit to the EU, the two sides agreed to promote partnership for peace, growth, reform and civilization. Between us, there are not geopolitical conflicts nor fundamental clashes of interests. China always supports European integration and does not interfere in Europe’s internal affairs. We have over 70 dialogue mechanisms covering foreign policy, security, economy and trade, people-to-people exchanges, science and technology, among others. Both of us believe in the value of dialogue and have the habit of cooperation rather than confrontation.

Secondly, China and the EU can achieve win-win results. We have a lot to offer to each other. European capital and technologies have contributed to China’s modernization. Cooperation with China has given a boost to Europe’s growth. At this year’s China-EU Summit, we sent positive signals on the investment agreement and geographical indications agreement negotiations. We commit to building synergy between the Belt and Road Initiative and the EU’s connectivity strategy. All this bodes well for the future of our cooperation.

Thirdly, China and the EU have a joint responsibility to safeguard multilateralism and free trade. Over the year, Chinese and EU leaders reaffirm the strong commitment to resisting unilateralism and protectionism, and to upholding the rules-based multilateral trade system. We have set up a joint working group on WTO reform, which has met for the first time and the second time soon. We are not just protecting our own interests, but preserving the common interests of the global community and the authority of international rules.

Fourthly, China and the EU are good partners in global governance. At this year’s summit, Chinese and EU leaders adopted a statement on climate change, a good step to jointly spearhead sustainable development. We have made efforts on the Iran nuclear deal to maintain peace in the Middle East and uphold the international non-proliferation regime. We have close communication on such hotspot issues as Syria and Afghanistan. Our relations go far beyond bilateral scope and have a crucial role in global peace and stability.

Fifthly, China and EU need to handle differences properly. It is natural for any bilateral relations to have certain problems. China-EU relations are no exception. Some problems occur because we are getting closer and are trying to align our interests, while others may arise from insufficient mutual understanding and trust. We expect the EU to respect China’s core interests on sovereignty and territorial integrity. We hope that the FDI screening legislation would comply with WTO rules, and treat Chinese companies in a fair and non-discriminatory manner. We hope that the EU would relax export control toward China, and foster a more favorable environment for high-tech cooperation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As I speak, President XI Jinping is visiting Spain and, in a few days, Portugal. We could foresee that the visits could further deliver the benefits of China’s reform and opening up to European partners, and inject new impetus to China’s relations with Spain, Portugal and Europe at large.

To conclude, I wish this Forum a great success, and wish you productive discussions.

Thank you.

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