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Remarks by H.E. Ambassador Zhang Ming At the China-EU Business Dialogue

On 9 September 2020, Ambassador Zhang Ming, Head of the Chinese Mission to the European Union, attended the China-EU Business Dialogue organized by the China Chamber of Commerce to the EU and delivered a keynote speech. Here is the full text:

Your Excellency Mr. Romano Prodi,

Vice President Dimitrios Papadimoulis,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning. I am delighted to be invited to the second China-EU Business Dialogue.

The COVID-19 has led to a major global recession, with rising unilateralism and protectionism, and unprecedented headwinds against globalization. In a time of change, the whole world is watching in which direction major economies are heading, more openness or more inwardness?

Many are impressed by China’s fast development in the past decades. The keywords are reform and opening-up. I would say that all the 1.4 billion Chinese people are participants, beneficiaries and witnesses in the course of reform and opening-up. Thanks to reform and opening-up, China has contributed around 30 percent of global growth for many years. Today, we still believe that openness conforms to the trend of the times, and that economic globalization keeps advancing despite twists and turns. There is no reason for China to shut its door to the outside world. President Xi Jinping recently pointed out that China will foster a new, dual-cycle development architecture based on domestic and international markets reinforcing each other, with the domestic cycle as the mainstay, and that China will improve openness across the board and develop a new pattern for an open economy of a higher level.

In the past decades, world prosperity and China’s opening-up have been made possible in the context of globalization. In face of challenges, globalization might have to adapt, but will not be reversed. Multilateralism must be upheld. Connectivity and exchanges remain indispensable. The fundamental principles for market economy such as fairness, openness and non-discrimination must not be abandoned.

The world prosperity and China’s opening-up have been made possible in a peaceful environment. Peace is a shared pursuit of peoples around the world, and is the very basis for global development. Any belligerent attempt to wage a new Cold War, tech war or trade war must be rejected. Nothing could give greater strength to our response than greater openness.

The world prosperity and China’s opening-up have been made possible through global solidarity, and win-win cooperation. Any attempt to tout the idea of “decoupling”, destroy the stability of global supply and industrial chains, wield the big stick of unilateral sanctions, or stifling or taking down other countries’ companies and cooperation projects will seriously undermine the shared interests of the international community.

China believes that openness could lead to shared prosperity. China’s development bears out the fact that opening doors brings progress while closing doors leaves one behind. Building walls will not only cut access to resources and markets beyond the walls, but also stifle competition and innovation behind the walls. Only by opening doors can we embrace broader opportunities. China will link its huge domestic market more closely with the global markets, seeking common development and delivering benefits to the rest of the world in the course of opening-up.

China and the EU have common language on openness. The EU itself is a product of openness and connectivity, and emphasizes that openness is in its DNA. China has learned plenty of valuable experience from European partners in the past 40-plus years of reform and opening-up. Frankly speaking, sometimes, I could hear complaints from EU partners, saying that China is not open enough or that China’s opening is not fast enough. I could sense that European partners recognize the direction of China’s opening-up policy and expect to see greater openness. When it comes to specific sectors, China might not be as open as the EU, and the speeds are varied. After all, China is still a developing country, whose industrialization started much later than Europe, and therefore has to take sound and prudent steps forward. Yet what matters is direction. China keeps firmly to the direction of opening-up. We shorten the negative list for foreign investors every year, reducing the number of restrictive measures from about 180 to 33. Sectors that the EU cares most about, like finance, infrastructure, transport and automobile, are further opened. According to OECD, China’s FDI Regulatory Restrictiveness Index dropped consecutively from 0.577 in 2003 to 0.244 in 2019. China will continue to go in the right direction of opening-up.

I am closely watching the EU’s policy direction which, as I observe, have got quite some Chinese companies in the EU worried. They say that the business environment here seems to have become less friendly, especially after the pandemic outbreak, bringing uncertainties to their operations. Some companies joke that the anti-trust investigation, FDI screening and foreign subsidies review are like three huge mountains imposed on them. Some high-tech companies complain that their access to the relevant cooperation projects is restricted, as non-technical factors are used in security assessment, and that their products could be labeled unsafe with no substantive evidence. Some are asking, “Has the EU’s DNA changed?” “Is the EU backsliding in terms of openness?” Obviously, the relevant policy measures are not in line with the values the EU has long upheld, nor do they serve the EU’s long-term interests and economic recovery. The concerns are essentially about the direction in which the EU is moving. I hope the EU side could give due attention to these voices.

China and Europe are two major forces, two big markets and two great civilizations. What we stand for, what we oppose and what we work together on can make a difference for the world. In a world of constant changes, and at this crucial moment of fighting COVID-19 and pursuing post-COVID-19 recovery, businesses from the two sides are looking upon China and Europe to make the right choice between opening doors and shutting doors, and between cooperation and decoupling. This is a choice that would shape the world’s future.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Despite the COVID-19, China and the EU are keeping close exchanges and steadily advancing our common agenda this year. Next week, President Xi Jinping is going to meet with the EU and German leaders. The two sides have had high-level dialogues on trade, green, digital, strategic and security issues. Hopefully our two sides will seize the opportunity to do more in an open and cooperative spirit.

Thanks to the strong commitment and joint efforts of the two sides, significant progress has been made in the investment agreement negotiation. We need to finish the negotiation by the end of this year and kick-start the FTA process at an early date, bringing more predictability to businesses on both sides. We need to identify more opportunities for cooperation under the new circumstances, by stepping up the development and production of vaccines, medicines and testing kits, and conducting trilateral cooperation in less developed regions like Africa. We need to act firmly on multilateralism, strengthen macroeconomic policy coordination, safeguard the security and stability of global industrial and supply chains, and push for a speedy economic recovery globally. We need to forge synergy between our development strategies, by tapping into cooperation potential in environmental protection and digital economy, in order to achieve more win-win results.

On digital economy, China and the EU have respective strengths and similar concerns. We need to keep our markets open to each other, enhance technological and industrial cooperation, and make joint contributions to global standards and rules in the digital domain. Yesterday, China put forward a Global Initiative on Data Security with eight key points. We welcome the participation of various stakeholders including the EU. We need to work together to build an open, fair and non-discriminatory business environment, for everyone to benefit from digital economy.

Tomorrow, the China Chamber of Commerce will publish its flagship annual report. I will be a good reader of the report myself, and I hope my EU colleagues could also take a closer look, which I believe would help both the Chinese and Europeans to strengthen trade and business ties.

Thank you.

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