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Remarks by H.E. Ambassador Song Zhe at the Conference of EU-China: Building Upon a Strategic Dialogue Among Strategic Partners organized by the Belgian Royal Institute for International Relations

Working Together for Closer China-EU Strategic Partnership

Mr. Moran,

Mr. Renard,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning!

First of all, I want to thank Mr. Renard for the invitation. I find the theme of this conference—“building upon a strategic dialogue among strategic partners” both profound and appropriate. This conference offers us a timely occasion to review the development of our strategic partnership during this year and chart the course for China-EU ties in 2011. I’m pleased to take part in this opening session and share with you my observations on China-EU relations.

To highlight the feature of our relations this year, I would conclude that new progress has been made along the path of steady growth.

This year has recorded frequent high level exchanges between China and Europe. There have been high level visits between China and many EU member states over the past 11 months. The 13th China-EU Summit was held in Brussels. EU leaders including President Barroso and President Buzek visited China. We held our first High Level Strategic Dialogue. Not long ago, Chinese State Councilor Ma Kai paid a successful visit to the EU headquarters. Later this month, several Commissioners will travel to China for the Third High Level Economic and Trade Dialogue. These frequent high level exchanges inject new vigor to our relations and are very good ways to deepen mutual understanding, increase trust, and guide our future cooperation.

On another front, fruitful results have been made in our economic and trade cooperation. In the first 10 months this year, our bilateral trade grew by nearly 33% year-on-year to 388 billion US Dollars, 8% higher than the same period of 2008. It is estimated that by the year-end, this number will top 450 billion US Dollars. Europe remains China’s largest trading partner and export market. And China is the second largest and the fastest growing export market among EU’s top five export destinations. Many European economists and media agree that China’s soaring demand for mechanical equipment and luxury goods has become an important driving force for economic recovery of many European countries.

In addition to the progress in politics and business, we have also worked to develop mutual understanding through an increasing number of people-to-people exchange programs. We have signed a joint action plan for the China-EU Year of Youth Exchange, and held the first Youth Summit and the first High Level Cultural Forum. For the first time, EU participated in the World Expo outside an EU member state, and staged in Shanghai a gala celebrating the European Day.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The international environment is undergoing complex and profound changes. Both China and Europe are in the important stage for economic recovery and growth. The continued development of our relations against such a backdrop is attributable to the potential and vigor of our ties and to our joint efforts to meet each other half way. Such growth also makes us better appreciate the strategic significance of China-EU relations both to the world and to ourselves.

The 21st century world requires China and Europe to work more closely as strategic partners. China is the world’s largest developing country. The EU is the world’s largest bloc of developed countries. As major stakeholders of many major international and regional issues, China and Europe are important forces to develop a fair and reasonable international order. The strategic importance of our relations has gone beyond bilateral context and gained global significance. In this sense, sound China-EU strategic partnership is not only in the interest of our 1.8 billion people of China and Europe, but also has positive bearing on the whole world.

The future development of China and Europe also requires us to strengthen our strategic partnership. We are heading into the second decade of the 21st century. Global challenges and hotspot issues will continue to emerge along with the major changes and deepening adjustments of the world. Countries around the world will become more interdependent, so no single country or a single bloc of countries will be able to vanquish these challenges on one’s own. China’s 12th Five-Year Plan and the EU 2020 Strategy bring us even closer with new opportunities for practical cooperation. Working together, we will be able to better grow ourselves, meet global challenges, and promote world peace and common development.

If we look around the world today, we will see all kinds of strategic partnership among different countries. Some might wonder, what is special about China-EU strategic partnership? My answer to this question includes four points.

First, our partnership is comprehensive. I’m impressed by our fruitful, rich and broad cooperation spanning from politics and business to science and technology, culture, education, and youth exchange.

Second, it’s mutually beneficial. Our practical cooperation has brought benefit to our two peoples through our respective development. Capital, technology and managerial expertise from Europe helped China promote modernization and industrialization. And the growth of China in return provided huge business opportunities for European companies. Our mutually beneficial cooperation since the outbreak of the financial crisis has boosted the confidence of not only China and Europe, but also the whole world, making a significant contribution to the international response to the crisis.

Third, our partnership is highly motivated. This relationship has always been growing to adapt to the changing environment. Over the years, it has achieved three leaps to constructive partnership, comprehensive partnership, and comprehensive strategic partnership. The form of this relationship has also evolved from the initially tentative contacts to today’s all-dimensional, broad, and multi-tiered cooperation.

Fourth, it’s inclusive. There have been differences and disputes between China and Europe due to our different history, culture, value and social system. However, it’s encouraging to see that we have always remembered the larger interests of our relations, approached our conflicts and disputes with tolerance, and unceasingly moved our relations forward.

In the future, China and Europe should continue to work together as important and close strategic partners. We need to view our relations from the strategic height and long-term perspective, seize the opportunity of cooperation to deliver concrete results, and try the best to keep the growth of our ties on the right track. Now, I wish to discuss three elements that are essential to achieve this goal.

The first one is confidence. Confidence is the prerequisite for the smooth growth of China-EU ties. The confidence we have in each other should be able to stand various challenging tests. In China, we have full confidence in the EU integration. We have confidence in the increasing role and influence of the EU in international affairs. And we have confidence in the strength of Europe to overcome the difficulty and achieve economic recovery and growth. China has taken resolute and concrete measures to help Europe out of the financial and sovereign debt crisis. We sent multiple trade facilitation delegations to Europe for business orders and purchased Euro bonds. In return, we also expect that Europe’s confidence in China’s peaceful development and China-EU relations will be firmer and stronger.

The second element is patience. Patience ensures that our relations will stay on the right course. If we are patient with our differences and disputes, we will then be in a better position to view and handle them properly, so that they will not disrupt the larger picture of China-EU relations. There is no conflict of fundamental interests between us. The problems we have in front of us are not lasting but temporary ones. They are just passing swirls in the river of China-EU relations. I believe that with the continued growth of our shared interests, we will finally run past these problems that we run into today.

The last element is resolve. Resolve is essential for the long-term planning of China-EU relations. Both China and Europe recognize the enormous potential that our cooperation can bring, but there is still a big gap between recognition and implementation. We need to bear in mind the spirit of mutual benefit and win-win, strengthen information sharing, and work intensively to manage our complementarity and coordinate our policies. These are no easy tasks, therefore require extraordinary resolve as we translate our good will of cooperation into concrete results.

I firmly believe that in the next decade, China-EU relations will greet even more opportunities and will develop from strength to strength. Our cooperation will grow deeper and broader, and so will the strategic significance of our relations.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As policy makers and scholars for China-EU relations, we have an inescapable responsibility to contribute our intelligence and strength to closer strategic partnership between China and Europe. We should make good use of the opportunities that seminars like this one could offer, exchange our ideas, share experiences, and propose valuable advice to further strengthen our ties. I’m fully confident that by joining hands and putting our minds together, our relations will certainly enjoy a promising and brighter future.

To conclude, I wish the conference a complete success!

Thank you!

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