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Address by H.E. Ambassador Song Zhe to the Delegation for Relations with China of the European Parliament

Vice Chairman Weber,

Members of the European Parliament,

I’m very happy to once again meet members of the Delegation for Relations with China. Although we are already into the New Year for quite some time, I would still like to take this opportunity to express the belated best wishes for the Chinese New Year. Last time we met, I briefed you on the 13th China-EU Summit, which took place in November last year. Today, I wish to use this occasion to share with you my views on what we should do to strengthen exchange, expand cooperation and further promote China-EU relations in 2011.

This year, China-EU relations are off to a very good start with a series of important events. Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to Spain, Germany and the UK at the beginning of the year reinforced bilateral ties between China and key EU member states. People-to-people exchange between China and Europe is also under spotlight as we launched our first thematic year event, EU-China Year of Youth, both in Brussels and Beijing respectively on 11 January and 23 February. We are expecting a number of high-level visits during the first half of the year. I have high confidence that China-EU relations will record new progress in 2011.

My confidence is founded on very safe grounds. After 35 years of growth and engagement, our relationship is comprehensive, strategic, dynamic and mutually beneficial. It is mature and solid enough to stand tests and forge ahead. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao recently said, China and Europe are at a critical moment to deepen cooperation. How we share the opportunities to address challenges and promote development will have direct impact on us and on the world. So the question is why are there opportunities?

First, because we are facing different international situation and global challenges. The world is undergoing profound adjustment with proliferating global challenges, uncertainties, and destabilizing factors. As the significance of our ties grow, we are supposed to play bigger roles on a myriad of fronts, ranging from international security matters such as the Iranian nuclear issue, counter-terrorism, and fight against piracy, to global governance including the reform of international monetary regime and climate change. Whether it’s in the United Nations or in the G20, there is higher expectation for better policy coordination and stronger strategic cooperation between China and Europe. As much as we are supposed to work more closely to tackle various challenges in today’s world, doing so in the long run also serves our own interests and global peace and prosperity.

Second, because China and Europe are both charting road for growth. Year 2011 marks the beginning of China’s 12th Five-Year Plan and Europe’s 2020 Strategy. They share much similar ideas and priorities and thus present huge prospect for practical cooperation in areas like green economy, environment protection, scientific innovation, and technology-intensive industries. We must make the best out of our comparative advantages, by thoughtfully matching Europe’s expertise and China’s market, and facilitate common business growth.

Third, because EU is undergoing institutional adjustment. More than a year has past since the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty. The process of implementation has been smooth and on the right track. The EEAS has become operational. The European Parliament has gained notable strength in EU-related affairs. Contrary to many people’s argument, I believe the challenges posed by the debt crisis will further accelerate European integration. At this juncture, we must deepen our strategic mutual trust to re-anchor EU’s China policy and make it more consistent, positive, and coordinated.

Fourth, because this year is full of thematic events for people-to-people exchange. The purpose to grow China-EU ties is to forge better understanding and a sense of closeness between our two peoples. The friendship between China and Europe is after all about our peoples. When our peoples share better communications, we are more likely to sustain healthy growth in our bilateral ties. After this Year of Youth, we will celebrate the EU-China Year of Intercultural Dialogue in 2012. Thematic year events like these are useful platforms to forge better communications, understanding and stronger sense of closeness between our peoples. I’m sure that this momentum will continue to grow with renewed strength, and more and more people will become enthusiastic supporters for China-EU friendship and cooperation.

We are presented with opportunities, yet to translate them into actual achievements requires resolve, wisdom and resources. As policy makers and stakeholders of China-EU relations, we need to carefully evaluate what we should expect from our relations and what we should do to keep it growing. To put this into perspective, I wish to highlight the importance of achieving balance in three pair of relations.

The first one is the balance between long-term and short-term interests. Being strategic is the core feature of China-EU relations, so when dealing with everyday matters, it is essential that we don’t forget about the larger picture and long-term interests of our ties. China is committed to developing relations with Europe from strategic and long-term perspective, but it doesn’t mean that our attention is solely confined to macro issues or that we think light of practical problems. What we are calling for is to avoid losing hold of our relations to some momentary difficulties. We have full confidence in the strategic vision and political wisdom of the EU leadership, and their ability to arrive at a China policy that conforms to the trend of times and serves the interests of our two sides.

The second aspect is to achieve balance between sectional and overarching interests. Our relations are like a compound spanning over a multiple of areas and levels. The shape of our relations on the whole will define how we perform in each and every particular area. If we do a good job at the top, the cheerful spirit can work as a catalyst to facilitate practical cooperation across board. It’s no incidental that the fastest growth of our business cooperation mostly come at a time when we enjoyed the most stable political ties. The structure of our relationship decides that the whole and the part are mutually influential. Some friends in Europe, being too realistic and preoccupied with certain so-called practical issues, tend to ignore this fact. When we go for a walk and we don’t take our eyes off the feet, then we will lose track of where we are going. It is no different for China-EU relations. So we should try our best to create a sound general environment, and the least we should do is to let some sector interests and sensitive matters take hostage of our overall relations.

The third task is to obtain balance between EU institutions and member states. People in China feel that when talking to EU institutions and member states, we get different answers and voices. We talk with member states a lot about cooperation and deals, whereas our conversations with the institutions are invariably heavily loaded with problems and concerns, which have seriously jeopardized China-EU ties and run against what we hoped for in our relations. We support stronger policy coordination between our counterparts so that one day Europe could engage in a positive dialogue with China in one voice. On the Chinese part, we will continue to develop our relations with EU institutions and member states in a lockstep fashion. We will not overplay with one or the other, so as to make them mutually reinforcing and constantly growing.

Now I wish to spend a few minutes on an old topic—perception. Without fair perception of the other, our relations could be easily thrown off course. Misperception is hazardous. It results in poor judgment and could lead to words and deeds that end up harming everyone. China-EU relations are not immune from misperception. I could tell this from my experience working as the Chinese Ambassador here over the past several years. And I wish to use this occasion to raise some observations of the trends and developments that I believe deserving our attention and reflection.

First, in recent years, there have been growing grievances in Europe about doing business with China. Many people argue that they are getting less out of our cooperation than they are entitled to. There is growing concern about China’s trade surplus and investment environment. Some even propose to review and limit Chinese investment in Europe. Much as I’m confused by these criticisms, I’ve gathered some facts to share: During the worst moment of the financial crisis, the Chinese government has taken concrete steps to help Europe out the difficulty. We purchased Euro-bonds, increased investment in the region, and sent groups of trade facilitation delegations to sign large business deals with European companies. Low-priced quality exports from China saved money for European consumers, while Chinese market helped European companies making huge chunk of business profits. Newspapers here called China the “money tree” for European companies. Figures from Eurostat shows that the EU exports to China topped 113.1 billion Euros last year, a 37.2% year-on-year increase, much higher than EU’s total export growth rate of 22.9%. I think these facts are very persuasive evidence that Europe has never been and will not be put to a disadvantageous position and will continue profiting from business with China.

Second, some people are intentionally decoupling China as a culture and China as a country. Not long ago, the Mission of China has successfully co-organized a public cerebration for the Spring Festival in the European School Woluwe. More than thirteen hundred European friends, parents, students, and teachers, took part in the event. It suggests that people in Europe have the interest and fondness in the Chinese culture. But I came to notice that some people would conveniently deny this culture’s impact on our statecraft, ignore our social progress that come along with our economic growth, and stick to their biased views on China’s political system and development path, giving slight consideration to China’s national conditions and level of development. I find their views self-contradictory and require much learning about China.

Third, there remains strong misunderstanding on matters of sensitivities in China-EU relations. On human rights, some individual cases are played up to smear China’s democracy and human rights conditions. Speaking of human rights, we are all following the developments in Libya. The Chinese government has within two weeks evacuated more than 36,000 Chinese nationals out of the country. The massive evacuation is the first of its kind in the history of China. What we have done has won international recognition. But what’s more important is that it once again proved to the world that the government of China is serious about human rights and we have every goodwill to protect the life and property of our people through concrete actions. The rhetoric about democracy and human rights may sound brilliant, but it wouldn’t bear much substance in the absence of a strong central government, a stable political environment, and a suitable development path.

Dialogue and exchange are effective ways to prevent these misperceptions. China and Europe are different in many ways—in development level, social systems, cultural traditions, and our approaches to certain issues. But we share much more in common, in peace, development, friendship, and cooperation. So our difference is not an obstacle. It’s a driving force as we work to expand shared interests. What’s important is that we view each other fairly and comprehensively, on the basis of equality and mutual respect. And I fully believe that sincere exchanges will help us narrow our differences and build more common understanding.

Parliamentarian and Party-to-Party exchanges are important components of the China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership. The European Parliament, as an important institution of the European Union, has a huge role to play in developing China-EU relations. The Delegation for Relations with China is at its forefront. Over the years, the Delegation has committed itself to deepening our mutual understanding and promoting bilateral ties. I wish to thank all of you for your contribution.

The National People’s Congress of China has long maintained a regular exchange mechanism with the EP. In fact, it is also the very first existing parliamentarian exchange mechanism that the NPC set up with a foreign counterpart. The exchange between the two institutions in the year past has been particularly active with some most frequent and high level visits. When President Buzek was in China, we were also receiving representatives from your Delegation and the Special Committee on Financial Crisis. And it made quite a big day when the three delegations finally gathered in Shanghai for the World Expo. In addition, many leaders in the EP delegations have traveled to Beijing for the first China-Europe High-Level Political Party Forum. These bilateral exchanges gave us a perfect chance to know each other better and expand common ground, and they highlighted our achievements in promoting the sustainable and healthy growth of China-EU ties.

I sincerely hope that as staunch supporters of China-EU friendship, you will remain active and constructive to our relations in the year 2011 and make it another year of harvest in China-EU relations. In my capacity, I would fully appreciate good work relations and personal friendship with all of you, and I will always be available to listen to your ideas on grooming our bilateral ties.

Thank you!

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