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Address by H.E. Ambassador Song Zhe at theOpening Ceremony for the China-EU Year of Youth

Madame Commissioner Vassiliou,

Minister Soltész,

President Wang Xiao,

Dear Young Friends,

I’m excited to attend this opening ceremony for the China-EU Year of Youth, and witness together with you this important moment that will surely go down in the history of China-EU relations. The Year of Youth is the first theme year event jointly organized by China and Europe, and this landmark event will open up a new chapter for our people-to-people exchange. It is therefore my great pleasure to express, on behalf of the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, the warmest congratulations on the launching of China-EU Year of Youth.

Dear Young Friends,

Over the last 35 years since we established diplomatic ties, cooperation between China and Europe has demonstrated huge progress both in terms of quality and quantity. With economic and trade cooperation yielding substantial returns, China and Europe have become each other’s most important trading partner. Underpinning such strong ties is our ever-growing political mutual trust evidenced by frequent high-level visits and closer coordination on international affairs. So today China and Europe are more than just trading partners. We are also strategic partners who share a same destiny, rise to the common challenges, and work together for a future of prosperity. At this time when China and Europe are both in the key stage of development, our comprehensive, strategic, and mutually beneficial cooperation is increasingly picking up momentum from a new historical starting point. Whether this momentum can be sustained and grow from strength to strength will rest largely with whether or not we can gather understanding and support from our peoples. In this connection, people-to-people exchange has an irreplaceable role in ensuring that our bilateral ties will fulfill its historical mission and bring durable benefits to our people.

Youth represent the most dynamic element in people-to-people exchange, because you are the ones to create the future. Both leaderships strongly support and have high expectations for this Year of Youth event. Behind the major political decision to launch such a large-scale program are the strategic vision of our leaders and their ardent wish that efforts like this will increase mutual understanding and friendship between our younger generations.

In my view, youth are pioneers for people-to-people exchange and young people shoulder an important responsibility to promote healthy, sustainable and long-term growth of China-EU ties. Now I’m going to talk about three areas where I think our young friends could make a difference.

To begin with, young people could invigorate and extend the boundary of China-EU relations. China and Europe differ greatly in terms of history, culture and traditions. However, such difference is superseded by certain similarities when it comes to our younger generation—you are all full of passion, vigor and creativity. As advocators of global trend and forerunners of the future world, you are the powerhouse for technology innovation, economic development and social progress. In the future, we hope to see more young people taking active parts in growing China-EU ties with your new ideas and innovative thinking.

Furthermore, young people could contribute to cultural innovation and common progress of human civilization. Home to ancient civilizations, China and Europe are able to provide their youth with some of the finest ancient oriental and western cultural heritage. We expect young people to have an open heart for all different cultures, home and foreign, traditional and modern. We believe that with your capacity to learn and willingness to communicate, you will be able to combine the merits of all cultures for innovation, and build a new bridge of inter-civilization dialogue between China and Europe. Our hope is on you to promote a world where all civilizations could achieve common progress, and your efforts to deliver this goal will undoubtedly consolidate the popular support for future China-EU ties.

Last but not the least, young people are uniquely capable of going beyond difference for friendship. Internet has made our world a global village, giving us all kinds of choices to stay connected. Such favorable conditions put you in a better position to respect, understand, and appreciate the people on the other side. I always picture young people as “lubricant” who could learn from others and approach their difference with an open mind and an inclusive heart, in politics, business, culture, and all other sectors of our society. But of course, this will require that we break off from the old ways of thinking and abandon bias and stereotype. With you as envoys of lifelong friendship across generations, I’m confident that all of the differences and misgivings between us will be finally replaced by trust and agreements, and China-EU relations will definitely stand the test of all times.

Dear Young Friends,

As we head into the second decade of the 21st century, we are also stepping into a world of major changes and adjustments. Peace, development and cooperation have become an irresistible trend of times. Multipolarization, interdependence, science and technology revolution, and global and regional cooperation are the prime imprints of our age. Our future belongs to the younger generation, but it also defines them. What will happen in the next ten years carries great significance both on you and on China-EU relations. The prospect of China-EU ties bears immense opportunities for growth. As youth representatives, you have all reasons to live up to the expectation and fully realize the potential of China-EU friendship and cooperation. For the future, I expect greater success in the people-to-people exchange between China and Europe. And today, for all of you, this China-EU Year of Youth event is a golden opportunity to start your own contribution to our comprehensive strategic partnership.

To conclude, I wish the friendship tree between the Chinese and European young people be evergreen, and I wish the China-EU Year of Youth a crowning success!

Thank you!

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