Open Collaboration for Mutual Development
Speech at the 2023 China-Europe Entrepreneurs Qingdao Forum
Former Ambassador of China to the UK, China Forum expert of CISS Liu Xiaoming
September 19, 2023, Qingdao, China
It is a real delight to attend the China-Europe Entrepreneurs Qingdao Forum. Let me extend my warm congratulations on the hosting of this forum!
This is my third time participating in the Qingdao Forum. It feels great to be back. I look forward to engaging in deep discussions with entrepreneurs and together exploring the prospects of mutually beneficial China-Europe cooperation.
This year's forum chooses to focus on "A New Era, New Connections, New Journey - Jointly Promoting Economic Recovery and Prosperity through China-Europe Cooperation". It is in tune with the current global trends and holds huge significance.
The world is dealing with a lot of instabilities. The momentum of global economic recovery is fragile. Old conflicts and new risks intertwine and escalate, leading to a significant increase of uncertainty. As President Xi Jinping points out, the world is a community with a shared future -- we all thrive or perish together. The more complex and challenging the situation, the more important it is for us to come together and engage in cooperation. It is heartening to see that China and Europe, as major players in building an open world economy, are witnessing strong growth in their economic and trade cooperation, countering the voices that advocate decoupling and pessimism about the prospects of such cooperation. This not only highlights the efforts of entrepreneurs from both sides in overcoming numerous challenges, but also underscores the strong intrinsic dynamism, resilience, and immense advantages of China-Europe economic and trade cooperation, injecting more certainty into the uncertain world economy.
Where does the strong intrinsic dynamism of China-Europe economic and trade cooperation come from? I believe it mainly stems from the political will of both sides to cooperate. A strong political will for cooperation is the foundation and guarantee for exchanges and cooperation between China and Europe. Despite differences between China and Europe, both sides believe that they must uphold cooperation and dialogue. Since the improvement in the pandemic situation earlier this year, China and Europe have fully restored face-to-face exchanges, including frequent high-level interactions. President Xi Jinping held in-depth discussions with leaders from Germany, the European Union, Spain, and France, who visited China successively. Premier Li Qiang, on his first overseas trip since taking office, chose Europe as his destination. These high-level visits and meetings have led to important consensus and outcomes on enhancing strategic mutual trust, deepening practical cooperation, strengthening international coordination and properly managing differences, hence providing new political impetus for deepening exchanges and cooperation between the two sides.
Where does the strong resilience of China-Europe economic and trade cooperation come from? I believe it mainly benefits from the win-win nature of China-Europe cooperation. China and Europe are each other's second-largest trading partners, with a trade volume of over 2 billion euros per day. In the first five months of this year, China-Europe trade reached 2.28 trillion RMB yuan, a year-on-year increase of 3.6%. The scale and quality of China-Europe freight train services have continued to improve, connecting 216 cities in 25 European countries, promoting economic and trade exchanges and maintaining the stability of industrial and supply chains. The China-Europe Geographical Indications Agreement has enabled more and more consumers to enjoy high-quality products from both sides, such as Ganxian Navel Oranges, Wuchang Rice, Bavarian Beer and Parma Ham. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the comprehensive strategic partnership between China and the European Union.
China and Europe are two major powers and civilizations in the world. The ties between the two sides have stood the test of the vicissitudes of several decades. There are no major conflicts of interest or geopolitical conflicts between them. Their common interests far outweigh their differences. China-Europe relations can and should provide more stability and positive energy to the world.
As for the immense advantages of China-Europe economic and trade cooperation, I believe they stem from three aspects:
First, they stem from the bright prospects of China's economic growth.
In the first half of this year, amid a global economic slowdown and a deceleration in global trade, China's economy showed overall improvement, growing by 5.5%. This significantly outpaces other major economies. Recently, the United Nations and the World Bank raised this year’s forecasts for China, expecting China to contribute around one-third of global economic growth. Senior management of many multinational companies, including Tesla and HSBC, have visited China and shown confidence in the Chinese economy. China has a vast market with strong demand, a comprehensive supply system, a large pool of highly skilled labour force and talented entrepreneurs. These factors mean that China has a lot to offer to the world. Chinese economy is resilient and dynamic, and has immense potential. Its fundamentals for long-term positive growth remain unchanged. As the country of over 1.4 billion people embarks on a new journey of modernization, it will inject new energy into global economic recovery and provide more opportunities for the rest of the world, including those in Europe.
Second, the advantages stem from China's unwavering commitment to openness.
This year marks the 45th anniversary of China's reform and opening-up. Opening up to the world is a fundamental policy of China, and our determination to expand high-level openness will not waver regardless of changes in the external environment. Guided by the spirit of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, China will further open up its market, cut short the negative list for foreign investment, participate more deeply in global industrial division and cooperation, and enhance the openness of the modern service industry. We will continue to improve the business environment, implement the principle of national treatment for foreign-funded enterprises and work towards creating a top-tier, market-oriented, law-based and international business environment. And we will build a network of high-standard free trade zones open to the world. These measures will bring significant benefits to European companies deeply involved in the Chinese market.
Third, the advantages stem from China's practical actions to uphold economic globalization.
Through reform and opening up, China is striving to integrate the world's most populous nation into the global market. Today, China has become the major trading partner of over 140 countries and regions, maintaining its position as the world's largest trading nation in goods for six consecutive years. China directly invests about $320 million in the world every day, and more than 3,000 foreign-funded enterprises open business in China every month. The World Bank predicts that by 2030, the Belt and Road Initiative proposed by China will generate annual benefits of $1.6 trillion for the global economy.
We firmly believe that economic globalization is an irreversible historical process. Despite dangerous undertow or treacherous shoals ahead, the world has to move forward and cannot return to a state of isolation and division. It is impossible to cut off ties. Open cooperation remains the historical trend, and mutual benefit remains the common aspiration of people. As global economic recovery reaches a critical stage, China continues to uphold globalization and takes practical actions against building walls, decoupling, unilateralism and protectionism. China is playing a crucial role in maintaining the stability and smooth operation of global supply chains.
Looking ahead, I am full of expectations for China-Europe relations. It should be noted that due to differences in history, culture, social systems, and development stages, China and Europe may have differing views on some issues. However, this has not prevented the two sides from achieving mutual benefit and win-win outcomes for decades in the past, and this should not become an obstacle for China-Europe cooperation in the future. Recently, many Europeans with insight have voiced positive opinions about maintaining strategic autonomy and opposing decoupling from China. At the same time, there are still voices advocating "reducing dependence" on China and eliminating risks, which can disrupt normal exchanges and cooperation between the two sides. We understand that Europe seeks to safeguard its own economic security, but security or political issue should not be overstretched to justify de-globalization or the so-called "de-integration from China".
The business community are participants and contributors to China-Europe cooperation. To achieve greater development in China-Europe cooperation in the new era, I would like to offer the following suggestions:
First, deepen mutual trust and cooperation. Cooperation cannot happen without a favourable bilateral environment. In the next step, both sides should work together on holding the next round of China-Europe leaders' meetings, high-level dialogues on strategic, digital, economic and trade issues, and professional consultations. These will activate cooperation in various fields and lead to a warming of the China-Europe comprehensive strategic partnership. Converting cooperative opportunities into concrete results requires a fair, just, and non-discriminatory market environment. Businesses from both sides bear the responsibility for this. I hope you will actively advocate mutually beneficial China-Europe cooperation, jointly oppose restrictive and discriminatory trade measures that hinder business development, safeguard an open and trustworthy cooperation environment, and ensure the stability and smooth operation of supply chains.
Second, strengthen open cooperation. This year marks the tenth anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative. After a decade of development, the Belt and Road Initiative has become an international cooperation platform characterized by openness, inclusiveness, mutual benefit and win-win outcomes. It has helped more and more countries promote their socio-economic development. The European Union's "Global Gateway" plan is complementary to the Belt and Road Initiative. Both are aimedat promoting global development. The two sides should learn from and support each other.Nextmonth, China will host the Third Belt and Road International Cooperation Summit Forum to review achievements and outline the future. I hope that European business leaders will seize this opportunity, actively participate in the high-quality Belt and Road Initiative, and work together to expand common interests. I also welcome everyone to continue to seize the opportunities like the China International Import Expo and the China International Fair for Trade in Services to further expand pragmatic cooperation, deepen the integration of interests, and share the fruits of development, thereby contributing to the construction of an open world economy.
Third, expand high-quality cooperation. The green and digital fields are key areas for industrial transformation in China and Europe. Both sides should seize the opportunity to carry out higher-level, higher-standard, and higher-quality cooperation in these two areas, achieving complementary advantages and promoting their respective transformation and upgrading. Both sides should strengthen cooperation in clean energy, sustainable finance, artificial intelligence, and scientific innovation so as to keep deepening China-Europe cooperation in green and digital partnerships. Since the beginning of this year, China and Europe have held two high-level dialogues on the environment and climate, achieving many consensuses and fruitful outcomes. Businesses from both sides should continue to demonstrate the initiative and creativity of market entities, explore the cooperation potential in areas such as environmental technology, renewable energy, carbon markets, and create more new growth points for cooperation.
There is a European saying: "The effort of one person is addition, but the effort of many is multiplication." I believe that with unwavering confidence and clear direction, we can break down barriers to cooperation and turn addition into multiplication. The road to China-Europe cooperation will undoubtedly become wider, and the future of China-Europe relations will be even brighter.