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Speech by Ambassador QU Xing at the China-Belgium Cooperation Forum on Belt and Road
2016-10-21
  

Mr. Deputy Prime Minister Kris Peeters,

Mr. Chairman of BCECC Bernard DeWit,

Mr. Chairman of FCCC Stefaan Vanhooren,

Mr. President of the China Foreign Affairs University, Professor Qin Yaqing,

Mr. Vice President of the China Institute for Contemporary International Relations, Professor Yuan Peng,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Friends,

 

First of all, please allow me, on behalf of Chinese Embassy in Belgium, and in my own name, to extend warmest welcome and sincere thanks to you all. I would like first to particularly thank Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Employment, Economy and Consumer Affairs Kris Peeters. Your presence to this Forum shows the great importance that the Belgian government and yourself attache to the cooperation with China. Also, I would like to thank Chairman of Belgium-China Chamber of Commerce Mr. Bernard Dewit and Chairmen of Flanders-China Chamber of Commerce Mr. Stefaan Vanhooren, for your attachment and contributions to the mutual beneficial cooperation between our two countries. Also, my thanks go to the Association of Chinese Enterprises in Belgium and Luxembourg for the strong support they have made to this Forum. I would like also to thank Professor Qin Yaqin, President of the China Foreign Affairs University and Professor Yuan Peng, Vice President of the China Institute for Contemporary International Relations, both top scholars of international studies in China, and both travelling all the way from Beijing to Brussels specially for this Forum. My thanks go also to Tangla Hotel for the good facilities it provides for the Forum. This five-star Hotel in Brussels has already become a symbol of China-Belgium cooperation.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The topic of today's Forum is the China-Belgium Cooperation on Belt and Road. I would like to share three observations with you. First, China's development, second, the "Belt and Road" Initiative, and third, China-Belgium cooperation on the "Belt and Road".

 

I begin with my first point which goes around China's development. Based on the achievements of last four decades, China is now undertaking a new round of reform and opening-up. China began its reform and opening-up in 1978. It was a great process of exploration, as there has been no precedent in human history for a country with a population of over 1.3 billion to realize modernization. China had no choice but to explore a path in line with its own characteristics. China has to, as Deng Xiaoping said, "wade across the river by carefully groping for the stones under the feet". Great changes have been taking place in China since 1978. Reform and opening-up brought China to the place of the second largest economy, the largest trading country in goods and the third largest FDI country in the world. China's share in world economy has jumped from 1.8% in 1978 to 15% in 2015. China's per capita GDP has risen from 226 Dollars in 1978 to 8000 dollars in 2015. In less than 4 decades, 700 million Chinese people has successfully been helped out of poverty. The living standard and life quality of 1.3 billion people has largely improved. China accomplished in several decades the development that other countries usually achieved after several centuries,

With its growing economic size and deepening international cooperation, China draws greater attention from the world. Many raised their concerns about China such as: will China's growth sustainable? Will China continue its reform? Can Chinese economy avoid the "Middle Income Trap"? China is now answering these questions with a new round of reform and opening-up. Chinese Government has made the following commitments to its 1.3 billion people in the 13th 5-Year Plan on social and economic development approved by the National People's Congress this year.

Chinese Government is committed to deepening reform in all-round way, to bravely tackle problems that have built up over many years, particularly underlying issues and entrenched interests, so as to push further reforms. Our Government is determined to implement the innovation-driven development strategy and to move our industries and products up to the middle-high end of the value chain. China will create more innovation-driven growth areas with "first-mover advantage" that will lead development.

Chinese Government is committed to promoting a green development. In the coming 5 years, water and energy consumption and CO2 emission per unit of GDP will respectively be cut down by 23%, 15% and 18%. From 2016, we will reduce the crude steel production capacity by 100 to 150 million tonnes in the next 5 years. Within 3 to 5 years, the coal mine capacity will be further cut down by 500 million tonnes by closing more coal mines, and another 500 million tonnes through restructuring.

Chinese Government is committed to promoting equity and sharing of outcome of development, to improve the public service system, enlarge the middle-income group, and especially provide more targeted support to the impoverished mass. Our target is to lift 57 million poor rural population living below the current poverty line out of poverty and poverty will be alleviated in all poor counties by 2020.

      China is committed to opening up wider to the outside world. We will continue to be involved in economic globalization and support the multilateral trading regime. We will take measures to facilitate expanding access for foreign investments, in order to build a sound business environment. We will carry out market-based reform of the RMB exchange rate in an orderly manner, and phase in the opening of domestic capital market. We will continue efforts to make the RMB an international currency and enhance internationalization of China's financial sector.

The implementation of the above mentioned reform and development measures has already worked. In the first half of this year, we realized a GDP growth rate of 6.7%. The industrial upgrading and structural adjustment picked up pace. The final consumption expenditure contributed 73.4% to GDP, and the added value of the tertiary industry took up 54.1% of GDP. Household income grew steadily, and 7.17 million urban jobs were created. We have reasons to believe that the second half of year will see even better achievements.

 

The second point I would like to touch upon is about China proposed "Belt and Road" Initiative.

This is a systematic project which should be jointly built through consultation to meet the interests of all. During his visit to Central Asia and Southeast Asia in September and October 2013, President Xi Jinping put forward the initiative of jointly building the "Silk Road Economic Belt" and "the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road", which have attracted close attention from all over the world. I think you may want to know why did China put forward the Initiative, how to achieve it, what are the specific plans, and what is the current progress.

 

Well, China put forward the Initiative for the following purposes:

First, to cultivate new economic growth point of the world. In order to reverse the underlying impacts of international financial crisis in 2008, such as weak recovery of world economic, rising protectionism, and fragmented trade and investment rules. China firmly believes that in the context of globalization, the mankind is living in the community of shared interests. Only through common development can every individual country achieve real development.

Second, to promote regional cooperation. The Initiative aims to promote the connectivity of Asian, European and African continents and their adjacent seas, tap market potential in this region, promote Asia to secure favourable position in the global supply chain, industrial chain and value chain. Compared with Europe, the current transport infrastructure connectivity among Asian countries is still lagging behind. China believes that the Initiative will help narrow the gap and create better conditions for the stability and development of Asia.

 

Third, to strengthen the connection between Chinese economy and the world economy, promote integration of China's economy with market, resources and investment in the world. It is also to create better conditions for the development of China's western region, narrow the development gap between China's eastern and western regions.

The "Belt and Road" Initiative is a five-way progress in policy coordination, facilities connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration, and people-to-people bond. The key lies in facilities connectivity. The Silk Road Economic Belt is designed by China for 3 destinations, 1) linking China to the Baltic Sea through Central Asia, Mongolia and Russia; 2) linking China with the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea through Central Asia; 3) linking China and the Indian Ocean through South-east Asia, South Asia. The 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road is designed for 2 destinations, to go from China's coast to Europe through the South China Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea in one route, and from China's coast to the South Pacific through the South China Sea in the other.

 

How do we achieve this goal? It is not a Chinese strategy that requires support from other countries, but rather a Chinese initiative open for participation of all. This project will only succeed when it is jointly built through consultation to meet the interests of all. According to an estimation of the Asian Development Bank, Asia needs to invest US$730 billion in overall regional facilities infrastructure each year. It is a huge number but not inaccessible. The Initiative is financially supported by the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB, $100 billion), Silk Road Fund (initiated by China and already has US$40 billion), government investment or public-private-partnership program (PPP). China's investment abroad over the next decade will reach $ 1.5 trillion, which will mean a lot to the "Belt and Road". China's current investment to countries along the "Belt and Road" only accounts for 17% of its investment abroad. We believe that in the next few years, this ratio will be greatly improved.

In January 2016, the AIIB is officially open for business. 57 countries (including 14 EU Member States) have become its founding members. Till now, AIIB has already financed 6 projects in five countries with loans totalling $ 1.2 billion. (Myingyan Power Plant Project, Pakistan: Tarbela 5 Hydropower Extension Project, Bangladesh: Distribution System Upgrade and Expansion Project, Pakistan: National Motorway M-4 Project, Tajikistan: Dushanbe-Uzbekistan Border Road Improvement Project, Indonesia: National Slum Upgrading Project)

In addition, the Silk Road Fund has been officially established and set out for fund-raising.

 

So what progress has been made so far?

At present, "Belt and Road" Initiative has received positive international response. More than 100 countries and international organizations have expressed a positive attitude. International organizations such as ASEAN, SAARC(South Asian Association Regional Cooperation), the Arab League, the SCO, the GCC, UNESCAP, Eurasia Economic Commission and the International Road Transport Union have agreed to cooperate with the Chinese side. China has signed "Belt and Road" Cooperation Agreement with about 30 countries, and also signed agreements on enhancing cooperation in the area of production capacity with more than 20 countries. Many countries specially appointed a "silk road ambassador" to assure a privileged contact with China.

Under the "Belt and Road" framework, a number of cross-border infrastructure has started construction this year, some even has been put into service. For instance, railways between China and Laos, between China and Thailand, between Hungary and Serbia, the high-speed railway between Jakarta and Bandung, the second phase of the Karakorum Highway between China and Pakistan, the Gwadar Port Eastbay Expressway, the natural gas pipeline between China and Myanmar, the natural gas pipeline C and D connecting Central Asia to China. Currently, infrastructure projects under the framework of "Belt and Road" cover 44 countries.

 

Now I would like to deal with the third point, how China and Belgium work together on the "Belt and Road"?

Belgium is located in the western end of the Eurasian continent, and enjoys convenient transportation and well-developed logistics, thus has great advantage in carrying out cooperation with China in this regard.

In respect of the policy coordination, high-level mutual visits are frequent. In 2014, President Xi Jinping paid a state visit to Belgium. The two sides agreed to strengthen cooperation under the framework of "Belt and Road", especially railway connection between China's western regions and the port of Antwerp. In  June of last year, the King Philippe paid a return state visit to China and witnessed the signing of more than 90 agreements and contracts. During the visit in Belgium in June of last year, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, together with Prime Minister Charles Michel, witnessed the signing of 12 cooperation agreements, accounting for more than 20 billion US dollars. At the end of this month, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel will pay an official visit to China. It will be another very fruitful visit. Before the end of this year, the President of Belgian Chamber of Representatives, Mr. Siegfred Bracke will visit China with the official invitation of the President of China's National People's Congress.

Regarding the facilities connectivity, on September this year, a block train of the China Railway Express arrived for the first time in Antwerp. A Chinese logistic company based in Chengdu plans to invest for the construction of a "Euro-Africa-China Transshipment Center" in Antwerp. Once the Center comes into operation, Antwerp will become a frequent destination of the China Railway Express. In terms of maritime transportation between China and Belgium, the "Belt and Road" Initiative has registered a better score. Each week, COSCO Shipping has liners running between China and Belgium. COSCO has bought shares in the Antwerp Port and Zee-Brugge Port. The Zee-Brugge Port is preparing to establish a free trade zone and to develop e-commerce with China. Thanks to the "Belt and Road" Initiative, Antwerp Port handled 13 million tonnes freight from China in 2015, a 40% increase compared to 2014, and China became the 5th largest customer of the Antwerp Port. In air transport, this year marks the 10th anniversary of Beijing-Brussels direct flight operated by Hainan Airlines, with 5 flights to China per week. Last year, this airline served 114,000 passengers. Besides, 140,000 Chinese tourists arrived in Liege by charted flight as starting point of their travel in Europe.

 

With regard to the unimpeded trade, Belgium has become China's 7th largest trade partner within the EU, and China is Belgium's second largest trade partner outside the EU. In 2015, the bilateral trade volume reached 23.2 billion Dollars, 1150 times the trading volume of the beginning of our diplomatic relations, which means that our trading volume every 7 hours today reaches the equivalent of the total trading volume in 1971. Bilateral investments are getting more and more active. Afga-Gevaert, Bekaert, Solvay, Umicore and Picanol, all these well-known Belgium companies have expanded business in China. Whereas China's Geely Group, Hainan Airlines, Huawei, ZTE, the ICBC (Industrial and Commercial Bank of China), the Bank of China, are getting settled one after the other in Belgium. Volvo's Ghent plant has been booming since China's Geely took over. Every minute 5,300 local employees produce one automobile, and this production rate pushed the annual production to a record high of 250,000 automobiles, and thus the company fared rather well in a sluggish automobile market in world. This year the Ghent plant received the "Lifetime Achievement Trophy" designed by the Flemish government to award foreign investors for their commitment to Flanders.

 

In terms of financial integration, several investment funds have been jointly established by Belgium and China. The most eye-catching one is the China Belgium Direct Equity Investment Fund. Till 2015, this Fund participated in equity investments to 60 small-medium size technology companies in China, covering various areas, such as advanced manufacturing, cleaning technology, mass health, TMT industry and mass consumption. The total investment in the framework of this Fund amounts to 2.2 billion RMB, among which 17 companies are successfully listed. Also, Belgium is now applying for joining the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank in order to enhance financial cooperation with China under the framework of the "Belt and Road" Iinitiative.

Concerning the people-to-people bond, the mutual exchanges are prospering, and lend more and more social and public support to our friendship and cooperation. In the beginning of this year, the Chinese Embassy organized a parade to celebrate the Chinese New Year in the center of Brussels. Currently there are more than 50 schools offering Chinese courses in Belgium. The two sides are jointly running 6 Confucius Institutes in Belgium. Every year there are more than one hundred cultural exchange events covering music, art exhibitions, and performances taking place in both countries. The newly founded China Cultural Centre in Brussels already serves as an important platform for cultural exchanges. The scientific and technological cooperation between our two countries amounts to nearly 500 projects. The China-Belgium Technology Cente in Louvain-La-Neuve has officially been launched.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

There is still a very big potential for cooperation between Belgium and China under the framework of the "Belt and Road" Initiative. Let us work together to make this potential come true.

Wish great success to this Forum!

 

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