Speech at the Sixth Summit of Heads of Government of China and Central and Eastern European Countries
H.E. Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China
Budapest, 27 November 2017
Prime Minister Orban Viktor,
I am delighted to gather with old and new friends here to discuss the way forward for deepening cooperation between China and the Central and Eastern European Countries. On behalf of the Chinese government, let me first thank the Hungarian government and Prime Minister Orban for the excellent arrangements you have made for the summit. I also wish to welcome the European Union, Austria, Switzerland, Greece, Belarus and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to the summit as observers.
This year marks the fifth anniversary of “16+1” cooperation. Over the past five years, guided by summits such as this and supported by maturing mechanisms, “16+1” cooperation has grown from strength to strength and yielded significant results in various fields. It has developed into an important channel of trans-regional cooperation and an eye-catching platform of open multilateral cooperation.
– Over the past five years, we have put in place a sound framework and a solid foundation for our cooperation. Taking a forward-looking approach, we have formulated the Medium-Term Agenda for Cooperation Between China and Central and Eastern European Countries, issued six outcome documents, and established over time 20-plus institutional exchange platforms spanning trade, agriculture, health, tourism and at the subnational level. We have put forward several major initiatives, including the Budapest-Belgrade railway, the China-Europe Land-Sea Express Line, the Adriatic-Baltic-Black Sea Seaport Cooperation, and rolled out more than 200 specific measures. Together, these actions form a blueprint for “16+1” cooperation and solidified its foundation.
– Over the past five years, we have built a strong momentum in our cooperation and reaped a sizable harvest. The investment by Chinese companies in the 16 CEE countries has increased from US$3 billion to over US$9 billion in cumulative terms. Our trade expanded by 4.3% last year despite lackluster global trade and surged by 14.1% in the first three quarters of this year. From 2012 to 2016, China’s imports of agricultural products from CEE countries rose by 13.7% on an average annual basis. A number of flagship infrastructure projects have entered into operation. The China-Europe freight trains made over 6,000 trips, reaching eight cities in four CEE countries. Over the past five years, six direct flights have been opened between the two sides. People-to-people exchange and cooperation has become increasingly dynamic, as evidenced by such popular events as the Year of Promotion of Tourism Cooperation, the Year of People-to-People and Cultural Exchanges and the Year of Media Cooperation between China and CEE countries. All the 16 CEE countries have become approved destinations for Chinese tourists, which has raised the number of visits by Chinese tourists to the region from 280,000 to 930,000. The number of two-way student exchange has doubled.
– Over the past five years, we have pulled together to address challenges and pursue common development. The lingering impact of the financial crisis and the difficult and tortuous global recovery have posed serious challenges to the development of China and CEE countries. Nevertheless, we have responded to the uncertainty of the international situation with the stability of “16+1” cooperation and boosted our own development. Over the past five years, China’s economy has maintained a medium-high average annual growth of over 7%, while CEE countries have successfully weathered the European debt crisis and registered a growth rate of over 3% in recent years, making it a leading performer in the European economy.
The key to the fast development and vitality of “16+1” cooperation lies in our commitment to the principle of “equal consultation, mutual benefit, openness and inclusiveness, being results-oriented and innovative” in developing our cooperation. Equal consultation means we believe countries are all equal regardless of size, and issues should be addressed through discussion among all instead of being dominated by one. We should strive to maximize our common ground, minimize differences, and optimize our role in the cooperation. Mutual benefit means that under the principle of government support, corporate initiative and market-based operation and in keeping with international practices, we have leveraged our comparative advantages to make the pie of common interests bigger. Openness and inclusiveness means we have worked together in coordination and mutual support and in an open, fair and transparent manner. The comfort levels of all sides have been accommodated. Together, we tap potential by two-way opening, take on challenges with interconnected efforts and seek development through cooperation. Being results-oriented and innovative means that with a focus on such key cooperation areas as trade, connectivity, industrial capacity and people-to-people ties, we have taken concrete steps to tackle problems, improve institutions, expand cooperation areas and introduce new policies, injecting sustained impetus into “16+1” cooperation.
One can only seize the moment when one keenly observes the trend. In the current global context of significant development, change and adjustment, peace and development remains the theme of our times. On the other hand, uncertainties and destabilizing factors still abound. Global economic growth lacks momentum, regional hotspots keep flaring up, and non-traditional security threats including terrorism, the refugee issue and climate change continue to worsen. These common challenges require common responses.
The 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China held last month underscored China’s commitment to peaceful development, to a new form of international relations featuring mutual respect, fairness, justice and win-win cooperation, and to advancing the building of a community with a shared future for mankind.
China firmly supports the European integration process, and respects the European countries’ choices of their development paths. As an incubator for trans-regional practical cooperation, “16+1” cooperation is an important component of and beneficial complement to the China-Europe relationship, and will help promote the European integration process and make the development of China-Europe relations more even. China has all along pursued its cooperation with CEE countries in the broader context of China-Europe relations and under the framework of relevant EU laws and regulations. We welcome the participation of countries outside this region in tripartite cooperation under “16+1” framework to achieve more win-win and all-win results.