Speech at the Eighth 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
Dubrovnik, 12 April 2019
Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic,
It gives me great pleasure to join you in Dubrovnik, known as the Pearl of the Adriatic. Let me first express, on behalf of the Chinese government, sincere appreciation to the host country Croatia and Prime Minister Plenkovic for the thoughtful preparations and arrangements made for the summit. I wish to welcome Greece joining as a full-fledged participant of China-CEEC cooperation, and welcome Austria, Belarus, the European Union, Switzerland and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to the summit as observers.
China-EU relations are now showing a good momentum. Not long ago, President Xi Jinping paid a successful visit to three European countries, lending fresh impetus to deepening China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership. Thanks to the joint efforts of all parties involved, 16+1 cooperation, as an important component of overall China-Europe relations, has steadily moved forward and evolved into an open and inclusive platform for cross-regional cooperation of mutual benefit. It has played a positive role in boosting the economic growth of participating countries, improving their people’s wellbeing and advancing China-Europe relations as a whole.
New and encouraging progress was made in China-CEEC cooperation last year. Trade between China and the CEE countries saw substantial growth. Landmark projects such as the Budapest-Belgrade railway and the Peljesac Bridge in Croatia made new progress. The Mozura wind farm, a Montenegro-China-Malta trilateral project, is well underway. A new China-Europe freight train service was launched from Mannheim to Chongqing via Poland. Over 1.4 million visits were made by Chinese tourists to the CEE countries, and people from the CEE countries made 350,000 trips to China. Cooperation in other areas saw similar growth, and cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has been moving forward smoothly.
China-CEEC cooperation is a good example of cross-regional and multilateral cooperation in the era of globalization. It builds on the economic similarity and complementarity of the participating countries, and is consistent with the trend of economic globalization and free trade. Cooperation platforms like this abound in the world. Our cooperation, which is results-oriented, meets the development needs of all participating countries.
In pursuing China-CEEC cooperation, we have established a framework with the CEE countries in the driver’s seat. We have followed the principle of mutual respect and equality, been sensitive to each other’s major concerns, and taken into full account the realities of the countries concerned in making cooperation plans and identifying projects. This approach has helped ensure that our cooperation truly delivers, and as a result, the China-CEEC framework has attracted wide participation and strong support.
Embracing the spirit of openness and inclusiveness, we have adhered to internationally recognized rules, including those of the WTO and followed EU laws and regulations in China-CEEC cooperation, and respected the responsibilities and obligations of the CEE countries which are also EU members.
In pursuing China-CEEC cooperation, we have given equal importance to trade and investment, and advanced economic cooperation and people-to-people exchanges in parallel. The China-CEEC cooperation has promoted the common development of all participating countries, and contributed to more balanced development in Europe and European integration, providing an important underpinning for all-round cooperation between China and Europe.
Our world is undergoing profound and complex changes, yet peace and development remain the theme of our time. While a new round of technological and industrial revolution brings new opportunities for development, we are also faced with the challenges of slowing growth, rising protectionism and unilateralism, and an array of regional hotspot issues, giving rise to even greater instability and uncertainty. Major international institutions have recently revised downward their global growth forecasts.
Under these new circumstances, our common interests have been growing and so has our mutual need. By working together to broaden and upgrade China-CEEC cooperation, we will not just bring greater benefits to the people of China and CEE countries, but also boost the steady growth of the world economy.
With this larger context in mind, the theme of our summit this year: Building New Bridges Through Openness, Innovation and Partnership is particularly focused and relevant.
– We need to build the bridges through greater openness. China-CEEC cooperation is a catalyst for open cooperation. It is not just about two-way opening of markets between China and the CEE countries, but also about being open to the EU and to countries outside the region. China is a beneficiary of reform and opening-up. The just-adopted Foreign Investment Law has sent a clear signal of China’s commitment to opening-up at a higher level. This will help create a well-regulated and law-based business environment for CEE enterprises in making investments in China. Likewise, we hope CEE countries could provide more convenience for the import of medium and high-end Chinese products such as in the electronics, communications and clean energy sectors.
– We need to build the bridges through unimpeded innovation. China-CEEC cooperation, which started small but developed into a maturing mechanism in just seven years, is an act of innovation in itself. It has built a new platform for cross-regional, multi-party cooperation, and created a new channel for China-Europe cooperation. It has explored new areas of practical cooperation, and established over 20 mechanisms in areas from economy and trade to cultural and people-to-people links, and from government cooperation to subnational exchanges, with new contents and forms of cooperation added every year. In particular, science, technology and innovation have become new highlights of cooperation, and third-party cooperation with the EU has generated benefits to all parties and demonstrated a broad prospect.
– We need to build the bridges through stronger partnership. China-CEEC cooperation is a robust practice of multilateralism. By building closer partnership between China and the CEE countries, it has served as a model of harmonious co-existence, inclusive development and win-win cooperation among countries with different social systems, cultural traditions and levels of development. The China-CEEC Global Partnership Center to be inaugurated later today aims to provide policy and legal advice and intellectual support for enterprises from both sides in expanding trade and investment cooperation. We welcome the active participation of academic institutions from CEE countries and the EU in the center’s activities.
I look forward to hearing your insights and building greater common understanding with you on further deepening our practical cooperation.
China wishes to share its development opportunities with the CEE countries and foster new drivers for China-CEEC cooperation. Here I wish to make the following proposals on our future cooperation.
First, we need to jointly uphold the multilateral trading system. A free and open international trade and investment environment is essential for deepening China-CEEC cooperation. The rules-based and WTO-centered multilateral trading system, which was established on the basis of historical lessons and through sustained and hard work by all parties, plays an irreplaceable role in the global economic and trade system.
It is true that certain aspects of the WTO rules need to be reformed and improved to reflect changing realities and enhance their authority and effectiveness. China also takes a positive stand to the WTO reform. That said, the reform does not mean starting all over again or serving the interests of only a small number of countries. The fundamental principles and core values of the WTO, such as openness, transparency, inclusiveness and non-discrimination, should remain unchanged. Nor should there be any change in the direction of trade liberalization. Otherwise, the reform may disrupt global trade and stall global growth.
As a developing country, China believes that the reform should accommodate the concerns of the majority of WTO members, uphold the development rights and interests and the special and differential treatment of developing members, and create conditions for narrowing the North-South gap. China stands ready to work with CEE countries to advance economic globalization, uphold multilateralism, and make the global governance system more just and equitable.
Second, we need to further expand our trade volume. Economic and trade cooperation between China and the CEE countries promises a huge potential. Last year, bucking the global trend of slowing trade growth, China-CEE trade saw a robust increase of 21 percent, reaching 82.2 billion U.S. dollars. China does not seek trade surpluses. What we want is an improving trade structure along with growing trade. We will explore every possible means to increase imports as a way to promote balanced trade. The quality yet inexpensive agricultural products from CEE countries are popular in China. Last year, China-CEEC agricultural trade exceeded 1.2 billion U.S. dollars, with wine and dairy product trade up by 37.6 percent and 85.5 percent respectively over 2014. To meet the diverse needs of Chinese consumers, we are ready to import more specialty and quality agricultural products from CEE countries. To this end, China will further speed up the inspection and quarantine process and facilitate the export of high-quality agricultural products from the CEE countries to China.
Third, we need to promote cooperation on the development of the BRI. The BRI follows the approach of consultation and collaboration for shared benefits, and upholds the principles of openness, transparency and inclusiveness. It is not meant to replace existing mechanisms and initiatives on regional cooperation, but to build on the good foundations to promote win-win and common development of all participating countries. All the 16 CEE countries have signed BRI cooperation agreements with China. Recently, European countries such as Italy and Luxemburg have also signed such MoUs with China.
China is committed to strengthening the complementarity of development strategies with CEE and other European countries to better leverage our comparative strengths. We also stand ready to promote cooperation on cross-border connectivity, industrial capacity and equipment manufacturing to boost the level of economic, trade and investment cooperation and achieve win-win outcomes and common prosperity. The second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation will be held at the end of this month in Beijing, where the parties will explore new ways to promote BRI cooperation through further consultations.
Fourth, we need to step up efforts to expand innovation cooperation. Given our comparative strengths in innovation, there is much space to tap in our cooperation. The Chinese side will work with CEEC governments to encourage cooperation in joint research and joint laboratories, and expand exchanges between scientists and in science popularization. We need to earnestly implement the Science, Technology and Innovation Partnership, hold a successful Conference on Innovation Cooperation, and foster new areas of innovation cooperation such as digital economy, e-commerce, FinTech, and smart cities. We need to work together to maintain a fair, just and non-discriminatory market environment to pave the way for progress in innovation cooperation.
Developing the green economy is the shared goal of China and the CEE countries and an important part of innovation cooperation between the two sides. We need to make good use of the new Environmental Protection Cooperation Mechanism, encourage subnational cooperation on the implementation of environmental protection demonstration projects, promote cooperation in joint research and environmental protection technology, and expand joint development of wind, solar and other clean sources of energy. We also need to encourage relevant institutions to support cooperation projects on the green economy through issuing green bonds and other means to increase the green elements of China-CEEC cooperation.
Fifth, we need to continue to advance cooperation between our SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) and on industrial park development. Both China and CEE countries have a large number of SMEs, which are important sources of jobs and innovation. They deserve an important place in China-CEEC cooperation. The SMEs Cross-Border Matchmaking Event to be held during the Business Forum is expected to deliver more results in this field. China welcomes the launch of the Coordination Mechanism for SMEs website in Croatia, and welcomes SMEs from CEE countries to participate in the second China International Import Expo.
Industrial parks provide an effective platform for SMEs to achieve cluster development and economies of scale, and serve as an important channel for enhancing cross-border SME cooperation. We need to ensure the smooth operation of the China-CEEC Demonstration Zone for Economic Cooperation and Trade in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province, the SMEs Cooperation Zone in Cangzhou, Hebei Province, the People-to-People Exchange and Experience Headquarters in the Yangtze River Delta Industrial Zone, and the China (Liaoning) CEEC Pavilion to build bridges for cooperation between our businesses. We welcome CEE countries’ participation in the development of industrial parks in various forms, and will continue to improve laws and regulations to create an enabling investment climate for companies from CEE countries in China.
Sixth, we need to deepen people-to-people and cultural exchanges and cooperation. China-CEEC friendship has taken deep roots, and mutually beneficial cooperation between the two sides has yielded fruitful results. We need to build on the positive momentum generated by the China-CEEC Education and Youth Exchange Year to ensure the success of the China-CEEC Education Policy Dialogue and the meeting of the China-CEEC Higher Education Institutions Consortium. China will invite education officials and heads of universities of CEE countries to visit China to promote cooperation between institutions of higher education and carry out capacity building programs in educational fields.
China will continue to support the development of Confucius Institutes to provide better services for the people of CEE countries to learn the Chinese language. China supports the establishment of a China-CEEC Youth Development Center at an early date and will continue to hold China-CEEC youth camps and university winter sports festivals to enhance mutual understanding and friendship between the young people of our countries.
We need to give better play to the role of the China-CEEC Coordination Center for Cultural Cooperation in promoting cultural dialogue and people-to-people communication. We need to make good use of existing platforms to expand cooperation between our local governments and think tanks as well as in tourism, health, sports and other fields. We need to hold a successful China-CEEC Forum of Capital City Mayors to encourage direct cooperation between our local governments.
The beautiful landscapes, profound historical and cultural legacies, and rich tourism resources have made CEE countries popular destinations for Chinese tourists. China welcomes the holding of tourism expos in China by companies from CEE countries. As conditions permit, China is ready to explore the possibility of opening more direct flights to facilitate the travel of Chinese tourists to CEE countries.
Here, I would like to announce that China will host the ninth China-CEEC Summit next year. It will be the second summit to be held in China after the Suzhou Summit in 2015. I look forward to seeing you all in China and working with you to map out the blueprint for China-CEEC cooperation.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China as well as the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and some CEE countries. Building on the good progress we have made in our friendly cooperation over the past seven decades, China is ready to work with CEE countries to open up greater space for our cooperation. As a Croatian proverb goes, “The bread is made of numerous grains while the palace is built out of many stones.” Similarly, we in China often say, “Tiny streams converge to make rivers and seas.” As long as we all pitch in and persist in our efforts, China-CEEC cooperation will only grow stronger, deliver greater benefits to our peoples, and make new contribution to China-Europe friendship and cooperation as well as world peace and development.