By YUE Xiaoyong
China’s special envoy for Afghan affairs
Former Ambassador of the PRC to Ireland (2016-2019), to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (2010-2013) and to the State of Qatar (2007-2010)
Former Member of the Academic Committee of the Institute for Global Cooperation and Understanding (iGCU), Peking University
Respectful former Prime Minister Mr. Romeno Prodi,
Prof. Wang Dong,
Chair of the meeting,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is great honor to be invited by iGCU,CMAS and ToChina for attending this Webinar “A Strategic Nexus：the Euro-Mediterranean Region and China”. This Euro-Med region, however you would define it with about 70 countries different in many ways but also with great things in common for working together to build a better and shared future. This region and China-EuroMed relationship are also best instances manifesting how nations community so closely attached in many ways yet could be so diversified and why humanity should and can join hands and strive for a shared future peace, development and cooperation.
Since last year with pandemic and other foreseen or unforeseen impacts, big changes have been taking place in this region. Challenges keep growing. Fighting pandemic and striving for economic recovering is daunting tasks for all. Recent explosion of conflict between Palestine and Israel is very troubling. Many other hot spots remain unsolved, while protectionism, unilateralism and old power politics continue to destruct national, regional and global efforts to tackle the problems. Climate change, energy, infrastructure-upgrading, poverty-lifting, immigration, anti-terrorism, cyber-security and nuclear proliferation all call for stronger cooperative efforts. International and regional community need to work harder to enhance dialogue and cooperative measures in overcoming challenges.
With all those in mind, may I speak a bit more about how China-EuroMed relations look like and how we would approach this relationship in months and years to come.
Relationship between China and EuroMed region remains promising and bright. China as a major driver of this relationship, is confident for its stability, its further opening up and reform, its continuous efforts for common development with the rest of the world. China will continue to follow a PDP (Peaceful Development Path), which means the ruling party, government and people in China are ready for more common peaceful development and cooperation globally.
As the guidance of the Fifth plenary session of the 19th National Congress of the CCP clearly indicates, there are three unchanges with China: our basic assessment of the international situation remains unchanged, we observe the main characteristics of the world conditions as still peace, development and cooperation; our modernization drive for opening up, reform and development remains unchanged, which will only get bigger and deeper; and our determination to promote peaceful cooperation with win-win approach with all the countries in the region remain unchanged, which is witnessing new and greater fresh push. Since the pandemic started, we both sides have kept close touch and give strong timely mutual support. Dialogues or meetings in different forms, web or face-to-face, between top leaders of both sides are as many as about 20 times and between foreign ministers over 17 times since 2021 in Europe and in Med region if we counted countries across whole middle East, it is a similar amount or more. That is a pretty good picture but yet it is not enough, both sides are trying to do more.
While we in China have seen major positive trends for peace and cooperation as well as in China, negative elements should be closely watched and clearly guarded against, especially those coming from some forces of US in the main or other western countries from their arrogance, bias, deflecting away domestic attention of policies failures, with hegemony and cold-war power politics mentality. Some have invented new forms of protectionism by taking ideology, values or national technological security as a cover, to set up new obstacles for free flow of goods and services, or barriers for people to people exchanges, to diverge away from free trade and market principles they themselves have been advocating all along. There are new forms of unilateralism of small circle of countries with rampant double standards to smear others.
It is clear now the test for humanity system and wisdom is not whether we have seen new challenges facing international community after decades of development of globalization and post-cold war changes of world situation. The test is how those challenges shall be handled and tackled in collaborative, fair and just way with rules enshrined in the aim and principles of the UN Charter. We will tackle them by dividing ourselves or by unity, by respecting each other in equality or by ignoring others sovereignty and independence, by power politics of some one country and a few or by democratization of international relations participated by many and all, by slandering other’s achievements to fabricate and spread fear or by exposing dis- or misinformation to bring more mutual understanding, mutual learning and mutual adapting? The right way certainly is the later rather than the former. We in China believe that only by mutual respect among all nations, big or small, strong or weak, will humanity be able to find way to tide over our common challenges. Not any one country or a small circle of countries are able to solve problems we face globally alone. Dialogue between China and US on climate change in April and later on in the international multilateral summit on the issue set a positive example. We did it in climate change, we should be able to do it in many other fields.
(1) China-Europe ties have achieved new results in spite of pandemic shock and economic downturn. China has become the number one trade partner of EU in 2020. Sino-European Agreement on Geographical Indications has taken effect. Both sides agreed to build up high level dialogue mechanism for digital and environment and climate change affairs. Negotiation on CAI concluded on time. In my exchanges with European friends, many of them have realized that enhancing China-Europe cooperation is much better way than otherwise to meet challenges.
Both CAI and RCEP show that among countries with differences in many ways, once both sides respect each other for their core interests and mutual concern, cooperation is not only possible and but also always likely through dialogue. There is a solid foundation for the relationship between our two sides. China will continue to follow principles of peaceful co-existence, open and cooperation, multilateralism and dialogue with consultation, we can do much more by strengthen further our policy coordination and safeguarding genuine multilateralism in dealing with global issues like climate change, public health, regional stability, common prosperity, world peace and security.
(2) Cooperation mechanism of China and Central and Eastern European Countries (CEEC) is working well with great potential to tap. This mechanism embraces EU, non-EU members, most Balkan and Mediterranean nations. Feb.9th the China-CEEC Summit in Beijing via video link is very successful with 2021 cooperation Beijing Activities Plan successfully passed, serving as a good guidance for future cooperation. With its focus on real results, China-CEEC cooperation has served the purpose of supporting our respective development and bettering the lives of our people. To make our cooperation more balanced, we have pursued both economic cooperation and cultural exchanges, placed equal importance on trade and investment, and made sure that the fruits of cooperation are shared by all countries and communities.
It is very encouraging that trade between China and CEE countries is now nearly 85 percent bigger than nine years ago, and growth in China's import from CEE countries is 22 percentage points higher than that of export. The number of mutual tourist visits has grown nearly five times. The China-Europe Railway Express has reached most of the CEE countries, running over 30,000 freight services so far. Impressive progress has been made in some major cooperation projects, such as the Port of Piraeus in Greece, the Smederevo Steel Plant in Serbia, and the Peljesac Bridge in Croatia.
Both sides will enhance cooperation on vaccines and public health and are ready to build high quality BRI cooperation, expand trade and investment, promote connectivity, scientific and technological innovation, digital economy and green development, facilitate personnel exchanges and deepen cultural communication so as to achieve more cooperation results and benefits to people of all countries.
In the coming five years, China is going to import more than 170 billion US dollars of goods from CEE region. Platforms like the China International Import Expo and the China-CEEC Expo would provide very good platforms for that purpose; Both sides are planning to deepen agricultural cooperation in a bid to double CEE countries' agricultural exports to China and raise two-way agricultural trade by 50 percent over the next five years.
The Beijing 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games are also a good opportunity for strengthening China-CEEC cooperation in the sports field. To enhance green development, we may take the China-CEEC Year of Green Development and Environmental Protection as an opportunity to deepen exchange and cooperation in green economy, clean energy and other related areas.
(3) Relationship between China-West Asian and North African countries relationship have been witnessing good development. With pandemic and changing global and regional situation, this relationship has shown its unique strength and resilience. It has become a best example for South-South cooperation.
Recently when Chinese foreign Minister Wang Yi visited the Middle East, he put forward five points positions of China which indicates quite clearly China’s positions for the region, namely advocating mutual respect, upholding equity and justice, achieving non-proliferation, jointly fostering collective security and accelerating development cooperation. China in this region has always been for supporting efforts for fair and just peace, stability and sustainable development through dialogue and political means, including endeavors for de-escalation and ease of tensions.
Specifically, over the year passed, dialogues and communication between leaders of both China and the region is frequent and strong, give time guidance for the direction of the ties. Our cooperation in fighting pandemic and economic recovery keeps buoyant. Mutual trust is further enhanced, and fields of collaboration is expanding.
Regarding Iranian nuclear issue, it is obvious that relevant parties in the process need to move in the same direction with concrete actions and formulate the roadmap and timeframe for the United States and Iran to resume compliance with the JCPOA. The pressing task is for the US to take substantive measures to lift its unilateral sanctions on Iran and long-arm jurisdiction on third parties, and for Iran to resume reciprocal compliance with its nuclear commitments, in an effort to achieve early harvest. At the same time, the international community should support efforts by regional countries in establishing a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass-destruction sustainable security in the Middle East.
The recent escalation of the Palestine-Israel conflict has caused great casualties and property damage, and a humanitarian crisis is heartbreakingly unfolding in Gaza. It shows again that the international community must move with more urgency to prevent the situation from deteriorating. The Palestinian question has always been the core of the Middle East issue. Only when the Palestinian question is resolved comprehensively, fairly and permanently, can the Middle East truly achieve lasting peace and universal security.
China welcomes a ceasefire between parties of the Palestine-Israel conflict and hopes relevant parties can effectively cease fire and stop violence. China appreciates the mediation efforts made by Egypt, the UN and others. China has also been trying hard to promote peace talks and is ready to continue to work with the international community to further ease the tensions.
The conflict that dragged on for over 10 days have resulted in grave humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip. Urgent assistance is needed from the international community. China has committed to provide 1 million US dollars of emergency humanitarian assistance to Palestine in cash, will continue to provide humanitarian supplies in light of Palestine's needs, and take an active part in the reconstruction of Gaza. People in China will also provide tangible assistance to the Palestinian people by offering 1 million US dollars of donation and 200,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
To prevent the tragedy of the Palestine-Israel conflict from happening again, the international community should promote the resumption of peace talks between Palestine and Israel and the settlement of the Palestinian question in a comprehensive, just and durable manner on the basis of the "two-state solution". China has been working with members in the Security Council for that purpose and will invite peace advocates from Palestine and Israel to China to hold discussions in due course and welcome Palestinian and Israeli representatives to come to China for direct negotiations.
For other hot spots like tensions in Syria and other countries, China all hope to find way for solution through dialogue and political means, respecting their independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity as well as will and legitimate rights of their own people.
Look into the future, China and the regional countries will keep on with strong mutual support for combating pandemic and economic recovery. With Arab states, we have fully covered almost all aspects in vaccines and pandemic fighting, donated and exported over 17 million doses to 17 Arab states and the Arab League, offering support to Arab states' fight against the virus. Over 50 medical expert virtual meetings with all Arab states and the Arab League were held, and nearly 100 visits were made by Chinese medical experts to eight Arab states.
China has steadily been top trade partner with Arab countries, with total trade in 2020 of about 200bn US dollars, oil import 250 million tons annually, 50% of all our oil imports. Both sides are actively advancing high-quality Belt and Road collaboration, deepening cooperation in traditional areas as energy and industrial capacity, exploring high-tech cooperation on 5G, artificial intelligence, aviation and aerospace, and make digitalization, health and green development new highlights in cooperation.
This year of 2021 marks the beginning of China's 14th Five-Year Plan for economic and social development, and the start of the country's new journey toward fully building a modern socialist country. It means a lot for China, and also for the world.
Entering a new stage of development, China is quickening its pace in fostering a new development paradigm with domestic circulation as the mainstay and domestic and international circulations reinforcing each other. This will unlock the full potential of China's vast market and domestic demand generated by the 1.4 billion population, including the over 400 million Chinese in the middle-income group.
It will thus boost global demand and create more opportunities for the rest of the world. China will continue to open its door wider, with a focus on institutional opening-up that covers rules, regulations, management and standards. We will continue our efforts to foster a business environment that is based on market principles, governed by law and up to international standards.
We in China will take a more active part in bilateral, multilateral and regional cooperation that delivers higher levels of mutual benefit for all. China's continued development and opening-up will inject powerful impetus into global economic recovery, growth and broaden the horizons for China-EuroMed region cooperation.
Specifically, three aspects I want to emphasize for China’s future efforts with EuroMed region:
First, enhancing cooperation in combating pandemic is the top priority. Lessons should be drawn from some states for loosening untimely guard and alertness. China is ready to work with the countries in the region for winning the fight.
Second, to push for economic recovery is of paramount importance. It means not only to have the performance of the regional and global economic recovered, but also actively tackle structural challenges like infrastructure upgrading, macro-economic policy coordination, climate change, public health, opposing all forms of protectionism as well as energy, innovation and digital challenges, to name a few. China is ready for working with the region as well as the world community to offer our ideas and contribution.
Third, to safeguard and enhance genuine multilateralism is essential for lasting peace, stability and common prosperity of all. Facing all the challenges of the humanity, history and reality have all shown the only fair and just way to handle and surmount is to follow the multilateral international order and rules enshrined in the UN Charter based on international law. That is the core of our current international system. From my reading of both China’s public and knowledgeable opinion, China is ready to work harder with EuroMed region countries as well as the world community with our common efforts to maintain peace and security, promote common cause of human rights and common development, in a bit to facilitate solution of regional and global issues.