|Speech by H.E. Ambassador CAO Zhongming At the Online Chinese New Year Celebration by Flanders-China Chamber of Commerce
Minister-President Jan Jambon,
President Kurt Vandeputte,
Ladies and gentlemen, friends of the business community,
Good afternoon ! It gives me great pleasure to attend the online celebration hosted by Flanders-China Chamber of Commerce (FCCC) for the 2022 Chinese New Year of the Tiger. Today marks the 7th day of the first lunar month in the traditional Chinese calendar and I would like to take this opportunity to wish you a very Happy Chinese New Year. Meanwhile, the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics being in full swing, let’s join each other to cheer on athletes of both China and Belgium, wishing them to reach their best performance competing in the Games.
The past year of 2021 has witnessed the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Belgium. President Xi Jinping exchanged congratulatory messages with His Majesty Philippe, King of Belgium. Premier Li Keqiang held a video conference with Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo. Both Chinese and Belgian business communities have been joining hands to mitigate impacts of the pandemic, achieving satisfying results to mark the 50th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic relations. It is also in the year of 2021 that bilateral trade flow between two countries reached 38,95 billion US dollars with a year-on-year increase of 36,3%.
The past year of 2021 has witnessed the Centennial of the founding of the Communist Party of China (CPC). The aspiration of the Chinese people for a better life is not only the goal Chinese communists strive for, but also the biggest internal driver for China’s development. In 2021, China’s GDP has grown by 8,1% with a total of 17,7 trillion US dollars, achieving the dual target of fairly high growth and relatively low inflation. Its aggregate foreign trade volume exceeded 6 trillion US dollars; and China’s actual use of foreign capital surged to 173,48 billion US dollars with an increase of 20,2% year-on-year. Now, China is marching on a new journey of building a modern socialist country in all respects. The fundamentals of the Chinese economy, characterized by strong resilience, enormous potential and long-term sustainability, remain unchanged.
The past year of 2021 has also witnessed the 20th anniversary of China’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO). Over the past two decades since its entry, China has fully honored its commitments to the WTO : the average tariff rate has dropped from 15.3% to the current 7.4%, lower than the accession commitments at 9,8%; for trade in services, nearly 120 sectors have been opened up, 20 more than what was agreed upon accession; a domestic economic management system aligned with international rules has been established and these measures have unleashed market and social vitality. Nowadays, China has become the world’s largest trader in goods, the second biggest trader in services, and a major trading partner of more than 120 countries and regions. For twenty years, China’s average annual contribution to world economic growth is nearly 30%. China’s development has thus been empowering global growth and prosperity.
Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends!
As a Chinese saying goes, “The whole year’s work depends on a good start in spring.” Looking ahead to the year of 2022, I eagerly expect and sincerely wish all the entrepreneurs, members of the FCCC, together with your Chinese colleagues, to joint hands in addressing global challenges such as COVID-19, and in strengthening cooperation in multiple areas including innovation, digital economy, medicine and health, agriculture, food, chemical industry, green and low-carbon transition, and sustainable development. We shall work closely together to help maintain the stability of global industrial and supply chains and to better ensure our mutual benefits. Both China and Belgium are staunch advocates and supporters of free trade. I hope that both our countries could unite against protectionism and promote an open economy, playing an active role in advancing China-Belgium and China-EU cooperation.
First, we shall firmly believe in and actively make good use of the opportunities brought by China’s economic opening up and development.
President Xi Jinping pointed out in his speech at the 2022 virtual session of the World Economic Forum that, for China, reform and opening-up is always a work in process. Whatever change in the international landscape, China will always hold high the banner of reform and opening-up. In the new year, China will continue to optimize the business environment based on the principles of marketization, rule of law, and internationalization; we will also work to strengthen buildup and protection of intellectual property rights (IPRs), and to bring equal opportunities to both foreign and domestic enterprises. China will further shorten the negative lists of fields restricted to foreign investment, promote the all-around opening up of agriculture and manufacturing sector, expand the opening of telecommunication, healthcare and other services in an orderly manner, implement a nationwide management system through negative lists for cross-border trade in services, and to improve trade and investment liberalization and facilitation. Furthermore, China will take an active and open attitude in negotiations on issues such as the digital economy, trade and the environment, industrial subsidies and state-owned enterprises. China has a population of over 1.4 billion and a middle-income group of more than 400 million people, which makes it the second biggest consumer market with a GDP per capita of 12,5 thousand US dollars in 2021, above the world average. In the next ten years, the accumulated volume of imports to China is expected to exceed 22 trillion US dollars, offering enormous opportunities to countries across the world including Belgium. We welcome Flanders’ enterprises to regard China as an export market with the biggest growth potential and to accordingly expand your trade and investment to China for mutual development.
Second, we shall consistently enhance the level of China-Belgium cooperation.
Science and technology constitute the foremost productive forces and will open up more space for cooperation between China and Belgium. In recent years, China’s R&D investment has grown remarkably, injecting new impetus of emerging technologies including big data, cloud computing, Internet of Things, mobile Internet, artificial intelligence and new energy resources. According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)’s “Global Innovation Index (GII)”, China has progressed from ranking 29th in 2015 to 12th in 2021. Today’s China is not merely a technology importing country any more, but rather a leading player in many fields of science and technology. “Made in China” is increasingly becoming “Intelligent Manufacturing in China” and “Created in China”. Based on Preqin’s latest statistics, venture capital investors put a total of 129 billion US dollars into more than 5,000 startups in China in 2021. A two-way technology cooperation between China and Belgium has been nurturing increasing interest of Belgium enterprises and people in Chinese technological innovation and application. Hopefully, Belgian enterprises will make use of their full advantages, resist the interference of protectionism and continue to promote mutually beneficial cooperation with China in science and technology, and further enhance the quality of China-Belgium cooperation for a sustainable long-term development.
Third, we shall firmly reinforce mutual trust between China and Belgium.
President Xi Jinping has pointed out several times the need to uphold true multilateralism, to remove barriers, not erect walls; to open up, not close off; and to seek integration, not decoupling. True multilateralism requires positive interactions among countries. Good cooperation between countries shall be based on mutual respect and trust, and the same shall be applicable for cooperation among business entities. Differences and disagreements in cooperation should be properly handled and managed through friendly consultation, to enhance mutual trust and avoid politicizing and ideologizing economic issues. With both Chinese enterprises in Belgium and Belgian enterprises in China being key players in cooperation between two countries, the governments of our two sides shall foster a fair and non-discriminatory business environment and adopt a more open attitude towards trading and investing entities of our two countries. In the past three years of working in Belgium, one of my deep impressions is that the Flemish entrepreneurs are not only hard-working, pragmatic and innovative, but also have a keen eye for ideas and being strong-minded. I stay convinced that you are able to see where “fish” are in the deep waters of the world’s major markets. Nevertheless, I also have a not-so-good impression that certain people in Belgium, including in Flanders, seem to be seeking to fabricate an imaginary adversary to Belgium, by exaggerating national differences into “national security threat”, demonizing a friendly country, and devaluing friendship and mutual trust built up over last decades; and this was all based on biased and radical thinking and misinformation. Frankly speaking, deliberately creating an adversary or an enemy would be irresponsible, and I don’t see how it would benefit Belgium. In China we say, “friendliness is conducive to business success.” Sincerely, I hope that you will play a positive role in maintaining the mutual trust between our two countries, so that the pragmatic cooperation between China and Belgium can grow according to the market law without interference and bring greater benefits to the people of both sides.
Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends!
This year is a crucial year for the global fight against the pandemic and stimulating the economic recovery. I wish that the business community of FCCC would seize the opportunity in the Year of the Tiger to uncover new market potentials with courage and vigor of tiger, to make the cake of Sino-Belgian cooperation bigger and to make a greater contribution to the promotion of pragmatic cooperation between two countries. Let’s join hands with full confidence, and work together for a shared future !
Thank you for your attention.