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Remarks by Ambassador Gui Congyou at Dinner of SIPRI China-EU Connectivity Workshop

Distinguished experts and scholars,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good evening!

This seminar hosted by SIPRI focuses on China-EU connectivity and synergizing the Belt and Road Initiative and the EU Strategy on Connecting Europe and Asia, which is compatible with the need for China-EU cooperation.

I would like to use three key words to elaborate my views on China-EU connectivity.

The first word is “change”. China’s rapid growth is generally believed by the international community to be one of the biggest changes of the world. Indeed, China is changing. We just celebrated the 70th Anniversary of the Founding of the People’s Republic of China. Over the past 70 years especially the 40 years of reform and opening up, China realized a complete transformation, building itself into the world’s second largest economy from scratch. Eight hundred million people were lifted out of poverty and rights and interests of the Chinese people are significantly better guaranteed. China is the biggest contributor to global economic growth. Our innovation injects new momentum to global economic growth, and going forward China’s role as the main engine and anchor of global economy will only be more evident.

“Change is the only constant throughout history”. China’s change has contributed to the greater change of the world unseen in one hundred years. The nature of such change is the historical progression of world order and the continuous improvement of the global governance system. As the world is changing, China-EU relations have also entered a new stage, when our relations are increasingly characterized by complementarity, mutual benefits and strategic importance. As an important pole of the world, the EU working with China to build partnerships of peace, growth reform and civilization, defending multilateralism, multilateral system, diverse cultures and international norms and system, is extremely important to China, the EU and the world beyond.

The second word is “connectivity”. Since ancient times, Chinese people have always believed in the idea that “Survival and prosperity through connectivity”. With greater connectivity, we will be better positioned to tackle emerging challenges of the world, and move global development and landscape to a direction that is in the interest of all human kind. The BRI is exactly about connectivity, a goal that the Chinese side and the EU converge on. “Connectivity is in the DNA of the EU”, noted by Vice President of the EU Mr. Maroš Šefčovič. Last year, the EU Strategy on Connecting Europe and Asia issued by the EU listed China as a cooperation partner, and leaders of China and the EU reached agreements on strengthening synergizing the BRI and the EU Strategy. What we need is roads instead of walls, openness instead of isolation, and prosperity through cooperation instead of going it alone.

China and Europe are at two ends of the ancient Silk Road. We are natural partners of the Belt and Road Initiative. As of July this year, there have been over 17,000 trips taken by China-EU freight trains, reaching 53 cities in 16 countries outside China. The quality of operation has been constantly improved, with almost all two-way trips fully loaded with freight. Between 2013 and 2018, China invested nearly USD 90 billion in countries along the route, setting up over 80 cooperation zones and creating more than 300,000 local jobs. The EU has been China’s largest trading partner for 15 years in a row, and China the second largest trading partner of the EU. We are also each other’s largest source of imports and second largest market of exports. From January to August this year, trade between China and the EU reached 3.15 trillion RMB, growing by 9.7% compared with last year.

The strengthened connectivity through BRI between China and Europe is injecting strong momentum into the development of China, the EU and the world.

The third word is “sustainability”. When China and the Europe are connected, the Asia-Pacific, the engine of global economic growth, and the EU, the world’s largest economy are connected. It will open new room and opportunities for development. China and the EU joining hands to promote trade and investment facilitation and liberalization, deepening economic and trade cooperation and establishing free trade areas will facilitate a vast Eurasian market. To this end, China and the EU not only need to have high-level connectivity, more importantly we need to have sustainable connectivity, so as to bring about lasting peace, prosperity and development in the Eurasian continent and the world.

Some European countries may have some concerns on BRI, such as whether the projects meet EU standards and whether they are environmentally friendly and sustainable. In fact, sustainability and high standards are exactly the life of BRI. In cooperation with relevant countries, we create a favorable and stable policy environment for green and sustainable investment, increase the capacity of public and financial institutions, and strengthen corporate social responsibility, with a purpose to ensure that environmental friendliness, climate adaptability and social inclusiveness are part of BRI projects and day-to-day business activities.

A high-standard and sustainable BRI brings broad opportunities to Sweden and other Nordic countries. Innovative and sustainable Swedish practices, technologies and products have tremendous potential along the Belt and Road. We are willing to step up cooperation with Sweden in addressing climate change and working towards global green, low-carbon, circular and sustainable development. We welcome the proposal by Swedish Government to increase knowledge on China and encourage broad exchanges with China. Our two sides may very well engage in dialogue, communication and cooperation on building the BRI together.

Dear friends, as George Bernard Shaw put it, “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” Living in an age of change, we are presented with progress and development. Countries around the world need to reject stereotypes and bias, be open to other civilizations and new knowledge, so that we may keep up with the change and truly realize sustainable and lasting development.

Thank you!

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