“The Belt and Road Initiative aims to promote peace, development and stability”, Ambassador Zhang of the Chinese Mission to EU highlights from European Business Summit 2018

Ambassador Zhang Ming European Business Summit 2018

HE Mr Zhang Ming, Ambassador of the Chinese Mission to the European Union during his speech at the European Business Summit 2018 (The European Sting, 2018)

It was yesterday, on the first day of the European Business Summit in Brussels, that the organiser hosted the much anticipated Roundtable: Visions and Actions: China-EU Dialogue on the Belt and Road Initiative. The European Sting was there to cover the most cutting-edge evolutions for this global investment strategy of China, with consequential impact to the world economy.

Among the insightful ideas and panel discussions, the roundtable commenced with the enlightening speech by HE Mr Zhang Ming, Ambassador of the Chinese Mission to the European Union. The Sting reports here his most influential thoughts on the ambitious Belt and Road Initiative as well as its importance for the European Union:

It’s a great pleasure to be here today. I’d like to share some ideas and thoughts on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Since many of you are directly engaged with the China-EU cooperation, this topic is highly relevant and important.

Last May the first Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation was held in Beijing. The participation of the European leaders, think tanks, media was important for the growth of the European BRI. We are proud to see how much has been achieved since the Forum. Good progress has been made in the 279 deliverable goals and 36 categories in the 5 key areas. 275 deliverables are already in concrete actions. Let’s look at how far he have been going in the past 5 years since the Initiative was introduced.

China’s trade with the countries around the Belt and Road has succeeded 4 trillion USD. And the stock investment is over 60 bn USD. 43 countries along the route have direct flights to and from China. Chinese companies have 75 economic cooperation zones over a 100 Belt and Road countries, contributing 2bn USD tax revenues and over 200,000 jobs for the host countries. The ASEAN infrastructure investment bank now has 86 members. All this illustrates that the BRI, although originating in China, delivers benefits way beyond its borders. I would say that the Initiative enjoys great prospects and a strong momentum due to the following reasons:

First, the BRI aims at economic cooperation as a way of development.World Bank’s President Mr Jim Yong Kim said that the BRI can be a catalyst for a new approach to development. The BRI promotes economic development to infrastructure, trade and finance. It provides a predictable policy environment to policy makers. It secures public support through people to people connectivity. All parties work together to get connected and improve access to front runners of openness and to deliver  better lives to those people, especially those living in poverty.

Second, the BRI follows the principles of wide consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits. Although the initiative was put forward from China, its opportunities belong to the whole world. It’s a success that can only happen through joint efforts. We are not meant to compel others to follow orders or build our own backyard garden. We reach out for partners in the spirit of mutual respect, mutual fast and mutual benefit. So far, China has signed cooperation documents with over 80 countries and international organisations and has established mechanisms for government consultations and business match-making. All parties have equal saying. And all projects are determined through joined discussions.

Third, the BRI values the spirit of multilateralism and openness. Following the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, the BRI is open, inclusive and transparent. It is not something behind closed doors. We are seeking greater synergy between the BRI and the implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. The development of initiatives of G20, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, APEC, China-ASEAN cooperation, as well as the strategies of EU and CILAC. By so doing we will make the whole greater than a sum of its parts.

Fourth, the BRI projects are high quality and high standard. The BRI follows international rules and the market principles. It emphasises the importance of economical and environmental sustainability. There is not any attempt to artificially lower the standard, make vacuum deals or harm the environment. Known for their high quality and high standards Chinese projects have been recognised as the outstanding projects of the year from 2013 to 2017 by the International Federation of Consulting Engineers. The BRI involves a great number of countries which differ in development, areas of strength and inspirations. We respect the diversified needs of every participant and let the market forces decide.

In the past seven months in the office in Brussels I have been talking to European friends in different sectors. When it comes to the BRI I have heard both supportive and sceptical voices. Of course, more supportive than sceptical. It takes time of course to get familiar with and better understand such a new thing as the BRI. However, we are optimistic about China-EU cooperation in the Initiative. In fact, we have already achieved a good start; the BRI Europe development strategies are well aligned. The governments of eleven EU member states have signed cooperation documents with China. A number of projects of infrastructure, logistics, e-commerce and finance are well on their way.

In Greece, the port of Piraeus has regained its position as one of the largest ports in Europe. In UK China is partnering with France to build a nuclear power plant; an excellent example of a three party cooperation on the BRI.

Yet, this is not enough. Both China and Europe want to make the pie bigger and bigger. For this to happen our two sides need to make efforts in the following aspects:

Number one, to inject more certainty into the global cooperation.  It seems that the greatest uncertainty about today’s world is its uncertainty. This is not what we want to see and this is not the right way to go. The BRI could offer a solid platform for cooperation to boost global economy and to aim a sense of certainty to the global landscape. The BRI aims to promote peace, development and stability. It could contribute to a more balanced development across Europe whereby facilitating the European integration process rather than holding it back.

Number two, to promote cooperation with an open mind and with a growth-based manner. Countries at different levels of development may have different needs and approaches to cooperation. There is not a universal model that works in every situation. The best practice takes into account and fits well with the actual circumstances. We need to step up exchanges to find a pattern of cooperation that suits local conditions, service long term interests and it complies with the laws. We need to tear down the invisible wall in our mind; become more open, and inclusive. And foster a sustainable, efficient and friendly environment for cooperation.

Number three, to bring out the full potentials of our win-win cooperation. Currently, the EU’s investment in China only accounts for 4% of its total overseas investment. And Chinese investment in the EU only takes up 2% the FDI that goes to the EU. This is not a massive rate with the size of our economy. We need to further implement the China-EU 2020 strategic agenda for cooperation; to advance the the negotiation of a bilateral investment agreement, as a priority task.

Regarding the BRI, we could work together to explore a third market, and harness our respective strengths to open up more prosperities.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have noticed that many of you have come all the way from China and from other European countries to this dialogue. I believe that with your contribution this event will be a great success. And with your commitment and actions the BRI cooperation will be productive and beneficial to all.

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