Written on the Occasion of the Meeting of Heads of Government of China and Central and Eastern European Countries
Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China
Though thousands of miles apart, the hearts of the Chinese people and the people of Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries are linked to each other. My visit to some CEE countries over 20 years ago has left me with a deep impression. The Meeting of Heads of Government of China and CEE Countries and the opening ceremony of the Third Economic and Trade Forum between the two sides will be held on 26 November in Bucharest. I will attend the two meetings and visit Romania. I look forward to discussing with leaders of the 16 countries plans for future cooperation in all fields and having in-depth exchanges with people from various sectors of these countries. Before embarking on my journey, I wish to extend, on behalf of the Chinese people, cordial greetings to the people of CEE countries.
With mutual respect and mutual support, China and CEE countries have forged a deep traditional friendship. When the People’s Republic of China was founded over 60 years ago, CEE countries were among the first to recognize it, thus starting a new era of friendship and cooperation. Over the years, we have always rendered each other most needed assistance in times of natural disasters and economic difficulties. This profound friendship of sharing weal and woe will be forever cherished in the heart of our people. In the 21st century, China’s reform and opening up has entered a new stage and the economic transition in CEE countries has produced positive results. Our relations show greater vitality under the new historical conditions. In recent years, leaders of CEE countries and I have met often on numerous occasions, exchanged correspondence of congratulations, and established good personal relations. I am convinced that my visit this time will help deepen the mutual understanding between us and advance cooperation between China and the 16 CEE countries.
In 2012, economic cooperation between China and CEE countries delivered encouraging results, with two-way trade surpassing US$50 billion. China sent more than 100 trade and investment promotion missions to the CEE region to promote cooperation with the relevant countries in food, mechanical and electrical products, new energy and other fields. The signing of local currency swap agreements with Hungary and Albania has made financing and trade settlement easier for the companies of the two sides. China has conducted productive exchanges with Romania and other countries in crop plantation and plant breeding, and expanded cooperation with CEE countries in infrastructure development. The Belgrade bridge over the Danube is now a symbol of China-Serbia friendship. The China-CEE countries local leaders’ meeting held in Chongqing last July attracted the participation of some 600 enterprises and over 1,000 representatives from various countries, giving new impetus to local exchanges and bringing tangible benefits to the people.
As it stands now, trade between China and CEE countries is only equivalent to 1/10 of China-EU trade, and there remains huge potential to be tapped in expanding practical cooperation between the two sides. China and CEE countries have both weathered the storm of the international financial crisis and the European debt crisis, and our economies are both growing steadily. Being emerging markets, we all face the task of achieving economic transition and innovation. China is implementing the strategy of westward opening, and Chinese companies are entering the global markets at a faster pace. Countries in the CEE region are also paying more attention to opening to the east, and many companies are now turning their eyes to the Asia-Pacific and Chinese markets. Such a shared vision has enabled our economic cooperation to thrive and prosper, and has produced new highlights of growth in cooperation.
- CEE countries produce meat, dairy and wine products with high quality. China’s urbanization will unleash greater demands for beef, lamb, cheese, wine and other products, and the CEE region will be an important source of import of agricultural products for China. It will not be difficult for us to see an exponential growth in agricultural trade.
- Most CEE countries see a need to upgrade and renovate their railway lines, roads, ports and other transportation facilities. China is making rapid progress in the manufacturing of transportation equipment, especially in the field of high-speed railway. We have strong building capacity and high-quality equipment, and the total mileage of high-speed railway under operation in China has by now exceeded 10,000 kilometers. We are fully capable of undertaking transportation infrastructure projects with high quality in CEE countries.
- The power generation facilities in CEE countries are in urgent need of upgrading. China has reached world standards in terms of the manufacturing and installation of equipments used in coal-fired and hydro power stations, including pumped storage power stations. We also have mature technologies and world-class manufacturing capabilities in the development of nuclear, wind and solar energies. The equipments we offer are inexpensive and of high quality, which makes China an ideal choice for CEE countries.
- CEE countries need financing support for the building of infrastructures. China is ready to explore with CEE countries a flexible way to use the US$10 billion special credit line for China-CEE countries cooperation to support major projects in the CEE region. China is willing to work with CEE countries to promote the opening of financial branch institutions in each other’s countries, sign more agreements on local currency swap and settlement, and provide more facilitation for the trade and investment activities of our companies.
The cultural and people-to-people exchanges between China and CEE countries cover a wide range of areas. Learning Chinese, studying in China and appreciating Chinese art have become popular trends in CEE countries. Quite a few students from CEE countries have actively participated and excelled in the “Chinese Bridge” Chinese Proficiency Competition. Classic films and sport performances from CEE countries have deeply impressed the Chinese viewers. The world-famous Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic is an idol of young sports lovers in China and known affectionately as Xiao De among his Chinese fans. There is an account known as China-Europe Messenger on Weibo, a popular social network in China. On its message board, news about CEE countries can instantly fetch tens of thousands of hits. Sightseeing in CEE countries is a new fashion among the Chinese people. In 2012, nearly 320,000 people, mainly tourists, travelled between China and CEE countries. Many Chinese tourists have been deeply impressed by their visits to the family residence of Frederic Francois Chopin in Warsaw, Fisherman’s Bastion (Halaszbastya) in Budapest and Peles Castle in Sinaia, Romania. To further encourage two-way tourism is now the common desire of our two sides. China and the 16 CEE countries are exploring the establishment of a tourism association to serve as a platform in facilitating two-way tourism. Tourism will become a major growth area in the people-to-people exchanges between us.
CEE countries are an important member of the bigger European family. China firmly supports the integration of the European Union and wants to see a Europe that enjoys greater unity and prosperity. China supports the decision of CEE countries to join the European Union. We believe that comprehensive cooperation between China and CEE countries will not only serve the people of both sides but also lend fresh impetus to the sound, balanced and sustained growth of relations between China and Europe.
The world is undergoing profound changes. As China’s development enters a new phase, we will remain committed to comprehensively deepening reform, opening still wider to the outside, further unleashing market vitality, innovating the way of macro regulation, promoting sustained and healthy economic growth, upgrading the Chinese economy, and bringing benefits to the entire Chinese people.
China remains a developing country. Its per capita GDP of just over US$6,000 is lower than that of many CEE countries. There is a long way to go before China achieves modernization. Yet that also represents vast room for development in the coming years. As the country continues to deepen reform and opening-up, China, with its huge market of 1.3 billion people, will bring more opportunities and benefits to the development of CEE countries and other countries in the world.
From Budapest to Warsaw and now to Bucharest, from the economic and trade forum to the meeting of heads of government, the cooperation between China and CEE countries has come a long way and left clear footprints. I am confident that our cooperation will continue to be substantiated and expanded. I look forward to my visit to Central and Eastern Europe.
I wish the people of CEE countries greater happiness.