Remarks by H.E. Li Keqiang,
Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China
At the 11th ASEM Summit
Ulaanbaatar, 15 July 2016
Your Excellency President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj,
It gives me great pleasure to join you in the 11th ASEM Summit to review the past development of the Asia-Europe partnership, envision the bright future for our cooperation and map out a path toward it. At the outset, let me express, on behalf of the Chinese government, appreciation to the Mongolian government for its thoughtful arrangements for the summit.
On behalf of the Chinese government, I wish to offer our deepest condolences to the victims of the terrorist attack that happened a short while ago in Nice, France and express our heartfelt sympathy to the injured and the families of the victims. The government and people of China stand firmly with the people of France in strongly condemning such a terrorist attack, and the international community must work together to strengthen counter-terrorism cooperation.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of ASEM. Two decades ago, leaders with vision in Asia and Europe worked together to create ASEM, opening a new era of equal-footed dialogue, all-round cooperation and joint efforts to tackle challenges between Asia and Europe. Twenty years on, thanks to our concerted efforts, we in Asia and Europe have witnessed enhanced political trust, closer business and cultural ties, and tremendous progress in upholding regional peace and stability, promoting economic development and strengthening inter-cultural exchanges and mutual learning. For instance, China and Europe have become each other’s biggest trading partner with our trade volume approaching US$700 billion last year. In fact, cooperation between Asia and Europe in various fields has reached a level that is never seen before.
The Eurasian landmass is home to more than four billion population, and generates over half of the world’s GDP and nearly 70% of global trade. It boasts both mature and advanced economic circles as well as emerging economies that are rapidly on the rise. It is blessed with abundant natural resources, huge market potential and interconnected and highly complementary industries, all pointing to broad prospects for further development and cooperation. It is also an anchor for world peace and stability, an important player on the international arena. This land of shining prospect should and could well embrace an even greater role and more accomplishments in the world.
At the same time, we must recognize that this part of the world is also facing a host of eminent challenges. Economic recovery and transformation are not without difficulty, and the possible fallout of Britain’s exit from the European Union is still to be felt. Problems such as terrorism and refugees are getting thorny. The latest terrorist attack in Nice shows once again that terrorism has become a most severe threat that we have to deal with.
The world is undergoing complex changes with profound adjustments in the global economy, as well as accelerated evolution in the international configuration and order. Eurasia faces both important opportunities and major challenges, and to seek cooperation and promote development remains a daunting task. The theme of the Summit, “20 Years of ASEM: Partnership for the Future Through Connectivity”, reflects the common aspiration of all ASEM members. As ASEM moves into its third decade, we need to stay true to our mission of building a new type of comprehensive partnership. We need to honor the ASEM commitment to mutual respect and friendly consultation, and work actively and open up new ways to advance and elevate the all-round cooperation between Asia and Europe.
First, we need to adopt a new vision for Asia-Europe cooperation. It is important that we foster a community of shared future and deepen our friendly cooperation across the board. Over the decades, Eurasia has witnessed a growing equilibrium of power. Countries in Asia and Europe are more closely connected than before with their interests increasingly intertwined. There is a growing need for all of us to enjoy, as equal partners, political dignity, development benefits and security guarantee. We all need to act along the trend of the times, enrich and deepen the regional partnership and open up a new stage for Asia-Europe cooperation in which we all rise and thrive together.
We need to cultivate a growing sense of common responsibility to effectively respond to challenges in the region. Recent years have seen interwoven traditional and non-traditional threats in our region. Common challenges call for common efforts. We need to engage in efficient dialogue and deepen cooperation to remove new sources of turbulence in this region and work to uphold peace and stability both in the region and beyond.
We need to increase the sense of solidarity and collaboration and strengthen the role and influence of Asia and Europe in global governance. Countries in this region share a lot in common in supporting a multipolar world and advocating multilateralism. Going forward, as we continue to work together to uphold the post-war international order, we need to speak with one voice on major international issues whenever we can and endeavor to make the international order and global governance system more fair and equitable. It is of particular importance that we abandon the cold war mentality and zero-sum game approach, and uphold fairness and justice in the world.
China has always been a contributor to world peace. The Chinese culture values peace as being the most precious. Peace has always been the goal of our efforts and we are as committed as ever to the path of peaceful development. China is always a staunch supporter for international order and the rule of law. We maintain that all countries, regardless of their size, wealth and strength, should abide by the law and rules and act according to established rules of the region. There should be no double standards and no misinterpretation of international law. It is China’s consistent position that disputes should be addressed peacefully through political means instead of conflict or confrontation. This coming September, the G20, the most representative and effective mechanism for global governance, will hold its summit in Hangzhou, China. We look forward to working with all parties to improve global governance and promote steady recovery of the world economy.
Second, we need to add fresh impetus to Asia-Europe cooperation. Business cooperation is the propeller and cornerstone for developing state-to-state relations. In our view, ASEM, designed mainly as a mechanism for informal dialogue, needs to take on a more practical dimension in its cooperation, in particular cooperation in business and trade. As global economic recovery remains anemic, countries in Asia and Europe all face the task of stabilizing growth, adjusting structure and creating more jobs. This calls for closer economic cooperation to be carried out. At the Milan Summit two years ago, I proposed to restart the Asia-Europe economic cooperation process. We are glad to see that parties involved have conducted in-depth discussion on this and good progress has been made as a result. We hope that the ASEM Economic Ministers’ Meeting, which has been put on hold for ten years, could be resumed next year.
Acting along the trend of economic globalization, we need to build a big Asia-Europe market in order to unleash our trade and investment potential and broaden the scope for our development. As we speak, trade and investment between Asia and Europe are neither significant enough nor well-balanced. We need to step up the building of an open and inclusive Eurasian big market, raise the level of trade liberalization and facilitation, oppose protectionism in all manifestations, reject trade wars and jointly safeguard an equitable and non-discriminatory trade and investment order. Though quite a number of FTAs have been concluded between Asian and European countries at the bilateral level, multilateral free trade arrangements in the region are still lagging behind and falling short of the expectation of our business community. In the long run, a multilateral free trade arrangement covering the whole of Eurasia will be a worthy cause to serve the interests of all parties concerned.
Common and coordinated development of Asia and Europe will lend fresh impetus to regional development. This of course calls for openness, diversity and win-win results. We need to synergize our development strategies, make good use of our comparative advantages, overcome bottlenecks holding back regional development, enhance the capacity of overall development and bring it to even higher levels. The Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (“Belt and Road”), initiated by China on the basis of the principle of wide consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, have received favorable response from an increasing number of countries and have helped with local employment and economic development. The international production capacity cooperation that China advocates reflects the resources advantage and real needs of countries concerned, and much progress has been seen along the way. China stands ready to work with other parties involved to foster a cooperation platform that is inclusive, balanced and beneficial for all. Working together, we could achieve common prosperity and development and bring more tangible benefits to the people of Asia and Europe.
To step up economic cooperation, we need to keep pace with the times and adapt to the changing trend. We need to strengthen the foundation of cooperation and find more areas with added value. Eurasia is a landmass that links the Pacific Ocean with the Atlantic Ocean. If we could build transportation, information and energy corridors spanning from its eastern end to its west periphery, that would connect half of the world. Asian and European countries need to review and identify priority areas to enhance connectivity. China is ready to make full use of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Silk Road Fund as investment and financing platforms on which to explore flexible and diversified cooperation models. A new wave of scientific and technological and industrial revolutions is gaining momentum as new technologies, industries and models keep emerging. China will work with other ASEM members to actively advance cooperation on innovation and the development of new industries and new economy and explore new areas for regional cooperation. In this context, China will host the ASEM High Level Forum on Digital Connectivity and ASEM Seminar on All-dimensional Support to the Financing of SMEs, which will help open up new areas of cooperation. On major issues of global significance like the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and climate change, we in Asia and Europe need to follow through on the consensus reached and coordinate our efforts as necessary.
Third, we need to enhance public support for our cooperation. Friendship and understanding hold the key to connectivity. To enhance all-round cooperation between Asia and Europe, it is important to increase people-to-people and cultural exchanges to boost dialogue and understanding between different cultures and foster an open and inclusive soft environment. Tremendous efforts have been made toward this end over the years. For example, the Asia-Europe Foundation has supported more than 700 activities in the educational, cultural and social fields, producing gratifying results. These should be well recognized and built upon in the future. China has actively engaged in people-to-people and cultural exchanges with other Asian and European countries. Programs have been carried out to increase dialogue and communication between think tanks, business communities and media, and proposals have been put forward to make cooperation involving people with disabilities a part of the overall Asia-Europe cooperation framework. These initiatives have produced satisfying results. ASEM members need to further streamline visa and customs procedures, open up wider and increase exchanges in such fields as education, science and technology, culture, health, employment, tourism, youth and business start-up so as to deliver more cooperation dividends to our people.
Institutional building will help consolidate the ASEM platform and ensure that it produces more practical outcomes. China believes that connectivity should become a regular subject for ASEM and supports the establishment of a working group on connectivity. We hope to take this as an opportunity to strengthen internal coordination and promote the mechanisms for more practical cooperation, in order to expand the influence of ASEM and enhance the efficiency of ASEM cooperation.
As many of you have a great interest in China’s economic situation, I’d like to take this opportunity to say a few words about it. In the first half of this year, despite the sluggish global economy and trade growth, and withstanding the long-term deep-seated problems which were keenly felt domestically in China, the Chinese economy has demonstrated three encouraging features, namely, stability, transformation and vitality. “Stability” means that economic performance has been basically stable. China’s GDP grew by 6.7% in the first quarter and registered steady growth in the second quarter, meeting the projected target set at the beginning of this year. Market sales are steadily expanding. CPI is kept basically stable. More importantly, employment and individual incomes are steadily rising. Between January and June, 7.17 million new urban jobs were created. To be fair, these are quite impressive figures among major economies in the world. “Transformation” refers to the accelerated transformation and upgrading of the economic structure. The leading role of consumption and services has been strengthened. High-tech and equipment manufacturing industries are growing rapidly. Greater efforts have been made to transform and upgrade traditional industries. And the quality and efficiency of development have both improved. “Vitality” refers to the emergence of vibrant new economies as well as the growing internal strength of the economy. Now in China, some 40,000 new market entities are being created every day, including over 13,000 new enterprises. Such an increase is bigger than the previous two years and has given a strong boost to employment. The rapid growth of new business types like the sharing economy has provided new drivers of growth. All this has boosted expectation and confidence in the Chinese economy.
At the same time, the world economy still faces growing uncertainties and destabilizing factors. And China is confronted with many difficulties and challenges in its own development. The foundation is not yet solid to support a steady economic performance, and the economy still faces downward pressure. Yet, China is the biggest developing country, and the Chinese economy has great potential, strong advantage and broad space for further growth. China is the world’s second largest economy, the number one manufacturer, and ranks among the top in terms of trade in goods and services and two-way investment. China boasts the world’s largest pool of human resources, the biggest science workforce and a most promising big emerging market. The low debt ratio for the Chinese government, combined with a high personal savings rate, gives us enough options for macro economic management. Market vitality and people’s ingenuity are being brought to full play. China will remain steadfast in promoting reform and opening-up. We will deepen structural reforms, especially those on the supply side. We have the confidence and capability to meet the main development targets set for this year to achieve medium-high growth rate and reach medium-high level of development.
What has been achieved in Asia-Europe cooperation is most heartening, and looking ahead, I see so much more to be accomplished. Let’s take the 20th anniversary of ASEM as a starting point and work for the continued and long-term cooperation between Asia and Europe. With vision and action, we can promote such cooperation to bring more benefits to our people and make even greater contribution to peace, stability, prosperity and development of the world.