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Remarks by Chinese Ambassador at the Symposium of Association of European Journalists
2013-01-23

 

On January 23rd 2013, Chinese Ambassador Mr. Du Qiwen delivered a speech on the Symposium of Association of European Journalists, introducing the latest development in China, China-EU relations, as well as giving an update on development in China-Greece bilateral relations.The full text is as follows:

 

Mr. President,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

  

I'm not sure if you have the same custom here. In China, before the end of January, you can always say Happy New Year. So, let me start by saying Hronia Bolla!

Actually, the Chinese New Year of 2013 starts on the 10th of February. It is going to be the year of snake, believed to be a year of good luck and success. Please let me wish you all a very lucky and successful year, in the year of snake!

It is truly an honor and pleasure for me to meet and talk to so many prominent representatives from the press and business community in Greece, for which I would like to thank Mr. Athanasios Papandropoulos, Honorary President of the Association of European Journalists, for the initiative and efforts he has taken.

Following suggestions by Mr. Papandropoulos, I'm going to divide my remarks in three parts: 1) latest development in China; 2) China's European policy; 3) an update on development in China-Greece bilateral relations. It is quite ambitious to try to do all this within 30 minutes. But I have an advantage here. That is, people from the media, like you here, are always the best informed and most knowledgeable when it comes to issues like these. So, I can afford to be brief for the benefits of leaving more time for interactive exchanges.

 

Talking about latest development in China, the most significant event is 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, which was held from November 8th to 14th, last year.  Personally, I had the honor to attend the congress as a non-voting delegate.

In China, party congresses are held every five years. This time the Congress was followed with particularly keen interest both in China and abroad. The reason for this is that the Congress was convened at a time when rapid and profound changes are taking place in the world, and China's development is going through a decisive phase. At the same time, with the generation change in China's leadership, people are interested to know who are going to be China's leaders for the next five or more years. 

To me, the most important outcome of the Congress lies in two aspects:  

First, it charted the course for the future development of China. The Congress reaffirmed that China is going to stick firmly to the road of building socialism with Chinese characteristics. China will continue to pursue the policies of opening-up and reforms. And, China's modernization efforts are going to be guided by the Scientific Outlook on Development, i.e. putting people first and striving for comprehensive, coordinated and sustainable development. Among others, the Congress set two specific development goals, i.e. by 2020, China's GDP and per capita income for urban and rural residents will be doubled on the basis of that of 2010.

The second aspect is that the Congress elected the new party leadership, with the seven-member Standing Committee of the Political Bureau, headed by Mr. Xi Jinping as the General Secretary. Their election marked a smooth top leadership transition, which helps to ensure continuity in policies and is crucial for sustained stability and development. The new leaders are all considered to be highly competent and well qualified, ones who have excelled in different leadership positions and command the respect of the people. As you have noticed, their election is warmly received in China.

Now, let me be a little more specific about the development goals set by the Congress. In 2010, China's GDP was 6.04 trillion$,  per capita income was about 5,000$.  In 2020, they should be increased to 12.7 trillion$ and 10,000$ respectively. 10,000 $ per capita may not be impressive by European standard. But for the 1.3 billion Chinese people, it represents remarkable achievement. It will mean that China has successfully overstepped what the economists called "the mid-income trap".

I know some of you may ask the question: Are these goals realistic and achievable? My answer is YES.  During the period from 2003 to 2011, China's GDP grew by an average of 10.7% per year. Last year, 2012, with serious slowdown in the world economy, China managed to have 7.8% growth. In the coming 8 years, what China needs for the goal is to have an annual growth rate of around 7%. According to the experts, the fundamental factors are there to help ensure relatively robust growth in the Chinese economy for some years. Let me mention a few:

1) At the moment, China is at the middle and accelerating stage of the historical process of industrialization and urbanization. Take urbanization as an example. China's urbanization rate reached 51.3% last year, lagging far behind the 70--80% average in developed countries. In terms of absolute numbers, the 1.3% growth in urbanization rate last year means 17 million people moved from the rural areas to the cities. This trend, which is still gathering strength and speed, is expected to generate huge demand for consumption and investment.

2). China's domestic demand has great potential for expansion. This is mostly because of steadily improving living standards. Statistics show both consumption indicators and retail sales have had double-digit growth for the past three years, well above GDP growth. These days, China's economic growth is driven more by domestic demand, particularly domestic consumption. For the coming years, China is expected to provide an annual import market of 2 trillion$.

3). China is in the position to satisfy capital needs for its development. China has over 3 trillion $ of foreign exchange reserves, which is the world's largest, and a high saving rate of 51% of GDP.  The government is quite well-positioned and well-equipped for macro regulation.

4). In its development efforts, China is focusing more and more on progress in science and technology, innovation, efficiency enhancement, as well as better education and training of her labor force. Just one example, China has about 7 million university graduates joining the labor force this year, and the figure is growing. This will no doubt help enhance competitiveness of the Chinese economy.

The overall mood in the Chinese society after the Congress is one of confidence and optimism. Of course, we are fully aware of the difficulties and challenges that lie ahead. Our confidence and optimism is based on the belief that we have found the right path forward, we have made the right policies, we have the right leadership, and, last but not least, we are ready to work hard.  Some of you may know, the catch-phrase in China these days is "Solid work, no empty talk".

 

I'm afraid I have to move on to the next topic, China's European policy. Otherwise, I will be seriously overtime.

Europe has always featured prominently in China's external relations. Since the establishment of comprehensive strategic partnership in 2003, China and EU have witnessed tremendous progress in bilateral relations. There have been frequent exchanges between our leaders, leading to enhanced mutual understanding and trust. China-EU two way trade in 2012 was 546 billion$, making EU China's largest trading partner and China EU's No.2 trading partner. The total trade volume suffered a decline of 3.7% compared with 2011, with China's export dropping by 6.2%, and import showing a 0.4% growth. Even so, it represents a four-time increase over that ten years ago. The two sides have also enjoyed fruitful results in people-to-people exchange and other areas of practical cooperation. Nowadays, there are over 70 flights between China and Europe every day, with over five million tourists travelling each year.

China is a staunch supporter of European integration. It is our consistent view that a united, stable and prosperous Europe is in the interest of the whole world. When the sovereign debt crisis was at its worst, some people in the world, including some Europeans, were talking about "Euro collapse" and "EU's disintegration". Yet, we never changed our views toward Europe. China keeps on expressing its confidence in EU integration on international and bilateral arenas. China contributed 43 billion $ to support IMF's bailout effort in Europe. It has continued to purchase European treasure bonds and has been working hard to increase imports from Europe and investment in the continent.

China-EU cooperation has a bright future. There are broad prospects to expand cooperation in areas such as urbanization, sustainable development, technological innovation, culture and education, as well as people-to-people exchanges. China welcomes EU enterprises to expand their businesses in China, and encourages Chinese enterprises to invest in Europe. China is ready to negotiate an investment protection agreement with Europe to provide safeguards and facilitation for mutual investment. In the meantime, China is ready to explore the possibilities of establishing a China-EU free trade area (FTA).

 

Now, that brings me to the last topic-development in China- Greece bilateral relations. As many of you know, last year marked the 40th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Greece. 40 years is not a long time to us countries with ancient civilizations. But progress achieved in the four decades of bilateral exchanges is something that makes us truly proud of.  More importantly, it opens up new vistas and lays down solid foundations for our future cooperation. In order to save time, I want to briefly touch upon the following three aspects --trade, investment and tourism.

Trade.  When I was working with the Chinese embassy here in the 1970s, our bilateral trade was almost negligible. China's export products to Greece were mostly children's clothing, alarm clocks and shoe polish. In 2010, bilateral trade reached a record of 4.35 billion US dollars. In 2011, despite the drastic decline of the Greek market, bilateral trade still managed to amount to 4.3 billion dollars, close to the record figure. This is mostly thanks to fast expanding exports of Greek products to China. This trend has been sustained. Statistics for the first 10 months of 2012 show Greek export to China went up 58.67%.  In particular, the export of Greek olive oil went up by 54%, and wine 30% over the same period in 2011. And, in 2011 Greek wine and olive oil export to China  grew by 50-70%.  I'm happy to tell you that serious efforts are made to export feta cheese and fur from Kastoria to China. We hope that Greek exporters will succeed in getting a bigger share in the Chinese market. And we will do our best to help.

Investment. Talking about Chinese investment in Greece, many people like to mention the COSCO Piraeus project. I'm happy to tell you last year COSCO succeeded in hitting the 2.18 million TEU figure. If the 625,914 TEUs handled at Terminal 1 under PPA  is added, the number of containers handled at the Port of Piraeus in 2012 has reached 2.8 million, which is approximately 4 times the figure of 2010 when COSCO took over. The historical record for the Port of Piraeus, set in 2004, is 1.53 million. Upon completion of construction of Pier 3 by the end of May this year, the handling capacity of COSCO will be further expanded. It will not be long before the historical figure is doubled.

In recent months, COSCO is engaged in discussions with mega-weights multi-nationals such as HP, IKEA and DELL to make the port of Piraeus regional distribution center for their products. By any measure, this is significant development. So, let's sincerely wish them success.

In past few years, there have been exchanges between businesses for more Chinese investment in Greece. We hope, with the improvement in the overall climate, we will be able to see more Chinese investment projects materialize.

Tourism.  I wish to point out that China is the fastest growing market country in world tourism. It is estimated that the number of outbound Chinese tourists in 2012 is about 82 million, with total consumption of around 85 billion$. The outbound tourism market in China is expected to maintain double-digit growth in the next 5 years. So the time has truly come for Greek tourism enterprises to redouble their efforts in the Chinese market.

In 2012, 21,000 Chinese tourists chose Greece as their first stop in Europe, 22.8% more than the previous year. Of course, the real number of Chinese visitors in Greece was much more, but still there is much room for growth.

We have been working on quite a few fronts with our Greek colleagues to bring more Chinese tourists here. The latest project is the production of a four-episode, 120 minutes, TV documentary series by the entitle "Glamorous Greece". A six-member crew from China Central Television (CCTV) was filming in Greece for five weeks last December. The program is going to be broadcasted on CCTV documentary channel, which has a home viewership of 800 million and has an extensive cooperation network with the world TV media.  I want to say that in the future, if all of a sudden, you find big crowds of Chinese tourists clicking cameras in front of historical monuments, and you get tired of them, you should know who are partly to blame.

With that said, I'm afraid I have to end here. 

Thank you! 

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