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Address at the Seminar on President Xi Jinping's Visit to Europe and China-EU Relations By H.E. Ambassador Yang Yanyi, Head of the Chinese Mission to the EU at the Brussels Press Club
2014/03/27

(March 25, 2014)

I would like to thank the EU-Asia Center and the Brussels Institute of Contemporary China Studies (BICCS) for their kind invitation. I wish to extend my appreciation to EU-Asia Center and the BICCS for playing a significant role in promoting mutual understanding and cooperation between China and the EU. My thanks also go to the Press Club for hosting this event. It is truly my great pleasure to have the opportunity to be here and exchange information and views on China-EU relations.

I wish to start with President Xi Jinping's visit to the EU.

You may have already learnt that at the invitation of President Herman Van Rompuy of the European Council and President Jose Manuel Barroso of the European Commission, President Xi Jinping will pay a visit to the EU headquarters from March 31 to April 1. In the meantime he will also pay a state visit to the Kingdom of the Belgians. Before coming to Brussels, President Xi Jinping will attend the third Nuclear Security Summit in the Hague, the Netherlands on March 24 and 25, pay state visits to the Netherlands, France and Germany from March 22 to 30. While in France, President Xi Jinping will also visit UNESCO headquarters on March 27 at the invitation of UNESCO Director-General.

President Xi's visit to the EU is historical. It will be the very first visit paid to the EU institution by Head of State of China since the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and the EU in 1975, and the first visit to Europe by President Xi Jinping in his current capacity. The visit is of great significance. It will be another milestone in China-EU relations and it clearly demonstrates the great importance attached to China-EU relations by both China and the EU and will give a strong boost to consolidation and deepening of China-EU Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.

President Xi Jinping's three-day visit to Brussels will be a fully packed one. During his visit to the EU institution, President Xi Jinping will meet with President Herman Van Rompuy of the European Council, President Jose Manuel Barroso of the European Commission, and President Martin Schulz of the European Parliament. President Xi will also deliver a very import speech at the College of Europe in Brugge. During his state visit to Belgium, he will meet with the King, the Prime Minister, and attend various welcoming functions, including visiting the Pairi Daiza Zoo to say hello to the two friendship envoys-Xinghui and Haohao.

With regard to the major focus and outcome of the visit, I believe there is a lot that the top leaders of both China and the EU want to share.

Exchange views on and provide political guidance for further development of China-EU relations will be the central topic of the meetings between our top leaders. This couldn't be more relevant and timelier.

China-EU relations have come a long way since the establishment of their comprehensive strategic partnership more than 10 years ago. Our relations have expanded to cover a wide range of areas of political-security, economic and social-cultural cooperation. Trade between the two sides continues to grow steadily. The EU has become China's largest trading partner while China has become the EU's second largest trading partner. Bilateral trade in goods and services is valued at more than 1 billion euro per day. People-to-people exchanges have become more frequent and livelier. Dialogue and consultation on major international and regional issues between China and the EU have contributed to promotion of mutual understanding and joint efforts to tackle global challenges.

With the world undergoing profound and complex changes, and both China and the EU engaged in reform and restructuring, there are immense opportunities as well as challenges for China-EU partnership. At this important juncture, we need to seize the new opportunities, build upon the current momentum and tap our potentials.

Given this, President Xi's visit to the EU headquarter will offer a good opportunity for us not only to reflect on past achievements but also to explore new ways to further promote and strengthen China-EU Comprehensive Strategic Partnership on the basis of the many common interest that we share.

I am sure the message transpiring from the meetings will be very positive. It is the shared desire of both China and the EU to seize opportunities and rise up to challenges, and benefit from the dividends of each others reform, socio-economic sustainable development, and make sure our dynamic and closer partnership remain a strong and constructive force for world peace, prosperity and progress.

Looking ahead, China-EU cooperation should be guided by China-EU 2020 Strategic Agenda for Cooperation, and aligned with and in support of China's vision of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects by 2020 and EU 2020 strategy so as to enhance complementarity between them.

In so doing, there are a number of areas that China-EU partnership should focus on, among others:

First, in continuing to strengthen political and security dialogue and cooperation, the two sides need to enhance mutual understanding on the basis of mutual respect. Despite our many differences, in an interdependent and inter-connected world, our common interests far outweigh our differences. For both China and the EU, our respective and shared dream of peace, prosperity and progress hinges on our wisdom and ability to manage our relationship on a constructive, forward-looking and future-oriented manner. We have no illusion that our partnership will be an irritant-free one. For sure disagreement and even disputes will prevail. Yet we have full confidence that the two sides will be able to keep the larger picture in sight and the larger common interest in mind, and work on common and converging interest while shelving and managing our differences. Just as the EU aspires to enjoy unity in diversity, so can China and the EU achieve harmony without sameness.

In this connection, our regular meetings especially the three pillars underpinning the China-EU summit, the annual High Level Strategic Dialogue, the annual High Level Economic and Trade Dialogue and the bi-annual High Level People-to-people Dialogue will be extremely instrumental. It is encouraging that during the last round of High Level Strategic Dialogue, both sides reviewed a number of important international political issues and security situation in their respective neighborhoods and agreed to reinforce their dialogue and cooperation on foreign policy and security issues. And the recently held dialogue on defense and security policy as well as the joint naval exercise on counter-piracy held on 20 March in the Gulf of Aden reflected the shared desire and dedication of both China and the EU to step up coordination and cooperation to contribute to the maintenance of world peace and the well-being of mankind.

Second, deepen economic and trade ties between us in pursuit of shared prosperity and contributing to global economic growth and prosperity. The two sides should aim towards the timely conclusion of the negotiations of the ambitious China-EU Investment Agreement, which will provide a simpler and more secure legal framework to investors of both sides. It is also worthwhile and imperative that the two sides launch joint feasibility study for a China-EU free trade area. With a view to promoting an open global economy and a fair, transparent and rule-based trade and investment environment, China and the EU should remain committed to opposing protectionism and stick to handling their trade frictions through dialogue and consultation as a preferred option.

Third, China looks forward to effective implementation of initiatives and measures corresponding to the needs of China's comprehensive reform and restructuring as well as EU's strive for becoming a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy. In this respect, we should explore potential cooperation in industry and information, agriculture, transport and infrastructure, science and technology and innovation, space and aerospace, energy, urbanization, climate change and environmental protection. It will be also of far-reaching significance that the two sides develop synergies between EU's growth strategy with China's "Silk Road Economic Belt" initiative.

Fourth, nurturing friendship and partnership between China and the EU should always be a focus through promoting two-way cultural and people-to-people exchanges especially among the younger generation and in the areas of education, academic, intellectual, media, arts, sports and tourism. We are delighted that the next round of the High Level People-to-People Dialogue will be held in late May, and we hope the meeting will come up with innovative and positive approaches to expanding contacts between peoples on both sides.

Fifth, as two important players on the international arena, both China and the EU share responsibility for promoting global peace and stability, and establishing a rules-based, more efficient, transparent, just and equitable system of global governance and making the international order and system more just and equitable. China stands ready to enhance communication, consultation and coordination with the EU at bilateral, regional and multilateral level, including within the G20, IMF, World Bank and the WTO on global governance and on addressing major global and trans-boundary challenges. During their meetings, President Xi Jinping and the top leaders of the EU institution will exchange views on important international and regional issues of mutual concern with a view to building common ground, strengthening coordination and cooperation.

Current state of affairs and future trend in China and the EU is of great interest to both sides. That said, during the meetings between President Xi Jinping and the top leaders of the EU institution, the Chinese side will brief the EU side about economic and social development in China, particularly the implementation of the majors decisions of the Third Plenum of the 18th CPC Central Committee and the lately convened sessions of the National Peoples Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

The Chinese side will be also keen to learn about the latest development in the EU, particularly the latter's perception of the European integration process. As far as China is concerned, a peaceful, united and prosperous Europe is in the common interests of Europe, China and the world at large. No matter how treacherous the road ahead is, we believe the EU will be able to advance the European integration which is a dream of the European people for striving for long-lasting peace and prosperity over the centuries.

I am in no position to prejudge the speech to be delivered by President Xi Jinping at the College of Europe in Brugge. However, it is quite likely that the speech will be a forward-looking and future-oriented one. It will not only reflect on our past achievements, but most importantly project our vision on China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership in its second decade and beyond. It will also most likely shed light on China's drive for comprehensive reform and building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects and China's continuous support for the European integration process. In short, the speech will generate stronger confidence of the future prospects of China, of the EU and of China-EU relations.

To conclude, President Xi Jinping's visit to the EU headquarter will be a landmark event in China-EU relations and a promising start for the second decade of China-EU Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. The visit will present us and the rest of the world the strategic choice made by both China and the EU to work together to build a better future for themselves and for the entire world.

Thank you for your attention.

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