China and Europe: Together we can make a difference

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.com PLC.

Leaders gathered on Sunday in Beijing. [CN]

Ahead of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF), held in Beijing this weekend, H.E. Ambassador Yang Yanyi, head of the Chinese Mission to the EU, explained what can be expected.

H.E. Ambassador Yang Yanyi is head of the Chinese Mission to the EU.

It has attracted broad participation of some 1,500 officials, scholars, entrepreneurs and people from financial institutions and media from more than 130 countries, principals and representatives from over 70 international organizations.

Of the 29 heads of state and government to attend the Forum, quite a number are from Europe. Vice-President of the European Commission Mr Jyrki Katainen will be also attending.

At a time when the foundation for global economic recovery is not solid, trade investment remains weak, and growth impetus unstable, this Forum, with “Strengthening International Cooperation and Co-building the ‘Belt and Road’ for Win-win Development” as its central theme,  will offer an excellent opportunity to take stock of what has been achieved and most importantly to consolidate closer and stronger partnership, and draw strengths to upgrade infrastructure construction and connectivity to cultivate new growth impetus.

It is fair to say that China and Europe share much in common in pursuing shared growth, development and connectivity including through the “Belt and Road” initiative and have come up with a proud record so far.

Back in 2015, at the 17th China-EU Summit, China and the EU reached important agreement to support synergies between the initiative and the Investment Plan for Europe. China and some European countries have signed inter-governmental cooperation documents and launched “Belt and Road” working group mechanism to jointly advancing the initiative.

China and 16 Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries have worked closely to enhance cooperation within the “Belt and Road” initiative and 16+1 framework.

As concrete steps to promote seamless traffic flows and transport facilitation, China and the EU signed an MOU on establishment of a Connectivity Platform. China launched rail freight service with some European countries.

Bilateral or trilateral cooperation in such areas as railway, ports, airports, power, transportation and logistics between China and European countries have also gathered momentum.

To implement their Joint Statement on 5G telecommunications, China and the EU are joining hands to deepen dialogues and cooperation in areas of ICT.

To develop practical financial avenues for mutually beneficial co-operation, China and the EU agreed to set up a co-investment fund. Early this year, China became the 67th member of the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The EU and many of its member states have shown strong interest and support to cooperate with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

The past years have witnessed three China-EU High-Level People-to-People Dialogues (HPPD) and expansion of academia exchanges, strengthening cooperation in the cultural field and increasing communication between think tanks, academics and journalists. The mobility of our peoples has been also greatly promoted.

In short, even though the initiative is relatively new and road ahead is challenging, it has captured imaginations and made a good start and solid progress.

Now, with the highly-anticipated Forum approaching, interest in exploring and collaborating in potential areas of cooperation between China and the EU to create fresh energy for pursuing interconnected development is growing. To contribute to the ongoing efforts and deliberations, I wish to make some humble observations.

First, the “Belt and Road” initiative is guided by the spirit of openness and constructive cooperation. Against rising protectionist and anti-globalization sentiments around the world, it is in all our interests that China and the EU stay committed to free trade and economic openness, to a rules-based, transparent and fair international trading regime and order; and join in our shared desire to open up markets, oppose protectionism and secure greater connectivity and economic development and prosperity.

Second, the initiative is a win-win formula and not a one-state show. The notion that this project is designed to access new markets for China and presents a challenge and even “threat” to the future of Europe is wrong and unwarranted, as it neglects the many facets of the initiative and overlooks the fresh perspectives it will bring to European integration.

Being open, transparent, harmonious and inclusive, the initiative is an invitation to all countries along the routes. All participants have the opportunity to join in the design of its objectives and goals, build synergies between their development strategies with this initiative, explore options for cooperation, contribute to the improvement of mechanisms and share the benefit of the project.

Third, it is high time that China and the EU capitalize on the new and exciting opportunities and gear up to deliver on the initiative.

Among others, we wish to broaden policy coordination and further cooperation consensus through institutionalised dialogue mechanism, carry out closer collaboration on concrete projects within the China-EU Connectivity Platform, work closely to explore ways and means of joint financing and initiating projects and work out concrete road-map for implementation, deepen China-EU legal affairs dialogue with a view to creating enabling environment for business, and push ahead China-EU Migration and Mobility Dialogue to facilitate increased connections between our peoples.

We are more than ready to add new dimensions to our cooperation. For instance, given that China has embarked on an ambitious transition to a new model of economic development based on innovation, and innovation remains essential in European integration process, we should make it a high priority to enhance cooperation in science and technology and innovation.

There is also the need to further promote cooperation between small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and give full play to their role as principal driving forces in economic development and regional integration.

Last but not least, it is hoped that at the upcoming BRF and the 19th China-EU Summit, China and the EU will send out this positive message loud and clear: as two important factors for the maintenance of world peace and promotion of common development and prosperity, China and the EU will shoulder the shared responsibility to promote the construction of a more fair, reasonable and balanced global governance system under the concept that features openness and inclusiveness and win-win cooperation, and that together we can make a difference.