|Remarks of Ambassador Zhang Qiyue at the 2020 Symposium on China-Greece Relations & Book Launch(Excerpt)
Director-General Wang Lei,
Director-General Wu Baiyi,
It is my great pleasure to attend today’s online Symposium on China-Greece Relations and the launch of the compilation of research papers on the same topic. As relations between our two countries grow in depth and width, it is highly necessary and significant to have more intellectual and academic input and contribution. In this regard, I wish to commend all the authors who have carried out in-depth research on the various aspects of our bilateral cooperation and put forward useful assessments and recommendations for the future development.
I appreciate in particular the Institute of European Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and the Laskaridis Foundation for their endeavors to advance academic exchanges between our two countries, especially through CASS-ALF Center for China Studies, which was established during President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Greece last year. I also wish to avail of this opportunity to thank Mr. Laskaridis for his generous donation of medical supplies to China last spring when the fight against Covid-19 in China was at its most critical stage and for giving his unwavering support to Greece-China cooperation for many decades.
This year has been a very unusual year that has presented to all of our countries an unprecedented challenge unseen in a century. The Covid-19 has not only threatened our life and well-being, but also impeded the flow of personnel and goods, disrupted industrial and supply chains, plunging the global economy into deep recession. At the same time, the pandemic and the complexity in its control and elimination has highlighted the importance and necessity of all nations and players to work in solidarity in the building of a world community with a shared future.
Determined to overcome the multiple challenges and grave difficulties posed by the sluggish world economy, China is taking proactive actions and doing its utmost to contribute its share to world peace, stability and economic development. China will complete the building of a moderately prosperous society in all aspects by next year, which means, among other things, the total eradication of absolute poverty in the country. And from then on, China will embark on a new journey toward fully building a modern socialist country.
Recently, the fifth plenary session of the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China approved the proposals for the 14th Five-Year Plan and the Long-Range Goals for 2035, mapping out China’s development blueprint for the next five years and beyond. In an attempt to better explain the policies adopted at this session, I would like to emphasize the following points:
First, China is committed to pursuing the path of high-quality development. Over the recent years, China’s economic development has been guided by the new philosophy prioritizing innovative, coordinated, green, open and shared growth. It is shifting from an investment-driven and resource-intensive model to an innovation-driven economy, with the aim of achieving sustainable development. The Covid-19 has further accelerated this transformation process.
Second, in order to unlock its economic potential, China is adopting a new development paradigm featuring domestic circulation as the mainstay and domestic and international circulations reinforcing each other, the Dual Circulation in short. To implement this new growth model, China is going to further expand its domestic market, deepen reform across the board, and promote innovation in science and technology. With 1.4 billion people and a middle-income population of 400 million, China’s domestic market has much potential to be tapped. Just to give an example, it is predicted that China’s cumulative import value of goods will exceed 22 trillion US dollars in the next decade or so. In the process of shaping a new development pattern, China itself will remain a strong engine of the world economy.
Third, the rapid expansion of China’s domestic market will create broad space and opportunities for the world as a whole. By improving its own economic structure and balance, China is determined to further integrate itself with the world economy, explore more efficient ways to connect domestic and foreign markets and share factors of production and resources. For example, it has established 21 free trade zones and shortened the negative lists for foreign investment for the last four consecutive years. The Shanghai Expo which has been running for three years is designed to showcase only imports to China. These and many more extroversion measures will turn the country into the largest consumer market for the world, a market shared by all, and a market easily accessible to all.
Fourth, China’s commitment to building a new development model will have a profound impact on its relations with Europe. Both China and Europe are strong advocates for multilateralism, free trade and economic globalization. We see Europe as our comprehensive strategic partner and strive to expand our economic cooperation in all sectors. Despite of the Covid-19 crisis, China’s trade volume with the EU in the first ten months of 2020 increased by 3.5%, while China-Europe Express Railway freight trains carried 927,000 containers between China and Europe, setting a new record. With firm commitment and enormous efforts, EU and China have recently concluded the agreement on cooperation and protection of geographic indications (GIS). I am pleased to learn that the list of 100 EU products includes Greece’s feta cheese, Samos wines, Lasithi olive oil, Kalamata olives and Chios masticha. This is good news for Greece. Europe and China are currently working against time to reach, hopefully before the end of year, a comprehensive, balanced and high-level investment agreement. All of these and the establishment of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) with 14 other Asian-Pacific countries, are clear demonstrations of China’s commitment to a win-win cooperation.
As for China-Greece ties, we have always enjoyed good relations traditionally, and this friendship and affinity have been further consolidated by this years joint combat against the virus. Our partnership is built on mutual respect and mutual trust, and both sides are committed to constantly strengthening the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. The new platforms provided by the Belt and Road Initiative and China-CEEC Cooperation have opened up more opportunities over recent years for our close collaboration. A good example of mutually-beneficial cooperation is the Piraeus Port development. Thanks to our joint efforts, within a short time span of ten years, it has become the largest container port in the Mediterranean and the fourth largest in Europe,and with great potential to further develop.
Despite of hurdles and difficulties brought about by Covid-19, our bilateral cooperation and exchanges have kept on going forward. The interest by Chinese businesses to invest in Greece remains strong, as indicated by many online discussions organized in the past months. Cooperation between universities and cultural entities have been on the increase. For the first time, undergraduate students from China came to Athens University to study Greek archaeology and history; Online Chinese Language Learning classrooms have been launched at the University of Aegean. The Region of Attica officially established sister-province relationship with China’s Sichuan Province. Our ministries of culture and tourism have recently signed the MOU for cultural and tourism cooperation next year.
Looking ahead, the year 2021 will see some very promising development in China-Greece relations. Our two countries will continue to implement the agreements reached by our leaders during President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Greece and Prime Minister Mitsotakis’ visit to Shanghai last year. Greece will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the 1821 Revolution, while China will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the CPC Party. The year of 2021 has been designated as China-Greece Year of Culture and Tourism. We will also celebrate the 15th anniversary of China-Greece Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.
Given the challenges we face, we must seize the opportunity and deepen our cooperation. In this regard, academic institutions have a unique role to play by providing intellectual input and for garnering the widest possible public support. I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts on these issues and hope to see more academic and research work in the coming months.