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Forum highlights ties with Europe

By CHEN WEIHUA | China Daily | Updated: 2018-11-23 04:48
Javier Solana, former NATO secretary-general and Spanish foreign minister, speaks with Wang Xiaohui (second from right), executive deputy head of the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, and Zhou Shuchun, publisher and editor-in-chief of China Daily, on the sidelines of the China-Europe Forum on Reform and Globalization in Madrid, Spain, on Thursday. KUANG LINHUA / CHINA DAILY

Chinese and European Union officials and experts are pushing for further cooperation at a time when China marks its 40th anniversary of reform and opening-up.

This year also marks the 15th anniversary of the establishment of the China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership.

Wang Xiaohui, executive deputy head of the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, described the China-EU relationship as "one of the most important bilateral relationships in the world".

"It not only affects mutual development, but also influences the global political and economic landscape," he said at the China-Europe Forum on Reform and Globalization in Madrid, Spain, on Thursday.

The EU is China's largest trade partner while China is the EU's second-largest trade partner after the US. China and the EU represent 25 percent of the world's population and a third of global GDP. The two are actively negotiating a bilateral investment agreement.

The relationship has gone far beyond trade and investment. China and the EU are strong advocates of globalization and multilateralism, and oppose rising unilateralism and protectionism. China and the EU have cooperated closely in implementing the Paris climate accord and sustaining the Iran nuclear deal, while the United States has pulled out of the agreements.

Wang, after recalling China's phenomenal growth over the past 40 years, quoted President Xi Jinping as saying: "China's door will never be closed. It will only open wider. China will not stop its efforts to pursue high-quality opening-up and will not stop its efforts to pursue an open world economy."

Wang said China and Europe are two big stages and two important pillars for building a community with a shared future for mankind, a concept put forward by Xi.

Wang believes the Belt and Road Initiative is providing broad opportunities for China-EU cooperation.

China has so far signed documents on Belt and Road Initiative cooperation with 11 EU countries while China-Europe freight trains have made over 10,000 trips, arriving in 43 European cities in 15 countries, Wang said.

Via the China-Europe freight trains, exports from Spain to Yiwu in Zhejiang province shot up from less than $1.6 million in 2014 to more than $10.1 million in 2017.

Javier Solana, former NATO secretary-general and former Spanish foreign minister, described the relationship between China and Spain as "magnificent".

Praising then Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping for launching the reform and opening-up in December 1978, Solana was happy that the event coincided with the ratification and implementation of the Spanish democratic Constitution, also in December 1978. He called them "two important moments for China and Spain".

Solana voiced his support for multilateralism and a multipolar world. He applauded China for its role during the 2008 global financial meltdown, saying "China was very generous in helping the world come out of the crisis".

"Without the help of China, it could have been more difficult," he said. "So we need to know that China contributed to the world economy at that time and we have to continue cooperating with China so the world economy continues to work properly," he said.

Statistics show that China has contributed to more than 30 percent of global growth in the past decade.

Chinese Ambassador to Spain Lyu Fan called the Iberian nation "a good friend and important partner of China in the European Union", citing the active high-level visits and strong political mutual trust between the two countries, the increasing bilateral trade and investment, as well as the thriving cultural and educational exchanges.

This year also marks the 45th anniversary of Sino-Spanish diplomatic ties.

Vicente Adreu, director of the Confucius Institute at the University of Valencia, said his more than 1,000 students love to study Chinese culture and language.

"We have high increases in the number of students each year and we will celebrate our 11th anniversary next week," he said.

Bernard Dewit, chairman of the Belgian-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and an expert on China, said the result of the 40 years of arduous reforms is astonishing — China has upgraded from a "poor and isolated" China to a "prosperous and interconnected" China.

He believes that China, with the 40 years of experience, could advance three dimensions of reform under the leadership of President Xi, including sustainable reform, comprehensive reform and global governance reform.

Chi Fulin, president of the China Institute for Reform and Development, noted that the upgrading of China's manufacturing, the switch to a consumption-driven economy and China's further opening-up will provide huge opportunities for Europe.

"While economic globalization is facing severe challenges of trade protectionism and unilateralism, China's comprehensive deepening of reform and opening-up will have a significant impact on China-EU cooperation," he said.

He Yafei, a former vice foreign minister of China, said that the EU has supported China's reform and opening-up drive since the very beginning.

He described the China-EU relationship as relatively stable, without major ups and downs and less interrupted by ideological differences or geopolitical concerns.

Compared with the US, EU states have responded much more positively in the past years to China's launch of the Belt and Road Initiative and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

He said China and the EU share the view of helping developing countries in their industrialization. He believes that a "China-EU-plus model", in which China and the EU team up in the development of third markets such as Africa and Latin America, will have great potential.

"Strengthening such cooperation will not only benefit China and EU countries, but also the entire world, especially less-developed regions," He told China Daily in Madrid on the sidelines of the forum organized by China Daily in cooperation with the China Institute for Reform and Development, and the ESADE Center for Global Economy and Geopolitics.

Zhou Shuchun, publisher and editor-in-chief of China Daily, hopes the forum will help summarize the great journey of China's reform and opening-up and sustain the splendid cooperation between China and Spain, and China and Europe.

"It will promote the mutually beneficial cooperation between China and Spain and between China and Europe in the new era, inject inspiration in developing an open world economy and make contributions in pushing forward economic globalization, protecting world peace and promoting common development," Zhou said.

Cecily Liu contributed to this story.

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