Unity, openness and assistance
Belgian play wright Maurice Maeterlinck, honored as "Belgium's Shakespeare", once said, "Thus are we led by the past and the future." Since this year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the People's Republic of China and the Kingdom of Belgium, it is an opportune time to review the development of China-Belgium relations and look to the future.
The development of China-Belgium relations over the past 50 years can be summarized as: unity without uniformity, openness and win-win results, and mutual learning and assistance.
"Unity without uniformity" refers to the benign interaction between the two countries. Although China and Belgium are different in size, social systems, historical backgrounds and cultural traditions, they have transcended these differences, and trust each other and respect each other's development path.
In 1961, Belgium's Queen Mother Elizabeth broke through the barriers of ideology to visit China. On Oct 25, 1971, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution to restore all lawful rights of the People's Republic of China at the UN with Belgium voting in favor. The two countries officially established diplomatic relations that day.
Recent years have witnessed the frequent high-level contacts and steady development of bilateral relations between the two sides. In 2014, President Xi Jinping's first stop on his visit to Europe as China's head of state was Belgium and the two countries established an all-round friendly cooperative partnership.
In 2015, King Philippe chose China as his first state visit destination after his accession to the Belgian throne. Premier Li Keqiang also visited Brussels four times in five years.
Both China and Belgium uphold multilateralism and stand for the settlement of international disputes through constructive dialogue and are jointly contributing to world peace, stability and prosperity.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, the two sides have supported each other and cooperated in medical material supplies and experience sharing.
"Openness and win-win results "benefit the people of the two countries. Over the past 50 years, China and Belgium have adhered to free trade and an open global economy, welcomed each other's enterprises and people, actively carried out practical cooperation in various fields, not only benefiting themselves, but driving each other's development through cooperation.
The bilateral trade volume has increased from $20 million when diplomatic relations were established to $27 billion, an increase of 1,350 times.
Despite the pandemic, economic and trade cooperation between the two countries grew in 2020 with Belgium's investment in China hitting a historical high growth of 210 percent.
Nowadays, Belgium not only brings its consumer goods such as chocolate, beer and diamonds to the Chinese market, but also promotes high-tech industries such as biomedicine, microelectronics, energy conservation and environmental protection to boost China's high-quality growth.
And China is no longer just exporting small commodities to Belgium. Its emerging industries, digital economy and modern logistics are driving the upgrading of industries in Belgium. The fruits of the two countries' economic and trade cooperation have brought benefits to the two peoples.
Mutual learning and assistance promote mutual understanding and people-to-people connectivity. After 50 years of development, the number of foreign students from both sides has reached more than 3,000, and there are 32 pairs of sister cities.
The Belgian comic series, The Adventures of Tintin, and the giant panda are common childhood memories of people from the two countries. Belgium has been a travel destination for an increasing number of Chinese tourists, and more and more young Belgian people can speak fluent Chinese.
Exchanges and mutual learning have enhanced the mutual understanding and friendship between the two peoples, and cooperation and mutual assistance have connected the Chinese and Belgian people's hearts.
China-Belgium relations see great prospects. At present, China has achieved its first centennial goal of building up a moderately prosperous society in all respects, and is moving toward attaining its second centennial goal of becoming a strong and modern socialist country in an all-round way.
Belgium has also launched plans in green, digital and other fields to help its economy recover from the pandemic. At such a critical stage of history, China and Belgium need to follow the correct direction and enable their relations to make steady progress.
Both countries should continue to respect and trust each other, seek common ground while reserving differences. The experience of the past 50 years reveals the truth that mutual respect and trust are the political basis for developing China-Belgium relations.
China respects Belgium's national conditions and the development path independently chosen by itself. Meanwhile, China also hopes Belgium will view China objectively and rationally, respect the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics chosen by the Chinese people, respect the governance of the country by the Communist Party of China and the Chinese government, and enhance mutual trust with practical actions.
It is natural that the two sides have different views on some issues. The key is to strengthen dialogue and consultation, further pool consensus, properly handle contradictions and differences, and make greater achievements in bilateral relations.
China and Belgium must continue to adhere to openness and cooperation, mutual benefits and win-win results. Last year, the two nations' bilateral trade volume increased despite the impact of the pandemic, reflecting their economic and trade cooperation featuring complementary advantages, mutual benefit and win-win results.
Both sides should cherish the achievements of economic and trade cooperation over the past five decades, promote common development with a more open attitude and measures, enhance the endogenous driving force of the two economies, and better benefit the two peoples through economic globalization.
Both sides should cultivate positive public opinion of each other, so as to jointly create a better foundation and atmosphere for bilateral exchanges and cooperation in various fields.
The 50th anniversary of the China-Belgium diplomatic relations is both a milestone and a new start for bilateral ties. China is willing to take this opportunity to sum up past achievements, make plans for the future and jointly elevate the bilateral all-round partnership of friendship and cooperation to higher levels.
The author is the Chinese ambassador to Belgium. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.