By H.E. Xi Jinping
President of the People's Republic of China
On Le Soir of Belgium
I remember reading two stories. One is about a young Belgian who has since 2004 taught farmers in China's southwest interior region to grow high-quality coffee to increase their income. The other one is about a Chinese doctor who came to Belgium in 1990 and has cured many patients.
From these two and many other stories, I can feel the strength of China-Europe friendship and cooperation. Such strength was first created by the Silk Road 2,000 years ago, which has bound peoples of different colors, languages and beliefs on the Eurasian continent in a common pursuit of better life, which is a shared desire of both Chinese and Europeans.
It is with such a desire that I am paying a state visit to Belgium and a visit to the EU headquarters.
China-Belgium relations have come a long way in the past 43 years since the forging of diplomatic relations. Bilateral trade has grown by more than 1,000 times, making Belgium China's sixth largest trading partner in the EU. Mutual investment has grown in recent years. China's direct investment in Belgium has grown nearly 10 folds over the past five years, creating many jobs locally. The successful Europalia China Art Festival and cultural activities marking the 40th anniversary of China-Belgium diplomatic relations have brought our two peoples closer.
Since establishment of the China-EU Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, two-way trade has quadrupled, reaching US$559.1 billion in 2013. Every year, 5.5 million mutual visits are made by Chinese and Europeans. The number of Chinese students in the EU and students from EU countries in China has exceeded 270,000. These figures show that China-Europe friendship and cooperation have provided our peoples a greater variety of goods, more jobs and better educational opportunities.
I hope that my visit will deepen the win-win relations between China and Europe so that our friendship and cooperation will deliver more benefits to the Chinese and European peoples.
Today, both China and Europe are at an important stage of development. A strategic decision was made at the Third Plenum of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China to comprehensively deepen China's reforms, and over 330 implementing steps covering 15 sectors have been introduced or are in the works. The 1.3 billion Chinese people are endeavoring to realize the Chinese Dream of great national renewal. Europe is also on a path of reform and development. With massive structural reform introduced by the EU and strenuous efforts made by the European people, the spring of recovery is dispersing the winter chill in the European economy.
The new era presents new opportunities for China and Europe to boost their friendship and cooperation. China and Europe share common interests in pursuing development, and China will continue to view Europe as a strategic partner and support European integration. We believe that the European people will also support the Chinese people in pursuing a development model suited to China's national conditions.
The Strategic Agenda 2020 for China-EU Cooperation was released last November. China will work with the EU to turn this blueprint into reality. In pursuing this strategic agenda, the two sides will step up cooperation and exchanges in trade, investment, finance, high technology, new energy and new type of urbanization. This endeavor will enable our friendship and cooperation to spur the development of both sides and bring more tangible benefits to the two peoples.
The new era adds new strategic dimensions to China-Europe friendship and cooperation. Together, China and the EU account for a quarter of the world's population and one third of the global economy. Amidst the deepening of economic globalization, the growing trend towards multi-polarity and extensive IT application, China-EU relations have gone beyond the bilateral context and acquired increasing global and strategic significance.
- China and Europe are two major forces for upholding world peace. China is the largest contributor of peacekeepers among the Permanent Members of the UN Security Council, and the EU is the largest aid provider in the world. We have engaged in effective cooperation on the Iranian nuclear issue, the Middle East and anti-piracy. Let us join hands and work with all peace-loving people in the world to ensure peace on our planet.
- China and Europe are two markets that promote common development. As the largest developing country, China contributes close to 30% of world economic growth. As the largest economy, the EU's GDP has reached US$16.7 trillion. We should jointly pursue win-win cooperation, open markets and foster an open world economy so as to create good momentum and ensure strong, sustainable and balanced growth of the global economy.
- China and Europe are two civilizations that promote human progress. For several thousand years, China and Europe, the birthplaces of the Eastern and Western cultures shining with brilliance, have enriched each other through interactions. We should uphold the diversity of civilizations and advance global trend of inclusiveness, mutual learning and interaction between civilizations to promote progress of all civilizations.
In the new era, more equal dialogue and exchanges are called for to boost China-Europe friendship and cooperation. Given their different national conditions and stages of development, we do not expect China and Europe to see eye to eye on all issues. The time we live in is both a time of cooperation and a time of distinctive dynamism. It is a time of both unprecedented opportunities and challenges unmet before.
"The wise seeks common ground while the unwise clings to differences". China and Europe should respect each other, treat each other as equals, seek common ground while shelving differences, and pursue win-win cooperation. By doing so, we will enhance our dialogue and engagement, maximize common interests, share opportunities and jointly meet challenges.
Rapids and rocks can never stop a river from flowing into the sea. Likewise, I believe that no issues or differences can stop our friendship and cooperation from growing.
Belgium, where the EU headquarters are located, is known as the "heart of Europe". The more strongly the heart beats, the more energy it will create for China-Europe cooperation.
China-Europe friendship and cooperation is the choice made by the times and by the 1.8 billion Chinese and Europeans. This choice is illustrated by Xing Hui and Hao Hao, two cute pandas who have travelled half way across the world to Belgium from the "land of abundance" in China and settled down in the Pairi Daizi Zoo. Their names, meaning light and goodness, demonstrate our confidence in and best wishes for China-Europe friendship and cooperation.
I am convinced that China-Europe relations will have an even brighter future and make life even better for all of us.