Address by H.E. Li Keqiang
Vice Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China
At the Opening Ceremony
Of the High-Level Conference on China-EU Urbanization Partnership
Brussels, 3 May 2012
Mr. Joaquín Almunia, Vice President of the European Commission,
Ms. Mercedes Bresso, President of the Committee of the Regions,
Mr. Staffan Nilsson, President of the European Economic and Social Committee,
Mr. Günther Oettinger, European Commissioner for Energy,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to attend the High-Level Conference on China-EU Urbanization Partnership. The EU leads the world in industrialization and urbanization, and China is the largest developing country with rapid progress in urbanization. On my current trip to the EU, I have come all the way from Budapest, the Pearl of the Danube, to Brussels, the Capital of Europe. I have been greatly impressed by the rich historical heritage and diverse and modern appeal of European cities. This high-level conference, a concrete step taken to implement the agreement reached at the 14th China-EU Summit and advance the China-EU Partnership on Urbanization, marks the beginning of a new endeavor to promote China-EU strategic cooperation on urbanization.
Cities are the crystallization of human civilization, and urbanization is an important part of modernization. Today, the global urban population is about 3.6 billion, and 70%-80% of the people of developed countries live in cities. Meanwhile, emerging economies and developing countries, with millions of people joining the urban population every month, have become the main force driving urbanization in the world. In the age of economic globalization, cities around the world have brought countries closer than ever before. Urbanization is changing our world and our way of life in significant ways.
The Industrial Revolution which began in Europe in the 17th century started the process of industrialization and urbanization of the human society. European cities with unique features are focused on saving urban space, providing good public services, creating a livable environment, preserving natural landscape and historical traditions, and developing coordinated urban systems. In recent years, Europe has endeavored to blaze a new trail in building smart, green and low-carbon modern cities.
China, a country with an ancient civilization, also has a proud history of urban development. The famous painting Riverside Scene During Qingming Festival vividly captures the life of Kaifeng, a dynamic commercial city in China in the 12th century. Chinese cities are also unique in their own ways. Since the launching of reform and opening-up program over 30 years ago, China has quickened the pace of industrialization and urbanization, with urban population increasing from 170 million to some 700 million. The emergence of a number of city clusters with strong influence and dynamism for development has boosted economic development and social progress.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are keenly aware that urbanization has a tremendous and profound impact on economy, society and culture. Going forward, we will pursue development in a scientific way, accelerate shift of the growth model and take urbanization as an important strategy for promoting modernization.
China's urbanization aims to expand domestic demand and promote sustainable development. Currently in China, consumer demand of urban population is still much higher than that of rural population. Every percentage point increase in the urbanization rate means more than 13 million rural population in China will move to urban areas, and this will create a huge demand for consumption of food and clothing, housing, cars, urban public services and infrastructure. China's urbanization rate exceeded 50% last year, but it will still take a fairly long time for China to reach Europe's current rate of over 70%. Urbanization is the ever lasting internal force driving China's economic growth. However, given its large population, shortage of resources and limited carrying capacity of the environment, China must pursue a sustainable path of urbanization. We should conserve and make efficient use of resources, protect natural ecology and distinctive cultural features, and promote coordinated development of large, medium-sized and small cities as well as small towns.
China's urbanization aims to ensure coordinated development of industrialization and agricultural modernization. Given its huge population, even when China's urbanization rate reaches a fairly high level, several hundred million Chinese will still live in the countryside. Resolving issues related to agriculture, rural areas and farmers will remain a major challenge for China. Therefore, as we deepen industrialization and urbanization, we also need to advance agricultural modernization, increase input in agriculture and promote balanced urban and rural development. We pursue the strictest policy for farmland protection and rely on our own resources for greater supply of major agricultural products so as to ensure food security.
China's urbanization is people-oriented and aims to deliver equitable benefits to all. Urbanization should enable more people to enjoy modern and civilized way of life and promote social harmony and progress. China is pursuing urbanization in an innovative way. We are endeavoring to build harmonious and livable modern cities, promote rural migrant population's integration into cities, deliver equal basic public services, including employment, education, medical care and health and social security, and we also give priority to building government subsidized housing. All these steps are taken to ensure that development benefits and urban civilization are enjoyed by all.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
China-EU cooperation in urbanization has a long history, and much progress has been made in such cooperation. Currently, many companies from the EU countries have made investment in Chinese cities and some European companies and institutions have participated in urban development strategy consulting, plan designing and making and infrastructure operations in China. A number of landmark buildings in some big Chinese cities are the fine examples of such cooperation.
China and the EU are in different stages of urbanization, and each has its own strength and can benefit from cooperation with the other. Urbanization has the greatest potential for driving domestic demand in China. Resources and the environment are the most serious constraints to China's development. We need to pursue a path of urbanization suited to our own national conditions and draw on Europe's advanced ideas, technologies and managerial expertise to advance urbanization in an orderly way and tackle resource and environmental challenges. China's urbanization also provides an opportunity for Europe to overcome the impact of the debt crisis and promote economic recovery. Europe can certainly make full use of its advantages and expand market space through cooperation with China in products, industries and technologies. When "designed in Europe" is combined with "made in China" and when European technologies are applied in the Chinese market, there will be amazing results. We hope Europe will be more flexible and open on the transfer of high technologies to China so as to tap into our respective strengths for mutual benefit.
As we move on, China and the EU should take urbanization as a new platform and a new priority area in pursuing pragmatic cooperation, carry out cooperation in energy conservation, environmental protection and new energy sources on a priority basis, and share the enormous economic benefits of applying Europe's advanced technologies in China's urbanization. This will lend new impetus to China-EU cooperation. With this in mind, I propose that we take the following steps:
First, jointly promote green development. This is a new way for cities around the world to tackle challenges and win the future. Energy consumption in buildings now accounts for almost 40% of China's total energy consumption, and less than 25% of the buildings in China's urban areas are energy efficient. Many old buildings in China are in need of energy-efficient retrofits, and a large group of energy-efficient buildings will be built in the future. During the 12th Five-Year Plan period, China will invest over five trillion RMB yuan in environmental protection, and there is huge potential to be tapped in related industries. We are ready to enhance cooperation with the EU in new and renewable energies, energy conservation and environmental protection industries, circular economy and waste utilization and jointly build green and low-carbon cities.
Second, deepen project cooperation. China is experiencing fast urban development, and many EU countries need to rebuild and reshape their cities. There is a lot that can be done in our cooperation in upgrading urban construction infrastructure such as urban road network, smart transportation and waste and sewage treatment, in development of urban industries, particularly the service industry, in protection and development of urban landscape, and in building smart cities and Internet-based cities. Both sides should open market wider to each other, bring into play the role of the business community, strengthen IPR protection, enhance cooperation in investment and construction projects and make new progress in urban development.
Third, strengthen exchanges in management. The European Union has gained rich practical experience in pursuing urbanization strategies, conducting urban planning and delivering urban public services. China is implementing a strategy to promote coordinated regional development and build national functional zones. We are working to improve urban layout, enhance urban functions and ensure sustainable land development. We are willing to step up exchanges and cooperation with Europe in terms of urban planning, management policies and cultural preservation to achieve sound urbanization.
China-EU cooperation on urbanization covers a lot of ground and can take a variety of forms. We are ready to carry out cooperation with the EU and its agencies as well as European countries and cities. There are now over 400 pairs of sister cities between China and Europe, and today representatives from dozens of Chinese and European cities and many Chinese and European business leaders are present at this conference. I hope our cities will enhance economic cooperation and expand people-to-people and cultural exchanges and I encourage active participation by businesses, public groups and individuals to strengthen the foundation for promoting friendly cooperation between Chinese and European cities.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Europe has an important place in the world. With a strong economy and advanced technologies, it plays a highly important role in promoting global development. The development of the world needs a united, prosperous and strong Europe, and this is also what the people of China hope to see. China-EU relationship is one of the most important partnerships in the world. As the global economy goes through realignment and changes, China and EU countries have become increasingly interdependent on each other. In the past two days, I visited Belgium and Hungary, and China and these two countries signed a number of cooperation agreements. This afternoon, I will sign the Joint Declaration on the China-EU Partnership on Urbanization with President Barroso and witness the signing of energy cooperation documents. We are committed to working with the EU to promote mutual benefit and win-win cooperation, and lift China-EU relations to a higher level.
Cities not just carry history. They create the future. Cities make our lives better and carry the ardent hopes of people. Let us join hands to turn this hope into reality.