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President Xi’s visit to explore space for co-building B&R Initiative


Source: Global Times    Published: 2019-3-21

Jiang Jianguo (center), deputy head of the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, attends a group photo with teachers and students of Rome Convitto Nazionale Vittorio Emanuele II at a seminar in Italy on Wednesday. The seminar was held to present and discuss the Italian edition of Xi Jinping: The Governance of China. Photo: Cao Siqi/GT

Chinese President Xi Jinping's upcoming visit to Europe from Thursday to Tuesday will inject new impetus to the China-Europe relationship, explore new space for the co-building of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and make a new contribution to world peace and development, said a senior official of the Chinese Foreign Ministry on Wednesday.

Vice Foreign Minister Wang Chao made the remarks at a press briefing to introduce Xi's visit to Italy, Monaco and France. He said that the top leader's first visit of this year has historic meaning to the development of China's relations with Italy, Monaco and France.

Wang introduced that during Xi's visit to Italy, Xi will visit Rome and Palermo. Both sides will sign a series of documents related to diplomacy, economy and trade, culture and so on, and agreements related to fields including infrastructure, machinery and finance will also be signed, he said. "The two sides will also further strengthen the cooperation on co-building the B&R."

A signed article by Xi titled "East Meets West - A New Chapter of Sino-Italian Friendship" was published Wednesday in leading Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera ahead of his state visit to the European country on Wednesday.

Xi said in his article that "China hopes to work with Italy to advance Belt and Road cooperation. Our two countries may harness our historical and cultural bonds forged through the ancient Silk Road as well as our geographical locations to align connectivity cooperation under the BRI with Italy's plan to develop its northern ports and the InvestItalia program, and jointly build the Belt and Road of the new era on sea, on land, in the air, in space and in the cultural domain."

Wang Yiwei, Jean Monnet Chair Professor at the Renmin University of China, said that "geographically, Europe is another end of the ancient Silk Road, so some European countries have a natural feeling of friendliness to the China-proposed BRI. With the successful process, more European countries have decided to join the initiative."

According to the data from the website of the National Development and Reform Commission, by March 6, more than 20 European countries have signed BRI cooperation documents with China, including Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Portugal, Austria, Greece, and 16 Central and Eastern European countries. Recently reports in the international media suggested that Italy is likely to be the next one.

Italy welcomes Xi

On Wednesday, officials from China and Italy and students from the Rome Convitto Nazionale Vittorio Emanuele II, an Italian boarding school, held a seminar on the Italian edition of Xi Jinping: The Governance of China.

Jiang Jianguo, deputy head of the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee, read a letter from Xi replying to teachers and students of the school and presented books to Italian guests.

At the seminar, Vito Rosario Petrocelli, president of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Senate of Italy, said for Italian readers, this is a book about discovering China, discovering the secrets of China's development and discovering that China's development is closely related to Italy. The book contains many thoughts and propositions on national and global governance and is of great practical value.

"The Italian people look forward to President Xi's visit and have high expectations for participating in the Belt and Road Initiative," Petrocelli said.

Students of Rome Convitto Nazionale Vittorio Emanuele II told the Global Times that the letter from President Xi has brought a great surprise to all the teachers and students of their school and they will work harder to learn Chinese, better understand President Xi's thoughts and become ambassadors of China-Italian cultural exchanges.

They applauded the Confucius Classroom program for providing them with an opportunity to have a closer look at China and helping them have a better chance of finding a job and enjoying a brighter future.

Xi on Sunday encouraged students at the school to be cultural ambassadors between the two countries. Xi made the remarks in a response letter to President Paolo M. Reale and eight students of the boarding school, who had expressed their eager wait for his visit and their willingness to promote friendship between Italy and China.

Mario Lomonaco, one of the eight students, told the Global Times he thanks China for giving a great opportunity for him to learn Chinese and study in China and he hopes one day he will become like the Marco Polo who represents Italy.

Mario Lomonaco holds the Global Times newspaper at the seminar. Photo: Cao Siqi/GT

Another student Matteo Narcisi told the Global Times that he has great expectations from Xi's visit and hopes the visit could improve business relationships between the two countries.

Chen Ming, president of Associazione Nuova Generazione Italo-Cinese, said that in recent years, China and Italy have enhanced their exchanges on arts and films. For example, Italy's film festival has brought a lot of excellent Chinese films to Italian audiences.

Chen hopes Xi's visit could lead to the signing of more bilateral agreements on providing more platforms for exchanges between young people.

At the press briefing on Wednesday, Wang Chao also mentioned the cooperation in third country markets. During Xi's visit to Italy, China and Italy will hold three events in Rome on bilateral business exchanges, cultural cooperation mechanism and cooperation in third countries.

While introducing Xi's trip to France, Wang Chao also said that China and France will push the cooperation in the third-party markets steadily.

Cui Hongjian, director of EU Studies at the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times that France is the first EU member that agreed to cooperate with China in third- party markets, mainly in Africa.

China has a significant presence in Africa, and France believes that it has traditional influence in Africa as well, and in countries like Cameroon, Mali and Uganda, China and France have already started their cooperation on health, new virus research and hydroelectric programs, Cui noted.

But China and France still have divergences over the details of standards, transparency and debt issues, Cui noted. "China also believes that the cooperation in the third-party markets should respect the willingness and interest of the third party, but France, due to its special ties with Africa in colonial era, also has some divergences with China in this aspect."

Wang Yiwei said, "In fact, the BRI is actually creating conditions for many developing regions to reach high standards."

For example, China has built a lot of overseas development zones, and this could help local workers to reach high international standards, but this also needs time and suitable economic conditions, so those countries which are still reluctant to join the BRI should be patient and pragmatic, Wang Yiwei noted. "China and the EU countries share common views on the general direction, but they just have disagreements on specific measures which need time and pragmatism to resolve."

Wang Yiwei is a senior fellow of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.

Key Words:Belt and Road   Italy   Europe   Wang Yiwei  

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