China-Europe Forum speech: He Yafei


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China-Europe Forum speech: He Yafei


Source: China Daily    Published: 2018-12-12

Editor's note: On Nov. 22, about 30 politicians, academics, business leaders, and other notable figures spoke on Reform and Globalization in Madrid at the China-Europe Forum which was mainly hosted by China Daily. He Yafei, former vice minister at the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and former vice minister of the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council and senior fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China, attended the forum and delivered a keynote speech.

First of all, let me express my appreciation to China Daily, and its leader, Mr. Zhou Shuchun, for their kind invitation for us to attend this forum, which is very timely, because it is right before an extremely important visit by President Xi Jinping of China to Spain and Europe.

What I want to say today is that how we view the cooperative relationship between China and European Union, particularly Spain, what we can do in this connection to promote global peace and economic prosperity. I remember Chinese president Xi Jinping once quoted an English writer by saying that we are in the best of times and worst of times'. He rightly said, our world is experiencing the greatest turbulence in the last hundred years. The momentum of multi-polarity and economic globalization is unstoppable, rising global challenges have also emerged. Why is that? All of this indicates that our rule-based global governance is under increasingly serious pressure and threat. It is coming apart. Its fragmentation is getting worse, threatening to tear apart the old system.

In that case, China and Europe, including Spain, I believe, need to ponder what we can contribute to roll back such a situation by strengthening the strategic partnership that was formed 15 years ago with new ideas and new options so as to fill up the strategic deficits in global governance.

Why I am saying so. Let's look at Europe. Europe is changing very fast from old Europe to new Europe. What I mean by old Europe? We all know, after the thirty years European War, European countries signed a peace treaty, Westphalia peace treaty in 1648, establishing for the first time an international system based on sovereignty of nation states. Unfortunately, the shortcoming of that system is that it is one of center and periphery. European countries were at the center of the world and other countries and colonies were all peripheries. It lasted until now. In a sense, it created a mindset that the world belongs to Europe. It was the European's world. That is old Europe.

The new Europe has taken shape in the last several decades, especially after the Second World War, starting from the Coal and Steel Union, to European Common market and onto EU and Eurozone. It is moving very fast in terms of European economic and political integration. I highly admire this experiment by European countries and it is leading global governance in a new direction. It suggests to other countries that we are all in the same world, and Europe is part of the world.

So, when we look at Europe, we need to understand Europe has changed a great deal. Yet on the other side of the Atlantic, it is the case that the center-periphery system still exists in their mindset.

As far as China is concerned, after 40 years of reform and opening-up, China has achieved the economic miracle while maintaining its peaceful development strategy and its own economic developmental model. What I want to stress is that this model cannot be copied. It is unique to China, which make it possible for China to achieve political stability and economic success.

President Xi Jinping recently said on various important occasions about three Notes, namely no matter how China develops and becomes powerful, China will not be a threat to anyone, this is number one. Number two, China will not undermine or overthrow the existing global system. Lastly China will not seek its own sphere of influence. Three notes have clearly laid out the peaceful path of China's growth. In other words, China will be part of the world. We are not seeking a world under China or led by China. We want to create with other countries, in particular European countries a world with shared ideas, shared interests and shared destiny. So, in this connection, we have lots of commonalities into the future cooperation between China and Europe.

Secondly, what we can do in concrete measures to promote cooperation between China and the European Union?

First, increased export to China. In the next decade, China will import about 24 trillion US dollars of goods and services of which European countries including Spain will occupy a large trunk of that cake. Secondly, expansion of tourism. Both China and European countries have huge resources in tourism. China has 130 million people each year travelling abroad. European tourists are going out everywhere. Certainly, European countries including Spain are becoming tourism destinations of China. Tourism has lots of opportunities to expand our cooperation.

Thirdly, "One Belt and One Road". Let's put aside whatever speculations you may have about its geopolitical implications. There are actually no geopolitical implications. One belt one road will create a lot of opportunities for China and European countries to expand market, increase trade, improve infrastructure, and improve people to people exchanges. Basically, we are creating an ever larger market; we want countries involved to get richer, to get better n terms of industrialization, to improve their position in global supply train etc.

Last but not least, China and European countries can join hands to improve their cooperation with third-parties. Spain has huge infrastructures projects in Latin America and other places of the world. The United Kingdom, France, Belgium have the same advantages. If we can cooperate to create opportunities to implement projects in these places, it will not only reinforce our bilateral relationships, but also bring benefits to other countries.

For that to happen, we need to change our thinking to fit the new world. Let us have new thinking, new ideas, and new plans. As Einstein once said, we cannot use our old thinking when we created the problems to solve the problems we have now. That is applicable to address global challenges now we face.

He Yafei is former vice minister at the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and former vice minister of the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council. He is currently a senior fellow of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.