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Speech by Ambassador Fu Cong at the Hybrid Conference on the Belt and Road Initiative
2023-09-20 21:10

On September 19, 2023, Ambassador Fu Cong delivered a keynote speech at the Hybrid Conference on the Belt and Road Initiative hosted by Euractiv. The full text of the speech is as follows:

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning. Let me start by thanking EURACTIV for hosting today’s event. I’m very happy to be here and get together with friends from China, Europe and Belt and Road partner countries. As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative, today’s event also provides us with a good opportunity to not only look back, but also more importantly look ahead and explore how to better promote Belt and Road cooperation from a new starting point. To this end, I would like to focus my speech on three keywords.

The first keyword is history. Over 2,000 years ago, our ancestors, trekking across vast steppes and deserts, opened the transcontinental passage connecting Asia, Europe and Africa, known today as the Silk Road. By navigating rough seas, they also created sea routes linking the East with the West, namely, the maritime Silk Road. Spanning thousands of miles and years, these ancient silk routes opened windows of friendly engagement among nations, and embodied the spirit of peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit. The Silk Road spirit has become a great heritage of human civilization.  

Entering the 21st century, humankind has reached an age of great progress, great transformation and profound changes, and witnessed a host of global challenges, including deficit in peace, development and governance. It was in this context that President Xi Jinping proposed in 2013 the building of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road respectively in Kazakhstan and Indonesia, which today we call the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). With a focus on connectivity, the initiative follows the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, the philosophy of open, green and clean cooperation, and a high-standard, people-centered and sustainable approach, with the aim of building a community with a shared future for mankind. By reinvigorating ancient silk routes, the BRI has become a road to opportunities and a road to prosperity.

The second keyword is harvest. Over the past decade, China and Belt and Road partner countries have continuously promoted connectivity in terms of policy, infrastructure, trade, finance and people-to-people contacts. The BRI has evolved from a concept into real actions, from vision into reality, making it the world’s broadest-based and largest platform for international cooperation and global public good. As of June this year, China has signed over 200 BRI cooperation documents with more than 150 countries and 32 international organizations. The BRI has stimulated nearly a trillion US dollars of investment, generated more than 3,000 projects, created 420,000 jobs for local countries, and lifted about 40 million people out of poverty. The World Bank estimates that with the BRI, 7.6 million people will get out of extreme poverty and 32 million out of moderate poverty by 2030. It is fair to say that the initiative has not only benefited China, but also the whole world. A report by the think tank Bruegel also shows that over the last 10 years, the BRI has been positively received globally despite the world economic recession and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

As Chinese Ambassador to the EU, I personally follow very closely the important role this important initiative plays in promoting exchanges and cooperation between China and the EU countries. Few people may know that the term “Silk Road” was actually coined by a German geographer, Ferdinand von Richthofen, more than a century ago. Thanks to ancient silk routes, the earliest links between China and Europe went back to as early as the 1st century A.D. The BRI, which now extends from the most dynamic Asia-Pacific economies in the east to the largest single market of the EU in the west, serves as a new platform for China-Europe cooperation. Let me give you a few examples. The China-Europe Railway Express, dubbed as “steel camel fleets”, has opened up 84 routes, reaching 217 cities in 25 European countries. The Greek port of Piraeus has overcome many difficulties to become a top port in the Mediterranean Sea in terms of throughput capacity. The Budapest-Belgrade railroad, which is expected to be completed by 2024, is a flagship BRI project between China and Central and Eastern European countries, and also an example of successfully aligning Chinese and European railroad technologies and standards. Other projects including the Pelješac Bridge in Croatia and CATL’s new battery plant in Hungary are also witnessing the vigor and vitality of the BRI. These concrete examples fully demonstrate that there are huge opportunities from Belt and Road cooperation, opportunities that China and Europe can’t afford to miss.

The third keyword is confidence. Speaking of confidence, we should first have confidence in the future prospect of the BRI. The initiative, though launched by China, is by no means China’s solo show, but rather a chorus involving all partner countries. In today’s world, China continues to enjoy robust momentum of growth among all major economies. To drum up support for Belt and Road cooperation, China will firmly apply the new development philosophy, foster a new development paradigm, and promote openness at a faster pace and at a higher level. At the same time, with the refinement of its blueprint over the past decade, the BRI has gained broad public support in partner countries. This gives us ample reason to believe that this initiative will be able to create a splendid chapter of close cooperation and mutual benefit in the next decade.

We should also have confidence in the future of China-EU cooperation. In this ever-changing world, we are facing challenges like never before. China and the EU are two major forces upholding world peace, two big markets promoting shared development, and two great civilizations promoting human progress. This is how we see the relationship between China and the EU. It is therefore incumbent upon us to work hand in hand to make the world a safer place and promote the well-being of humanity. Just like what the EU High Representative Mr. Josep Borrell said, China’s Belt and Road Initiative and the EU’s Global Gateway are not exclusive, but complementary, and promoting global development is the common goal of both sides. We share this view and hope to discuss with an open mind possible ways of cooperation between the BRI and the Global Gateway, in order to create new areas of growth for China-EU cooperation. In fact, green is the most distinctive color of the BRI, which is highly consistent with the EU’s approach to development. When it comes to cooperation on green infrastructure projects, China and the EU have a lot to offer to each other. It’s also important to note that China has already worked with European countries including France, Belgium and Italy in third countries and launched projects in Africa, Latin America and Asia. This may well be a priority area of China-EU cooperation in the future.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Friends, 

As a German proverb goes, “Those who work alone, add; those who work together, multiply.” In this spirit, let us join hands and work closely to inject more light, wisdom, confidence and hope to this challenging world.

Thank you!

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