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16+1 Cooperation, Not A Geopolitical Instrument But A Platform For Cooperation
2018-07-31

——By Chinese Ambassador Shen Zhifei

On July 7th, 2018, the Seventh Summit of Heads of Government of China and Central and Eastern European Countries was successfully held in Sofia, Bulgaria. The Participants jointly formulated and issued the Sofia Guidelines for Cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European Countries, which injected fresh impetus and opened up a new era for the China-CEEC Cooperation (16+1 Cooperation).

16+1 Cooperation is by no means a geopolitical tool that intends to “Divide et Impera”Europe

Recently, there is a doubt whether 16+1 Cooperation is a geopolitical tool which intends to “Divide et Impera” Europe. This is ridiculous.

The intention of establishing 16+1 Cooperation framework is always to promote the development of Central and Eastern European countries(CEE countries), as well as to contribute to the balanced development of EU and the European integration process. 16+1 Cooperation is an important component and useful supplement of the bilateral relations between China and 16 CEE countries and the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Between China and Europe, which has become the consensus of China and the 16 countries. On the basis of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit, China and the 16 CEE countries have jointly developed pragmatic cooperation in various fields. At the same time, in the spirit of transparency, openness, cooperation and mutual benefit, China has worked hard to promote the 16+1 cooperation in line with the general target of building a partnership for peace, growth, reform and civilization between China and the EU. EU representatives are invited many times, as observers, to participate in the 16+1 summits. The enthusiasm of other EU countries to participate in the 16+1 Cooperation is increasing.

The 16+1 Cooperation has contributed to the growth of China-Europe relations and is increasingly recognized by the EU. China will remain a firm supporter of European integration and hopes to see a united, stable, open and prosperous EU and a strong EURO. 16+1 Cooperation is not a closed or exclusive club, but an open and transparent framework. China and the 16 CEE countries are committed to following international rules, including WTO rules, EU laws and regulations. Guided by the principle of extensive consultation and collaboration for shared benefits, the cooperation aims at achieving more win-win and all-win outcomes through business-led and market-driven operation of relevant projects. Investments by Chinese companies in the construction of energy and infrastructure in CEE countries have helped in optimizing energy structure, infrastructure improvement and strengthening connectivity.

16+1 Cooperation creates a new model of open multilateral cooperation

Central and Eastern Europe as a sub-region boasts the greatest potential for growth in all of Europe. Nowadays, the synergy between the Belt and Road Initiative and the European Investment Plan has brought new development opportunities to 16+1 Cooperation, “16+1>17” is not only the consensus of leaders of China and the 16 CEE countries, but also a proof of positive “Spillover Effect”, bringing huge development dividends. It is fair to say that 16+1 Cooperation has explored on a new model of friendly and pragmatic cooperation among countries with different systems in different regions of the world.

In the past six years, 16+1 Cooperation has solidified the foundations of mutual trust of China and CEE countries. 16+1 Cooperation is a joint initiative of China and the 16 CEE countries based on similar levels of development and strong complementarity. Such cooperation has no political strings attached. Thus far, over 200 specific measures and set up over 20 mechanisms of institutional exchanges have been put forward. China has signed MOUs on Belt and Road cooperation with all 16 CEE countries. Our efforts to forge greater synergy between the Belt and Road Initiative and the development strategies of various CEE countries in line with international regulations, EU laws and market rules are paying off. Both sides stand to gain in this process.

In the past six years, 16+1 Cooperation has delivered benefits to both sides with fruitful results. Against the background of the global trade decline, the trade volume between China and the 16 CEE countries has increased from USD 44 billion in 2010 to USD 67.98 billion in 2017. China’s investment in Central and Eastern Europe has also increased from USD 1 billion at the end of 2011 to more than USD 9 billion in 2017. China and CEE countries have respective strengths in terms of resources, technology and market potentials. 16+1 Cooperation provides a fast lane for the two sides to leverage their advantages and taps development potentials. China has unveiled a series of opening-up measures to increase imports from CEE countries and promote balanced trade. These include: strengthening customs inspection and quarantine cooperation, launching China-Europe freight trains, setting up the 16+1 demonstration zone for economic cooperation, trade, and the agricultural cooperation, and an e-commerce logistics hub. From the CEE side, leading companies in the agricultural, manufacturing, cultural and creative enterprises are entering the Chinese market. Such cooperation has boosted growth and enriched people’s lives for both sides, and promises broad prospects for the future.

Working together to secure steady progress for the 16+1 Cooperation for the long run

The 16+1 Cooperation has been creating new impetus to the growth of the China-Lithuania relations. Thanks to the efforts of both sides, the 16+1 Cooperation has served as an important platform of high-level exchanges, playing a significant role in improving the political trust and pragmatic cooperation. The two governments have witnessed a series of cooperation agreements signed in such areas as transport, logistics, energy, agriculture, quality control, health, education, culture, etc. The economic and trade cooperation was fast pushed forward, with increasing interest in mutual beneficial cooperation from enterprises of the two countries. In the first quarter of 2018, Lithuania’s exports to China grew by 73%. China and Lithuania have remained each other’s biggest trading partner in their respective regions for consecutive years. Moreover, the two sides continued to expand and enhance cooperation in mutual investment, tourism culture, education, youth, and sub-national interactions.

The 16+1 Agriculture Ministers’ Meeting was successfully held in Vilnius in May 2018. China supports Lithuania to host the 16+1 High Level meeting on Financial Technologies in 2019, and to formally establish the 16+1 FinTech Coordination Center in Vilnius. Lithuania may make full use of its advantages in Fintech and play a more active role in 16+1 cooperation, creating more developing opportunities.

Deepening the reforms and opening-up, China’s Economy engine provides constant driving force

The updated statistics shows that China’s economy has maintained steady progress and delivered a good performance of high-quality development:

From January to June 2018,China’s GDP grew at the rate of 6.8% The economy operates within an appropriate range and the growth has become more stable. The total volume of retail sales of consumption goods increased by 9.4%, year-on-year totalling around CNY 18 trillion (USD 2.7 trillion). Online retail sales have maintained a high growth rate of around 30%. The development of service consumption also speeds up. All these figures show a structural improvement in the domestic demand.

Business start-ups and innovation are thriving all over the country. In the first half of 2018, China’s average number of new businesses opened daily has risen to more than 18,100. High-tech industry, equipment manufacturing industry, as well as emerging industries of strategic importance have achieved a rapid development, thus accelerating the shift in the forces that drive growth and enhancing the quality and level of the economy growth.

The economy operates lead to full employment. Over 6 million jobs have been created in urban areas in the first five months of 2018, completing 56% of this year’s target. Surveyed unemployment rate in major cities fell to 4.8%.

The growth drivers for foreign trade focus more on quality, efficiency and upgrading. China follows a trade policy of balance in import and export, and does not seek trade surplus. In the first half of 2018, the total value of import and export reached around USD 2.1 trillion, with a 7.9% growth, including the import of around USD 1 trillion, growing by 11.5%. The trade surplus decreased by 26.7%.

In recent years, China’s economy has contributed over 30% to the world economic growth. In the future, it will remain an important engine for the world economy.

In the next 5years, China is expected to import USD 8 trillion worth of goods, attract USD 600 billion of overseas direct investment, and make USD 750 billion of outbound investment This means more open markets and greater growth, investment and cooperation opportunities for the countries in Europe and other parts of the world.

Given the complexity and volatility in the international situation, President Xi Jinping has his vision of Building A Community of Mankind with a Shared Future, and China is committed to working with the EU and other countries, to firmly uphold the rules-based multilateral trading system by resolutely rejecting all forms of protectionism and unilateralism, to promote the world economy to be more open, coordinated, inclusive and sustainable, so as to safeguard the world peace and common development.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the restoration of Lithuanian statehood. Lithuania is at a crucial stage of development. China and Lithuania have every reason to enhance synergy in their development strategies, seize the opportunities of bilateral cooperation and 16+1 Cooperation, overcome distractions, boost practical cooperation, so as to redouble efforts to open a new chapter in China-Lithuania friendly relations.

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