Distinguished guests, Colleagues, Friends,
Good morning! It is my great pleasure to attend today’s event at the invitation of Rector Bielecki and Professor Kolodko. Today’s seminar gathers many scholars and friends, both old and young. Professor Kolodko, you are not only the “designer” of Poland’s economic transformation, but also an expert on globalization and on the Chinese economy. I would like to congratulate you on your new book Will China Save the World ! I hope it will open a door for more Polish readers to better understand China. We’re privileged to have many former Polish ambassadors to China with us. They are veteran diplomats who have witnessed the history of China-Poland relations. I also see many experts, entrepreneurs and young students here. You are the talents and new champions for today’s China-Poland cooperation. I am very glad to meet you all.
Professor Kolodko advised me to talk about the Belt and Road Initiative today. No doubt, to understand today’s China, especially China’s foreign cooperation policy, the Belt and Road Initiative is a key word. How to understand it? I would like to brief you with 4 “W”s.
What is the Belt and Road Initiative? In ancient times, Silk Road was a trade corridor across Eurasia. It facilitated the exchanges and mutual learning among countries along the route. Today’s Belt and Road Initiative inherits the spirit of the ancient Silk Road. By building the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, countries along the routes will coordinate development strategies, and cooperate for prosperity.The initiative has five pillars, namely, policy coordination, facilities connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration and people-to-people bonds.
Why build the Belt and Road?This initiative is demand-driven. Most countries along the routes are developing countries. They are in urgent need of infrastructure but short of funds. The initiative responds to this demand by promoting projects and bringing effective investment. Despite setbacks in globalization and rising protectionism and unilateralism, the Belt and Road Initiative enables countries to better integrate into global value chain and industry chain, thus to boost development and global economy.
Where to build the Belt and Road? The Belt and Road run through the continents of Asia, Europe and Africa, connecting the vibrant East Asia economic circle at one end and the developed European economic circle at the other. The Silk Road Economic Belt focuses on bringing together China, Central Asia and Europe, and one route of the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road is to go from China’s coast to Europe through the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean.
Who will join the Belt and Road? The geographical and national scope of the Belt and Road is open. It is a transparent initiative that follows the “golden rule” of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, featured with equality, openness and inclusiveness. In other words, all participants are equal in planning and implementing the projects for common benefits.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear friends,
This year is the 5th year of the Belt and Road Initiative. Moving from ideas to actions, it has made remarkable progress and presents an impressive “score report”.
— In terms of policy coordination, so far 130 countries and international organizations in total have signed cooperation agreements with China under the BRI. The initiative together with its core concepts has been incorporated into outcome documents of important international mechanisms such as the UN, G20, APEC, SCO, etc. China and Poland signed the MOU on Belt and Road cooperation back in 2015. In 2017, leaders of 29 countries, including Polish Prime Minister, attended the first Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation to discuss cooperation plans. Besides that, our Prime Ministers also maintain close contacts at the annual “16+1” summit.
–In terms of facilities connectivity, international corridors are under construction at a much faster pace. A number of infrastructure projects have started, such as China-Laos railway, China-Tailand railway, Hambantota Port and Piraeus Port. China Railway Express freight trains have completed 10,000 trips, reaching 43 cities in 15 European countries. 20% of them travel to or through Poland. China Ocean Shipping Group (COSCO) chooses Gdansk Port as its distribution center in the Baltic region. We can see, Poland’s position as a transportation hub becomes more eminent as the BRI makes headway. Now China and Poland are comprehensively connected by sea, air and land transportation.
— In terms of trade, China is already the largest trading partner of 25 countries along the route. In 2017, China’s total import and export volume with Belt and Road countries was about 1.44 trillion US dollars, accounting for 36.2% of China’s total trade volume. It grew by 13.4% than 2016, and this growth rate was 5.9% higher than China’s overall trade growth rate. China-Poland trade volume grew from 14.4 billion US dollars in 2012 to 21.3 billion US dollars in 2017, with 8% average growth per year.
–In terms of financial integration, we have Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank founded in 2015. By now, China has established RMB clearing arrangements with 7 countries. 11 Chinese banks have 71 first-level branches in 27 countries along the Belt and Road. As to Poland, it is one of the founding members of the AIIB, 3 Chinese banks now have branch offices in Warsaw, which have already financed local economy with 2 billion US dollars.
–In terms of people-to-people bonds, in 2017, there were 300,000 students from Belt and Road countries studying in China, and over 60,000 Chinese students studying in these countries. It is estimated that by 2020, the tourists number between China and these countries will exceed 85 million. Between China and Poland, now we have 3,000 exchange students, and 36 pairs of sister cities or provinces. In 2016, Air China launched direct flights between Beijing and Warsaw, then only in one year, the number of Chinese tourists to Poland had doubled. In the first half of this year, tourists from Chinese mainland to Poland increased by 20% and is expected to reach 180,000 this year.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear friends,
The Belt and Road Initiative is widely recognized and fruitful. But as a new thing, it is normal to hear some doubts, misinterpretations or even warnings about its purposes, approaches or influences. I would like to take this opportunity to clarify 3 points:
First, China does not intend to use this initiative to expand geopolitical influence. Respect for other countries’ independent choice of development path and non-interference in their internal affairs are two basic principles of China’s foreign policy. In this sense, the BRI is not a Chinese version of “Marshall Plan”, nor a tool used to compete for regional or global geopolitical advantages. It will never be an exclusive “club”. As an economic cooperation initiative, it adheres to the Silk Road spirit, namely, peace, cooperation, openness, inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit. It is not a solo but a symphony.
Second, the process of building the “Belt and Road” will strictly adhere to international rules. The Belt and Road is a transparent project, it upholds openness, transparency and inclusiveness. It abides by international rules, its projects are negotiated under business rules and operated under market principles. However, as the sky and sea are changing because of wind and waves, we must be adaptable, seek truth from facts, and constantly explore rules and modes that could best meet practical needs and solve specific problems.
Third, “Belt and Road” will not push other countries into “debt traps”. Its projects bring about effective investment, valuable assets and funds to countries in need, letting them boost local economy and improve people’s livelihood. The debt problems of some countries have complex backgrounds of history and realities. Tracing back to its root, debts are more products of unjust old international economic order, rather than outcomes of Belt and Road projects. It is unfounded to describe Chinese funds as “traps”.
And I would like also to refer to 2 questions that might concern our European partners.
First, whether “Belt and Road” is in Europe’s interest. Let me underline that jointly building “Belt and Road” will bring added value to China-EU strategic cooperation and is in the interest of both sides. On connectivity, leaders from both sides have agreed to align EU’s connectivity plan with China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Last month, EU adopted its Europe-Asia connectivity strategy, and made clear the prospect of cooperating with China. With joint efforts from both sides, the Eurasian connectivity will make progress and deliver benefits to people in this region. On production capacity cooperation, Europe has high-end technologies, while China is competitive in production and application. If we cooperate and complement each other, we could avoid unnecessary competition, and could join hands in exploring the third market.
Second, whether “16+1 cooperation” will “divide Europe”. I would like to stress that China is always a firm supporter of European integration. Among major countries in the world, we’re the most determined one, and we take concrete actions. As the Belt and Road connect Europe’s west and east, it is integrating rather than splitting Europe. The “16+1 Cooperation” mechanism was born in Warsaw in 2012. It is voluntarily created by 17 countries, and is a platform for “Belt and Road” to integrate into Europe. Cooperation in 16+1 format is not only good for China and CEE countries to have complementary cooperation, but also good for Europe to bridge the gap between East and West and to become more balanced. Since both the intention and result of 16+1 are good for China-EU relations, how could it “divide Europe”?
Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear friends,
2018 is an extraordinary year for both China and Poland. It is the centenary of Poland’s independence. Withstanding great hardships, Poland has risen “like a phoenix from the ashes” in a century. Poland today is the 8th largest European economy, as well as 1/3 of CEE economy, establishing its leadership in the CEE region.This year marks also the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening-up. Thanks to this “second revolution”, China now contributes more than 30% to world economic growth, and serves as a stabilizer and an engine for global recovery.
China and Poland are natural partners in the “Belt and Road”. How to make our cooperation deeper and better? I would like to share some of my observations, or 4 keywords:
The first keyword is “synergy”. China is willing to align the Belt and Road Initiative with Poland’s “Responsible Development Plan”. 1 plus 1 could get more than 2. To be specific, Poland has the need to develop infrastructure while China has funding and cost- effective technologies. China has a big domestic market while Poland has quality food products. What we need is effective cooperation on working levels between governments and between businesses. By creating synergies, we would find more common interests and tap more potentials.
The second keyword is “openness”. The experience of China’s 40 years of reform and opening up proves that openness and integration is the trend of history, and China will only open wider to the world in future. Considering the size of Chinese and Polish markets, there is still much room for bigger trade and investment. Many problems our business are facing now shall be solved by more opening-up policies. For example, if we want to cooperate on big projects, it will take a long time and involve large investment, then our governments should be more open-minded and proactive to find ways out for win-win cooperation.
The third keyword is “innovation”. China and Poland have different market size, business culture, and market rules. We have to better understand each other and find a tailored solution for both. For example, how to have more balanced trade growth? How to support SME cooperation? How to mobilize local cooperation? How to better finance the project? How to accommodate to market rules? To pave the way for cooperation, all these questions need pragmatic discussions and new ideas.
The fourth keyword is “communication”. People-to-people exchanges are the foundation for cooperation between countries. In the case of China and Poland, we enjoy traditional friendship, but also have problems like insufficient understanding of each other’s political system, market and culture. In building “Belt and Road”, we need to deepen people-to-people contacts by having extensive exchanges in various fields, including culture, education, media, thinktanks and youth. A more comprehensive, objective and in-depth mutual understanding will consolidate public support for our cooperation.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear friends,
An ancient Chinese poem reads, “A time will come to ride the wind and cleave the waves to cross the sea.” Which means one day we will achieve our ambitions. As the great composer Chopin comes from Poland but his wonderful music is enjoyed by the whole world, The Belt and Road Initiative originates from China, but belongs to the world. It is rooted in history, but oriented towards the future. It is a great practice for building a community with a shared future for mankind. China is willing to work with Poland for a better future of cooperation. Our cooperation is open for ideas and suggestions, and I especially look forward to your valuable insights today.
Thank you very much!