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Ride on the Wings of the Belt and Road Initiative
Speech by H.E.Ambassador Chen Yuming at the Seminar "The Belt and Road Initiative"
2015/06/17

(9 June 2015)

Honorable State Secretary Oscar Stenstrom,

Chairman Niklas Swanstrom,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear friends,

As we enter the 65th year of China-Sweden diplomatic relations, it is my great pleasure to attend this seminar to explore ways to promote our bilateral ties.

First of all, I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to the ISDP, and Dr. Niklas Swanstrom in particular, for your contributions to this seminar. I would also like to extend warm welcome to all the speakers and audience present today. Thank you for your support to the Chinese-Swedish friendship over the years.

65 years ago, just six months after the founding of the People's Republic of China, and against the background of the Cold War, Sweden removed the ideological barriers and reached out a hand of friendship to China, a young and large country with a long history. Sweden became the first Western country to establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic, a strategic decision with profound impacts on international relations in the post-World War II era, and won high praise from the Chinese people.

Since China's reform and opening up, China-Sweden relations have moved onto the fast-track, and bilateral exchanges have become more frequent. His Majesty the King of Sweden and Swedish ministers are frequent visitors to China, while recent years have seen visits to Sweden from Chinese state leaders. Exchanges have been growing broader and deeper each year. Bilateral cooperation has reached unprecedented levels. In 2014, China-Sweden trade volume was 4,600 times more compared to 65 years ago, and 100 times more than the beginning of China’s reform and opening up. Currently, more than 550 Swedish companies are established in China and some 10,000 are doing business with China. More and more Chinese companies invest in Sweden, a major EU destination for Chinese investors. Volvo car sales have grown at an average rate of 30 percent since the merger of Geely and Volvo 5 years ago. The new Volvo factory in Gothenburg is Sweden's largest industrial investment project in the last 20 years, creating over 1,300 new jobs. The research strength, brand value and international competitiveness of Volvo Cars have been rising steadily. Worries like “Volvo Cars will move completely to China” and “The Chinese boss may contaminate the essence of Volvo” have proven groundless. Scientific and technological cooperation between the two countries has expanded to new areas such as bio-medicine, energy saving and environmental protection. Cultural exchanges have become increasingly frequent.

“The sun behind the western hills glows, towards the sea the Yellow River flows”. There is nothing more appropriate to describe current China-Sweden relations than the lines of the Chinese poet Li Bai’s poem over a thousand years ago. Not long ago, the Swedish Prime Minister, Stefan Löfven, met with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and held talks with Premier Li Keqiang during his successful visit to China. The state leaders drew up strategic plans for the future of China-Sweden relations, and agreed to cooperate under the Belt and Road Initiative, sharing opportunities brought by Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and comprehensively strengthening bilateral cooperation across various fields.

The “Belt and Road” refers to the “Silk Road Economic Belt” and “21st-Century Maritime Silk Road”. The former is a gigantic economic belt across Asia, Africa and Europe that stretches over 7,000 km and encompasses 3 billion people. It is considered “the longest, greatest economic corridor, with the biggest development potential in the world”. The latter is an important maritime passage connecting the Pacific, Indian- and Atlantic Oceans via regions including East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Middle East. The Belt and Road Initiative aims to connect the dynamic Asia-Pacific Economic Region to the developed European Economic Circle, unleashing the huge economic potential of countries in the vast hinterland regions, with core cities along the route as bases, key economic industrial parks as platforms and major seaports as hubs .

The Silk Road has long been known for its overland and maritime routes complementing each other since the ancient times. Through trade, the peoples of Asia, Europe and Africa helped one another to meet their needs, adding a brilliant chapter to the human civilization. The Belt and Road is a continuation and development of the spirit of the ancient Silk Road, designed to refresh the corridor with new vitality, bringing the countries of the 3 continents more closely together and promoting mutually beneficial cooperation to new historical levels. No country will play “solo”. Instead, the cooperation will be a “chorus” participated by all countries along the routes. China is ready to work together with other countries to build partnerships, achieving win-win cooperation, and realizing diversified, independent, balanced and sustainable development.

Currently, the Belt and Road Initiative is entering a new stage of practical cooperation. Over 60 countries along the route and international organizations including the EU, ASEAN, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) have responded positively. The Chinese Government has formulated and published the “Vision and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road”. A number of projects facilitating connectivity have been initiated and are making steady progress. It is believed that, in the near future, countries along the route will begin to see the benefits brought by the Belt and Road Initiative.

The above-mentioned poem by Li Bai continues with the line: “the greater the height, the grander the sight”. Looking to the future, China and Sweden can connect their cooperation onto the fast-track by mounting on the wings of Belt and Road and working on the following 5 key areas:

Firstly, policy coordination. Enhancing policy coordination is an important guarantee for implementing the Belt and Road Initiative. Both China and Sweden pursue an open-door strategy aimed at win-win cooperation and mutual benefits. and purpose for a fair and free world trade system. As staunch defenders of world peace, both countries are active participants and major supporters of the United Nations. The two countries can coordinate their economic development strategies and policies, work-out plans and measures for regional cooperation, negotiate to resolve cooperation-related issues, and provide joint policy support for the implementation of practical cooperation and large-scale projects.

Secondly, facilities connectivity. Facilitating connectivity is a priority area for implementing the Initiative. On the basis of respecting each others' sovereignty and security concerns, countries along the Belt and Road should improve the connectivity of their infrastructure construction plans and technical standards systems, pushing forward the construction of international trunk passageways. In large-scale infrastructure projects, environmental and climate change impacts will be given full consideration. Sweden, as a developed Nordic country, is a global leader in technologies related to infrastructure and facility construction, green industries and green transportation. Sweden is launching new, large-scale infrastructure projects for ports, railways, highways and airports. China and Sweden can further enhance bilateral cooperation by making full use of the bilateral Green Coop Platform established last year, and exploit their respective advantages in different industries through participating in the Belt and Road Initiative to elevate bilateral cooperation.

Thirdly, unimpeded trade. Investment- and trade cooperation is a major task in building the Belt and Road. We should strive to improve investment and trade facilitation, and remove investment- and trade barriers for the creation of a sound business environment within the region and in all related countries. Sweden was an important hub on the ancient maritime Silk Road and is committed to free and fair international trade. China is willing to work with Sweden to ensure that the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement takes effect, to further optimize the China-Sweden trade structure, and to make investment easier.

Fourthly, financial integration. Financial integration is an important underpinning for implementing the Belt and Road Initiative. It is estimated that over the next decade East Asia will need 8 trillion USD of investment for infrastructure construction. As strong as the capacity of the World Bank and ADB is, they are unable to support this alone. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, as proposed by China, will work with existing multilateral development institutions to maximize infrastructure construction in Asia, including those in the Belt and Road Initiative. Currently, the AIIB is drawing on the useful experience of existing multilateral development banks and has made substantial progress in relevant preparatory work, with quite a number of facilitating connectivity projects in progress. It should be noted that the prospective AIIB founding members are not only Asian countries, but also major developed countries from other continents as well. Not long ago, Sweden became one of the prospective founders. We hope that all AIIB member states will give full play to their respective advantages, actively involving themselves in the development of the AIIB, promoting currency swap and settlement arrangements, contributing to the implementation of the Belt and Road strategy and facilitating connectivity in Eurasia.

Fifthly, people-to-people bond. A person-to-person bond provides public support for implementing the Initiative. We should carry forward the spirit of friendly cooperation of the Silk Road by promoting extensive cultural, academic and tourist exchanges to promote the progress of Belt and Road and add to its profound social values. Over the past 65 years, dozens of cultural groups from China and Sweden have visited each others’ countries, sharing displays of art. Annual cultural events in Sweden such as “Happy Chinese New Year” and “Chinese Bridge” were consecutive successes . Shortly after the famous Chinese writer Mo Yan won the Nobel Prize in Literature, Chinese literature became better-known to Swedish readers. Sweden has become an important destination for Chinese scholars and tourists, and the Chinese people's enthusiasm towards Swedish culture has been heightened. We should build still broader exchange platforms for our peoples, especially among youngsters, so that the traditional friendship will continue to deepen.

Dear friends, the journey is long but opportunities are countless. Let's ride on the wings of the Belt and Road, expanding practical cooperation in various fields, strengthening partnership for common development and prosperity, and bringing more benefits to the Chinese and Swedish people, while making new contributions to world peace and stability.

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