-- China-CEEC cooperation is part and parcel of China-EU relations, whose good progress means new opportunities for China-CEEC cooperation.
-- China and CEE countries need to tackle COVID-19 head-on and boost confidence in cooperation to tide over the tough times.
-- China and CEE countries share the conviction that openness brings opportunities and inclusiveness ensures diversity.
BEIJING -- Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday lauded the cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European countries (CEEC), calling on relevant countries to keep up the momentum and work together for a new chapter in China-CEEC cooperation.
"China-CEEC cooperation is part and parcel of China-EU relations, whose good progress means new opportunities for China-CEEC cooperation," said Xi while delivering a keynote speech at the China-CEEC Summit via video link.
"17 PLUS 1 COULD MAKE MORE THAN 18"
Xi lauded China-CEEC cooperation, saying that "17 plus 1 could make more than 18."
In 2020, overall China-EU relations made new progress despite the challenges caused by the pandemic. The two sides concluded schedule negotiations on the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment and signed a geographical indications agreement. They also launched partnerships for green and digital cooperation.
"The two sides also stood firm for multilateralism and took on global challenges together," Xi said.
"Today, trade between China and CEE countries is nearly 85 percent bigger than nine years ago," Xi noted, adding that the China-Europe Railway Express has reached most of the CEE countries, running more than 30,000 freight services so far.
The China-CEEC cooperation mechanism came into being in 2012 against the backdrop of the European debt crisis.
"Impressive progress has been made in several cooperation projects, including the Port of Piraeus in Greece, the Smederevo Steel Plant in Serbia, and the Peljesac Bridge in Croatia," said Xi.
China-CEEC cooperation is based on mutual respect and has no political strings attached, Xi stressed. He added that all countries involved, regardless of their size, are equal partners in a cooperation mechanism featuring extensive consultation, joint contributions, and shared benefits.
Xi lauded the progress jointly made by China and CEE countries in the Belt and Road cooperation. He said that in an innovative and pioneering spirit, China and CEE countries took steps early to explore the possibility of aligning cross-regional cooperation with Belt and Road cooperation. It makes Central and Eastern Europe the first region where all countries have signed agreements on Belt and Road cooperation.
ENHANCING COOPERATION AMID DIFFICULTIES
"We need to tackle COVID-19 head-on and boost confidence in cooperation to tide over the tough times," Xi said, adding China will work with CEE countries through solidarity, coordination, and cooperation to complete the pressing task of pandemic responses.
COVID-19 vaccines serve as a powerful weapon to defeat the ravaging coronavirus, and those developed and produced by China are gaining popularity. Serbia has received one million doses of vaccines from a Chinese company so far, and there is ongoing cooperation between Hungary and Chinese vaccine companies.
"China will actively consider such cooperation with other CEE countries if there is a need," said Xi.
Noting China and CEE countries need to develop smooth avenues of cooperation for interconnected development, Xi proposed pursuing high-quality Belt and Road cooperation. It means speeding up significant projects like the Budapest-Belgrade Railway and continuing the development of the China-Europe Railway Express to unlock the full potential of cooperation.
To achieve concrete cooperation results and increasing cooperation outcomes that benefit both sides, Xi mentioned in particular, the coming five years. He said China intends to "import more than 170 billion U.S. dollars of goods from CEE countries" and will "work to double CEE countries' agricultural exports to China and raise two-way agricultural trade by 50 percent."
Also, eying green development and forging drivers of future-oriented cooperation, Xi urged advancing international cooperation on climate change. He also urged the joint implementation of the Paris Agreement and capitalizing on various emerging business forms to widen the cooperation of the digital economy, e-commerce, and the health sector.
"The proposals put forward by Xi for advancing cooperation with CEE countries have given adequate consideration to the core interests of those countries. It has also demonstrated China's sense of global responsibility and the readiness to work for win-win results," said Liu Zuokui, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
CHINA'S OPENING-UP TO BROADEN HORIZONS FOR COOPERATION
"China and CEE countries share the conviction that openness brings opportunities and inclusiveness ensures diversity. This is the key to the sustained vibrancy of China-CEEC cooperation," said Xi.
During the speech, Xi pledged that China would continue to open its doors wider with a focus on institutional opening-up that covers rules, regulations, management, and standards to broaden the horizons for China-CEEC cooperation.
"We will continue our efforts to foster a business environment based on market principles, governed by law, and up to international standards," he said.
This year marks the beginning of China's 14th Five-Year Plan for economic and social development and the start of the country's new journey toward building a modern socialist country.
China has also been fostering a new development paradigm with domestic circulation as the mainstay and domestic and international circulations reinforcing each other.
"This will unlock the full potential of China's vast market and domestic demand generated by the 1.4 billion population, including the over 400 million Chinese in the middle-income group. It will thus boost global demand and create more opportunities for the rest of the world," Xi said.
The Chinese president vowed to take a more active role in bilateral, multilateral, and regional cooperation that delivers higher levels of mutual benefit for all.
"We also welcome the participation of other countries and international organizations in our cooperation to achieve win-win results," said Xi.