Wen paints Europe green in 4-nation trip

Updated: 2012-04-27 10:43

By Zhang Haizhou and Cecily Liu (China Daily)

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Premier calls for more global action on sustainable development

Wen paints Europe green in 4-nation trip

Premier Wen Jiabao waves to employees during his visit to the Volvo factory in Gothenburg, Sweden, on April 24. Bjorn Larsson Rosvall / Reuters

Trade and investment deals and business cooperation have been the focus of Premier Wen Jiabao's tour to four European nations this week.

Such fare is common for such visits, but there was a new ingredient in the latest trip: Wen and his delegation have been paying particular attention to green and innovative industries in almost every destination of the seven-day visit, which ends on April 29.

As China switches from high growth to sustainability in the current five-year plan and as the country's foreign trade growth slows, politicians, businesses and industrial leaders from China and Europe are seeing more opportunities in each other's markets.

Before his scheduled arrival in Warsaw on April 27, Wen pressed for global action on sustainable development that strikes a balance between economic growth, social progress and environmental protection, instead of focusing exclusively on the environment, at the Stockholm+40 conference in Sweden.

"We aim to achieve development over 50 years, 100 years dozens of generations. Therefore we must attach great importance to China's sustainable development."

He also witnessed the signing, on April 24, of a memorandum of understanding between China Development Bank and the Swedish automaker Volvo Cars, now owned by Zhejiang Geely Holding Group of China. Under the deal, the bank will offer long-term financing to support Volvo's technological innovation and research and development for new energy vehicles.

Wen also attended the signing ceremony of a series of deals on environmental protection and energy conservation the same day.

He began his European trip in Reykjavik, capital of Iceland, on April 20. He visited the Hellisheidi Power Station in the country's southwest the next day, and said China will advance cooperation with Iceland in geothermal energy.

In Germany, Wen and Chancellor Angela Merkel opened this year's Hannover Messe, the industrial and technology fair.

The fair, held from Monday to Friday, has attracted about 5,000 exhibitors from 65 countries and regions. Almost half of these exhibitors come from outside Germany, among which nearly 600 came from China, partner country this year under the theme of "Greentelligence".

The fair opened as China's foreign trade posted slower growth. Year-on-year export growth slowed from 18.4 percent in February to 8.9 percent in March, according to figures issued by the General Administration of Customs.

The growth in imports fell more markedly, from 39.6 percent in February to 5.3 percent in March.

Gu Chao, director-general of the exhibition administration office of China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, said China's exports to the EU, its biggest export market, had experienced "negative growth".

"Against this backdrop, attending international trade fairs is an effective way for Chinese firms to stabilize and strengthen exports, but that isn't our only goal here," Gu told China Daily in Hannover.

He referred to low-carbon and green economies when asked in which areas China is seeking more exports to Europe.

"Low-carbon economy and energy conservation are receiving increasing attention from consumers and manufacturers from all over the world, as these industries have experienced a smaller impact from the global downturn," Gu said.

Chinese firms in these areas "hope to improve technology exchange and cooperation with European counterparts to promote industrial sustainable development and achieve global economic recovery", he said.

Twenty-five years have passed since China was Hannover Messe's partner country the last time. This time Chinese firms had brought to Europe and the world their achievements to demonstrate their advanced industrial technologies and huge potential for further development, Gu said.

Citic Guoan Mengguli Power Source Technology, a Beijing company specializing in high energy density lithium-ion batteries, promoted its eco-friendly batteries.

As the only Chinese company to successfully realize large-scale production of high-capacity lithium-ion batteries, the firm plays a key role in accelerating the industrial commercialization of new-energy vehicle technology.

Machinery Technology Development, a Beijing company specializing in environmental protection equipment and engineering, showed China's first non-battery automated guided vehicle solution at the fair.

Delivering energy savings of at least 10 percent compared with battery solutions, the system is regarded as a big breakthrough for China's automotive manufacturing industry.

Broad Group, a Changsha company specializing in central air conditioning, presented at the fair its air-conditioning systems that achieve almost zero CO2 emissions by harnessing waste heat from electric power generation.

Exhibitors at the fair also included many Chinese cities. Qingdao displayed the Sino-German Eco Park, a 10-square-kilometer complex designed to help China attract German investment in sectors such as renewable energy, energy reduction and environmental protection.

German exhibitors see China's market and demand for technological innovation as great business opportunities.

Karl Tragl, chairman of the executive board at Bosch Rexroth, a German firm specializing in drive and control technologies, said China will become the main driving force behind global machinery manufacturing growth.

First expanding into China in 1978, Bosch Rexroth has already established four factories and five sales branches in 33 cities. Its sales in China were a record 1 billion euros ($1.32 billion) last year.

"To carry out research and production in China using a Chinese team is the only way to take advantage of this revolution," Tragl said.

Festo, a German supplier of pneumatic and electrical automation technology, has also enjoyed great success in China. The company, which entered the country in 1985, now has 42 sales centers, 1,800 employees and more than 13,000 customers.

"We are very glad to see that Festo's products have helped many Chinese companies improve their own technology and competitiveness," said Ulrich Stoll, vice-chairman of the supervisory board at Festo.

German engineers like to develop intelligent products and smart solutions, said Rainer Gehnen, managing director of the German-Chinese Business Association.

As a particular strength of the German economic system, there are, Gehnan said, "hundreds if not thousands of" small and mid-sized enterprises in Germany that are world technology leaders in their respective fields and market niches.

"As purely private businesses they show great innovativeness and can identify and (make the most of) market opportunities rather quickly. These so-called hidden champions in Germany will often be ideal cooperating partners for China."

Gehnen said an increasing number of Western companies will find themselves "on a level playing field" with their Chinese competitors.

"Germany welcomes this development: We are confident about our ability to innovate and, most importantly, we are willing to work together with Chinese companies in mutually beneficial ways."

Trade between China and Germany totaled $190 billion last year, and Germany accounts for about a third of China's total trade with the EU.

Wen had said at the Hannover Messe that China wanted to reach a volume of trade in 2015 of $280 billion.

German firms have proven much more successful than their European peers in entering the Chinese market.

"Business ties with China trump political concerns voiced within Germany by opposition parties, NGOs or the media," Cornelius Focke, researcher at the business intelligence firm Diligence, based in London, said of the key to German companies' success in China.

The German government knows that business ties with China are "dependent on a good bilateral relationship on a high political level", he said.

Contact the writers at zhanghaizhou@chinadaily.com.cn and cecilyliu@chinadaily.com.cn