Beijing looks to enhance ties with European nations

Updated: 2013-07-03 01:53

By By Li Xiaokun (China Daily)

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China willing to share development opportunities with partners, Li says

President Xi Jinping on Tuesday pledged to push forward cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European countries, as officials from nearly 50 cities in the region gathered in China to meet their Chinese partners.

Xi made the remarks when meeting the prime ministers of Romania and Macedonia in Beijing. The two prime ministers were in China to attend a meeting between officials from China and Central and Eastern European countries, which was scheduled to run from Tuesday to Thursday in Chongqing in Southwest China.

Xi told Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta that the establishment of the cooperation framework between China and Central and Eastern European economies has provided a new platform for cooperation.

China is willing to work with the 16 countries to enhance the scale and level of cooperation to gain more from cooperation, Xi said.

Premier Li Keqiang also met the two European leaders later on Tuesday.

Li told them "China is willing to share development opportunities with Central and Eastern European countries, especially to realize breakthroughs on major projects".

He also briefed the guests on China’s recent economic situation.

He said China is on one hand expanding domestic demand and has achieved stable economic growth. On the other hand, China is upgrading its economy and deepening reforms, a move Li said will further tap into development potentials.

China has "the foundation and conditions to realize this year’s goal of economic development and a sustainable and healthy one in the future", Li said.

Aside from the European leaders, 500 guests from the 16 countries, including local officials, entrepreneurs and the countries'ambassadors to China, are attending the meeting.

China has sent high-ranking officials from 10 ministries and 16 provinces and municipalities.

In April 2012, then-premier Wen Jiabao met leaders of 16 Central and Eastern European countries in Warsaw and announced a dozen measures to develop ties.

"The Warsaw meeting greatly increased the desire of China and Central and Eastern European countries to carry out cooperation and brought about broad prospects in that regard," Chinese Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina Dong Chunfeng wrote in an article published on Monday.

The Chongqing meeting is a new development of the Warsaw meeting, Dong wrote.

Zhao Huaipu, an expert on European studies at China Foreign Affairs University, said annual trade volume between China and Central and Eastern European countries is about $50 billion, less than one-tenth of that between China and the EU.

"That means huge potential and demand for bilateral economic and trade cooperation."

Zhao said Central and Eastern European countries, plagued by the sovereign debt crisis, have strong demand for foreign investment, while China, with abundant foreign exchange reserves and a relatively robust economy, has the capability to meet their demand.

Macedonian Ambassador to China Oliver Shambevski told Chinese media on the eve of the Chongqing meeting that his country is discussing special policies to woo investment from China.

For Beijing, deepening cooperation with the region will not only help upgrade its economy but also consolidate ties with the European Union through the new EU members in the region, Zhao said.

Jia Ruixia, a researcher on European affairs at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that Chinese enterprises are nowadays seen as an "engine" for economies in some Central and Eastern European countries.

"Chinese companies will find huge commercial potential in that region. Take Romania’s tourism sector as an example. There is a lot of ancient architecture that needs to be maintained, while a lot of tourism destinations such as manors and forests are looking for investment," Jia said.

Mo Jingxi contributed to this story.