Recently, Ambassador Zhang Ming, head of the mission to the European Union, gave an exclusive TV interview to Stephen Cole, a senior host of China Global Television Network (CGTN)’s Agenda, introducing the Fifth Plenary Session of the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the 14th Five-Year Plan, and on China European relations and cooperation in various fields answered questions.
The interview transcript is as follows:
Cole: You have been in charge of Middle East and Africa affairs for a long time. What is the reason for coming to the European Union as an ambassador? Do you have any special connections with Europe?
Ambassador Zhang Ming: It is not surprising that many Chinese diplomats, like me, have experience working in different countries and regions. In fact, during my diplomatic work with the Middle East, Africa and developing countries, I often exchanged and cooperated with European partners. I remember that in 2014, I participated in diplomatic efforts to assist the fight against the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.
At that time, it was through the uninterrupted flight of a Belgian airline that Chinese medical staff successfully went to the epidemic area through Brussels to provide support. Today, I am the ambassador to the European Union, and the cooperation with the EU is also closely related to these regions and countries I have worked for, such as the Iranian nuclear issue, the China-EU-Africa tripartite market cooperation, etc.
I think this also reflects that whether it is China, Europe, Asia or Africa, we are a community of destiny and need to unite and cooperate at all times.
Cole: What cooperation has China and the EU carried out in responding to the COVID-19 epidemic?
Ambassador Zhang Ming: Since the outbreak of the epidemic, China and the EU have helped each other and proved with practical actions that unity and cooperation are the most powerful weapons to fight the epidemic.
Leaders of the two sides maintain high-frequency communication on anti-epidemic cooperation. During the severe stage of the epidemic, China and Europe have provided each other with a large number of urgently needed medical supplies. China has also sent a number of medical teams to the front line of anti-epidemic in Europe.
The two sides have set up a joint expert group, and China-EU scientists and medical workers have exchanged valuable experiences on the line many times.
As the two major economies in the world, China and Europe have played a “two-engine” role in maintaining the stable operation of the global industrial chain supply chain and supporting the resumption of work and production.
Take the China-EU train as an example. As of November 5, the train has opened more than 10,000 trains during the year, setting a new historical record, and transporting 927,000 standard boxes of containers, an increase of 54%, which has played an important role in ensuring the smooth logistics and stable supply of materials in China and Europe under the epidemic.
Cole: You mentioned that China and Europe have also cooperated in vaccine research and development. Can you give a few examples?
Ambassador Zhang Ming: As two important forces in the world, China and the EU jointly firmly support the positive role of the WHO, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization and other international institutions, resist the wrong words and deeds of “stigmatization” and other toxic international anti-epidemic cooperation, jointly implement the consensus of the G20 summit, provide help to Africa and other less developed regions, push Implement the “COVID-19 Vaccine Implementation Plan” to make the vaccine an inclusive and accessible global public good.
I learned that Chinese enterprises have carried out in-depth vaccine research and development cooperation with many European enterprises, and have made good progress. For example, Fosun Pharmaceutical cooperates with the German BioNTech company to develop mRNA vaccine, Sichuan clover company and British GSK company to develop recombinant protein vaccine.
Cole: As the coronavirus continues to spread, there are some accusations about China in Europe. What do you think?
Ambassador Zhang Ming: Authorities and journals such as the World Health Organization and the journal Nature have repeatedly stressed that the first place to report cases is not necessarily the source of the virus. Virus traceability is a serious scientific problem, and scientists should speak with scientific facts and evidence.
Some people use the epidemic to “label” and “stigmatize” China, seek political intentions and personal self-interest, and even hope to divert their contradictory pressure by accusing China.
This distorts and poisons the scientific value and significance of the traceability of the virus itself, and is harmful but beneficial to the fight against the epidemic itself and China-EU cooperation, and is worth it. Both sides of Europe are highly vigilant.
The biggest revelation of the epidemic is to cooperate rather than isolate, trust rather than jealousy, and negotiate rather than scold.
China and the EU have proved with practical actions that countries with different national conditions and systems can seek common ground while putting aside differences, give full play to their strengths, achieve complementary advantages, and form a joint force in international anti-epidemic action for the common cause of mankind.
At present, the epidemic is still spreading around the world. We call on the international community to be more inclusive and cooperative, less suspicious and blamed, and work together to defeat the virus.
Cole: President Xi Jinping proposed to accelerate the negotiation process of the China-EU investment agreement. How is the current negotiations progressing and whether an agreement can be reached as scheduled this year?
Ambassador Zhang Ming: The negotiation of China-EU investment agreement is the most important matter in the bilateral economic and trade issues between China and the EU at present.
In the context of the global ravages of the COVID-19 epidemic and the heavy impact on the world economy, if China and the EU can complete the negotiation of investment agreements on time, it will undoubtedly send important positive signals, which is of great significance to help the global economic recovery and maintain an open international trade and investment environment.
China attaches great importance to the negotiation of China-EU investment agreements. President Xi Jinping reiterated many times on major occasions such as the video meeting of China, Germany and Europe leaders and the opening ceremony of the Third Import Expo that China and the EU should accelerate the negotiation process and strive to complete the negotiations within the year.
Under the political leadership of the leaders of the two sides, the pace of negotiations between the two sides has accelerated significantly this year. So far, eight rounds of formal negotiations have been completed, and positive progress has been made in terms of text and negative lists.
Breakthroughs made by the two sides on the issue of fair competition mean that the negotiations have taken a solid step forward. At present, the two sides are negotiating on topics such as sustainable development and negative list of market access.
According to the plan, the two sides will hold a new round of negotiations from November 16 to 20. The negotiations have reached a critical moment. We hope that the European side can move with China with a pragmatic and more constructive attitude, work together to clear the remaining obstacles as soon as possible, strive to achieve the set goals planned by the leaders of the two sides, and reach a comprehensive, balanced and high-level investment agreement within the year.
Cole: The third International Import Expo was held in Shanghai last week, with the enthusiastic participation of many European companies, including Volkswagen and L’Oreal. What do you think attracts them?
Ambassador Zhang Ming: As you said, despite the interference of the epidemic, the enthusiasm of enterprises around the world to participate in the third Expo is still high. According to the data, a total of 124 countries and regions participated in the third Expo.
European enterprises performed very well at this Expo. According to statistics, a total of 714 enterprises from 32 European countries participated in the meeting, and the scale of the exhibition reached a new high. European enterprises have also gained a lot at this Expo.
For example, at the docking meeting of European leading enterprises held on the first day of the Expo, European enterprises and Zhejiang Enterprise Group completed 61 signed projects, with a total investment of 10.9 billion US dollars. Germany Manz Environmental Technology Co., Ltd.
received a “soft hand” order when it participated in the Expo for the first time, with a total signing of more than 300 million yuan. Danone of France and Beilang of Germany signed sales contracts worth $300 million and RMB 100 million with Chinese partners respectively. There are countless examples like this.
Under the economic cold wave brought by the coronavirus epidemic, the Chinese market, which was the first to recover, has brought a lot of warmth to a large number of European enterprises.
China not only has a huge consumer market, but also continues to expand its opening up under the condition of headwinds of globalization, constantly optimizes the business environment, and creates new opportunities for European enterprises to share China’s development dividends. The performance of European enterprises at this Expo precisely shows the determination and confidence of European enterprises to continue to deepen the Chinese market.
Kohl: China has become the EU’s largest trading partner in the first eight months of 2020, with a size of more than 300 billion euros. What industries of trade have driven this growth? What is the potential for the further development of China-EU trade in the future?
Ambassador Zhang Ming: Since the outbreak of COVID-19, global trade has been hit hard. Against this background, China and the EU work together to overcome difficulties and promote bilateral trade to quickly reverse the downward trend, becoming the highlight of the global economic haze. According to Eurostat, the total import and export of the EU and China in the first eight months reached 374.7 billion euros, an increase of 2.5% year-on-year.
For the first time in history, China has become the largest trading partner of the European Union. At this special moment, this achievement is even more precious.
Many media attributed this achievement mainly to the pull of Chinese demand. According to the statistics of Chinese customs, in the first three quarters, China’s imports of integrated circuits, biotechnology products, computer and communication technology products from the 27 countries of the European Union increased by 12.4%, 35.7% and 11.8%, respectively.
The strong purchasing power of Chinese consumers also provided a broad market for high-quality EU products. China from Europe The import of agricultural products of the alliance increased significantly by 29.8% in the same period, and cosmetics, clothing and other commodities also maintained a strong growth.
China-EU trade has also provided great support for the cooperation between the two sides in the fight against the epidemic. According to Eurostat data, Chinese masks accounted for 92.3% of the import of masks in the EU in the first half of the year. According to Chinese statistics, in the first three quarters, China exported 23.6 billion US dollars of various epidemic prevention materials to the European Union, an increase of 4.5 times.
The growth of China-EU trade against the trend is also backed by the incremental support brought about by the continuous tapping of potential and deepening cooperation between the two sides.
At the end of May, Germany Volkswagen Group, Europe’s largest car company, announced an investment of 2.1 billion euros in China to vigorously promote the development of the electric vehicle business. In July, Danone Group of France announced an investment of 100 million euros to “add more” its business in China.
The continuous promotion of institutional arrangements, including the China-EU Geographical Indications Agreement and the Investment Agreement, will greatly promote the accelerated entry of Chinese and EU products into the other’s markets. At the same time, China-EU’s development concepts in emerging fields such as green, digital, climate change, interconnection, tripartite cooperation are highly consistent, and there is great potential to explore the space for expanding cooperation.
Cole: China’s new five-year plan proposes to build a new development pattern of double cycle. There are concerns that China may focus more on developing the domestic cycle. Will this affect China’s cooperation with Europe?
Ambassador Zhang Ming: China proposes to build a new development pattern with the domestic and international double cycle as the main body and the domestic and international double cycle to promote each other. It is by no means a closed domestic cycle, but a more open domestic and international double cycle, which is not only China’s own development needs, but also will better benefit people of all countries.
Expanding domestic demand is the strategic basis for building a “double cycle”. China has a super-large market with a population of 1.4 billion and a middle-income group of 400 million, with an urbanization rate of more than 60%, which breeds great potential and vitality. It is expected that China’s middle-income group will exceed 500 million in the next five years.
In the next 10 years, China’s cumulative merchandise imports are expected to exceed $22 trillion. The continuous maturity of the Chinese market will form a new incremental purchasing power, providing new market space for both China itself and parties, including the European Union.
Looking ahead, China’s opening door will not be closed, but will only open wider and wider. China’s tariff level will only be lower, the negative list will only be shorter, market access will only be more convenient, market rules will only be more transparent, and the business environment will only be more attractive. As President Xi Jinping said, the Chinese market will become the market of the world, the market for sharing, and the market for everyone.
“Double-cycle development” is a valuable historical opportunity for EU enterprises. The expansion of the Chinese market is good for European enterprises, and the expansion of China’s imports is even more beneficial to European enterprises.
As China’s main economic and trade partner, the EU is an important link between China’s domestic and external circulation. In this sense, the significance of China-EU accelerating the completion of investment agreement negotiations is more prominent.
China and the EU together account for more than 30% of the global GDP, bilateral trade accounts for 15% of China’s foreign trade volume, and two-way investment has also grown steadily. It is hoped that the European Union will continue to “intensively cultivate” in China, give full play to its advantages in brand, capital, technology and other aspects, make good use of the dual convenience of “Chinese factories + Chinese market”, deeply integrate into the Chinese economic cycle and share the development dividends by focusing on the internal circulation of China’s economy and participating in the external circulation of China’s economy.
Cole: President Xi Jinping announced that China will strive to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. What kind of cooperation opportunities will China and the EU have in this field?
Ambassador Zhang Ming: China and the EU adhere to the concept of green development, actively promote the global governance of climate change, respectively put forward the goal of achieving carbon neutrality, and strive to promote the green recovery after the epidemic. On September 14 this year, during the meeting between China, Germany and Europe leaders, President Xi Jinping and European leaders decided to establish a “high-level dialogue on environment and climate” and build a green partnership, reflecting the consensus between China and the EU on adhering to green, low-carbon and sustainable development, demonstrating China and the EU’s confidence in firmly safeguarding multilateralism, and expanding the dimension of cooperation for China and the EU. Point the direction. In order to implement the important consensus of leaders, the competent authorities of the two sides are discussing and exchanging dialogue mechanisms and follow-up work.
The EU is promoting the implementation of the green agreement. In China’s 14th Five-Year Plan and the recommendations of the 2035 Vision, it is clearly proposed to promote green transformation, accelerate low-carbon development, support green technology innovation, and develop green finance. China and the EU can combine their respective policy priorities to enhance practical cooperation and provide help for green and low-carbon development. In addition, the two sides have also actively strengthened communication on multilateral platforms and are jointly promoting more positive results at the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity and the United Nations Climate Change Conference to be held next year.
Cole: Some commentators believe that this goal means that China and the EU compete in the low-carbon technology market. How do you think China and Europe should jointly promote green and low-carbon development?
Ambassador Zhang Ming: Technological innovation is an important support for achieving carbon neutrality. At present, China and the EU are actively promoting the development of low-carbon technologies. We should strengthen mutual learning, exchange what we have, strive to achieve a win-win situation, and jointly make new contributions to global climate governance.
As a developing country, we are well aware that achieving green and low-carbon development in developing countries is a very difficult and difficult goal. I believe that the goal of green and low carbon pursued by the international community is by no means a goal based on improving the quality of life of people in developing countries at the expense of improving the people. According to the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities”, developed countries should increase technology transfer and financial assistance to developing countries, and China is also willing to strengthen exchanges and cooperation with the European Union in this regard.
Cole: Not long ago, Sweden announced a ban on the use of Chinese Huawei and ZTE’s equipment in 5G networks. What are the main challenges for Chinese companies like Huawei to do business in Europe?
Ambassador Zhang Ming: Recently, some European countries have excluded Chinese 5G suppliers or listed them as “high-risk suppliers”, but have not produced any evidence that their products are unsafe, and there is not even clear “high-risk” standards. On the issue of 5G network security, China resolutely defends not only the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese enterprises, but also the principle of fair, just and non-discriminatory open cooperation.
I have noticed that Andrics, the head of the European Association for Competitive Telecommunications, recently publicly stated that geopolitics should not be allowed to influence the deployment of 5G networks, stressing that the regulation of the telecommunications industry should be based on facts, warning that restricting competition will distort the entire telecommunications industry chain, supply chain, value chain, harming consumers and industry interests, and cracking down on Cohesion within the market.
He also pointed out in particular that the members of the association agreed that Chinese enterprises have reliable technology and guaranteed equipment quality. The participation of Chinese enterprises in the layout of the world’s 5G network is conducive to promoting the development of relevant industries. I hope that the relevant European countries will earnestly respect the market principles, carefully listen to industry advice, reconsider the relevant decisions, and treat Chinese companies fairly.
Cole: What do you think of the EU’s accusation that China implements “selective multilateralism”? How can China and the EU cooperate in maintaining multilateralism?
Ambassador Zhang Ming: Adhering to multilateralism is an important principle of Chinese diplomacy. China has always supported multilateralism and practiced multilateralism with practical actions, and is committed to providing China’s solutions and contributing China’s wisdom to promoting countries to strengthen mutually beneficial cooperation and practice multilateralism.
United Nations Secretary-General Guterres said that China has become the most important pillar of multilateralism and an indispensable and trustworthy important force to promote world peace and development.
Multilateralism embodies the principles of equality, openness and inclusion. President Xi Jinping has pointed out many times that international affairs should be handled by all countries, and should be handled in accordance with the rules agreed by everyone, taking into account the legitimate interests and reasonable concerns of all countries.
Today’s world situation is complex and changeable, and various challenges are emerging one after another. Multilateralism is also in the process of continuous development and improvement. We should not take the interests and views of one party as the presupposition framework for multilateralism, subjectively judge others, but we should adhere to joint discussion, joint construction and sharing, and strive to form a synergy.
Multilateralism is the common language and interests of China and Europe in the world. President Xi Jinping stressed at the China-Germany-EU leaders’ meeting that China and Europe should achieve the “Four Persistences”, of which insistence on multilateralism is one.
China and the EU should join hands to support multilateralism, reach more multilateral cooperation and global governance consensus, safeguard the international rules cherished by the vast majority of members of the international community with the purpose of the Charter of the United Nations, sincerely provide more public goods for the international community and inject more positive energy into multilateralism.