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Interview with Poland’s former Vice Prime Minister: Optimistic about China-Central and Eastern European cooperation in the post-epidemic era

German scholars believe that the EU is silly and naïve to discredit China

On the evening of September 14, 2020, President Xi Jinping held a meeting in Beijing with German Chancellor Merkel, President of the European Council of Europe Michelle and European Commission President von der Leyen. The meeting was held by video. Xinhua News Agency reporter Pang Xinglei/Photograph

China News Service, Berlin, February 9 (Reporter Peng Dawei) In an exclusive interview with China News Service reporter, former Poland’s former Vice Premier, Finance Minister and famous economist Kovodko said that last year, despite the severe challenges brought by the coronavirus epidemic, China’s trade with Central and Eastern European countries has achieved amazing growth.

He is not only optimistic about the prospects for the economic cooperation and development of China and Central and Eastern European countries after the epidemic, but also believes that China has made great contributions to cooperation with relevant countries in the fight against the epidemic.

Kovodko is currently a professor at Kaminsky University in Warsaw. As a key designer of Poland’s economic reform, he served twice as Poland’s Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister.

According to the data released by China’s Ministry of Commerce recently, in 2020, China’s trade volume with 17 countries in Central and Eastern Europe reached $103.45 billion, exceeding 100 billion US dollars for the first time, an increase of 8.4%, which is higher than the growth rate of China’s foreign trade and China-EU trade in the same period.

Since 2012, China’s trade with Central and Eastern European countries has grown by 8% annually, more than three times the growth rate of China’s foreign trade, and more than twice the growth rate of China’s trade with the European Union.

“The growth rate of 8.4% is quite alarming.

This growth is even more amazing especially given the serious challenges posed by disruptions in production and supply chains during the pandemic.” Kovodko said that despite the above challenges, more and more enterprises in Central and Eastern European countries have realized that strengthening trade with China is very beneficial to them.

Specific to the impact of the epidemic on China-Central and Eastern European countries cooperation and the “Belt and Road” initiative docking with Central and Eastern European countries, Kovodko believes that the epidemic has not seriously affected the cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European partners.

“I am optimistic about the development of CEE-China cooperation after the end of the epidemic.” He analyzed that this is because the progress made by bilateral cooperation in the fields of trade, investment, capital flows, technology exchange and expertise, and joint venture projects is improving the overall capital efficiency and labor productivity of all participating countries.

In the long run, the Central and Eastern Europe-China cooperation is contributing to improving the living standards of all people.” When people realize the role of this mechanism, they hope to continue and strengthen mutually beneficial cooperation between the two sides.

China-Central and Eastern European cooperation is a concrete embodiment of multilateralism and conducive to promoting global governance.

However, some politicians in the European Union repeatedly criticized this, even claiming that it was an attempt to divide the EU.

In response, Kovodko said bluntly: “The accusation of ‘attempting to split the EU’ is nonsense!” He said that only those who do not understand the essence of international economic cooperation at this stage can express such wrong and harmful opinions.” Globalization is irreversible, and skeptical bureaucrats in Brussels and elsewhere finally understand it.”

“The correct response to China’s increasing activities in this part of Europe is not to prevent the countries in the region from carrying out more economic exchanges with China, but to encourage them, including increasing investment from China.” He pointed out that Chinese enterprises are competitive especially in physical infrastructure.

And the infrastructure investment planned by the European Union in 2021-2027 will be a wise strategy if it can be coordinated with China’s intention to invest in Central and Eastern Europe.

“In this case, multilateral cooperation is a good way to go.” Specifically, to upgrade the hardware infrastructure of Central and Eastern European countries, Kovodko pointed out that the infrastructure of these countries still lags behind Western European standards and often lags behind China in some places.” Therefore, China’s capital, enterprises and technology should not be regarded as enemies or hostile competitors, but as allies.”

At present, Serbia and Hungary in Central and Eastern European countries are already using or purchasing Chinese vaccines.

In response to the potential of China and Central and Eastern European countries in anti-epidemic cooperation, Kovodko said that the first priority now is to vaccinate billions of people around the world.

This work should be coordinated globally, and no other organization is more suitable to achieve this goal than the World Health Organization.

“As long as you have confirmed the effectiveness in an independent and qualified manner, it is the business of each country to choose which vaccine.

From this perspective, we are currently getting more and more promising vaccines, including those in China and Russia.” Kołodko, who is waiting for vaccination in Poland, said that if he happens to be vaccinated against China, it will certainly be a good thing.

“As long as the vaccine works, it will be great no matter where the country of production and user is. The most important thing is to protect as many people as possible from this disaster in the shortest possible time.”

He believes that China can also make a lot of contributions in this regard.

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