|Speech by H. E. Ambassador Wei Ruixing at the Plenary Session of Lithuania-China Business Council|
(January 26th, 2017)
Mrs. Giedre Švedienė, Executive Director of Lithuanian Confederation of Industrialists,
Mr. Mindaugas Reinikis, Chairman of Lithuania-China Business Council,
Leaders of Business Community,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my great pleasure and honor to join you at the very beginning of 2017, which gives me a great opportunity to meet many friends, old and new, from the business community. Over the years, many of you have made consistent efforts and great contributions to the promotion of mutually beneficial cooperation between China and Lithuania and the mutual understanding and friendship between the two peoples. I wish to take this opportunity to express my deep appreciation to each and every one of you present here this afternoon. As the Chinese New Year of Rooster is coming in two days, I wish you all Happy Chinese New Year and every success in the years to come.
Ladies and Gentlemen: I feel very much honored to speak to such a distinguished audience. Now with your permission, I wish to give you a very brief introduction of China's economic and social development, and to share with you some of my observations on China-Lithuania bilateral relations, trade and economic cooperation in particular.
1. Chinese Economy Maintained Stability While Making Steady Progress.
During the past year, there have been some speculations and concerns or doubts about China's economic development both at home and abroad, including some European countries. What would happen to China's economy? Could China maintain medium-to-high economic growth? Could China move to medium-high development levels?
I wish to share with you some latest released statistics in regard to China's economic and social development in 2016.
(1) At the background of continued slowdown (or weak recovery) of global economic growth, China's total GDP recorded about 11.18 trillion US dollars, maintaining the second largest economy of the world. Household consumption and the services sector have become the main drivers of growth, with the services sector accounting for 51.6% of GDP. According to the forecast by IMF in October last year, the global economic growth of 2016 would be 3.1%. That means China's contribution to the world economic growth is about 38%.
The actual GDP growth was 6.7% over 2015. According to the report recently released by IMF, India's GDP growth is estimated 6.6%. That means China came back as the fastest growing economy (in 2015, India recorded 7.6% growth, China 6.9%).
(2) China's total volume of import and export registered about 3.655 trillion US dollars, maintaining the world largest country of foreign trade, although with a decrease of 0.9%. What is encouraging is that the volume of import and export with the countries along "the Belt and Road", including Lithuania, accounted for over a quarter of China's total volume of foreign trade.
(3) China is one of the most attractive investment destinations in the world today, with the actual utilization of 122.4 billion US dollars of foreign investment in 2016, and remained the second largest country in terms of direct investment in foreign countries with 170.1 billion US dollars, an increase of 44.1% over 2015.
(4) By the end of 2016, China's foreign exchange reserve was 3.01 trillion US dollars. Although with a decrease of 320 billion comparing with the end of 2015, China maintained the largest country of the world in terms of foreign exchange reserve.
(5) Domestic consumption contributed to 71% of economic growth. The inflation rate was 2%, within the set limit of 3%.
(6) Household income and employment have steadily risen, while per unit GDP energy consumption dropped (about 5%). Thirteen million new jobs were created, surpassing the whole year target of ten million.
From my above brief introduction, we can see that the Chinese economy has maintained stability while making steady progress. However, the Chinese Government and people are fully aware that there is no plain sailing on our way of development.
The Chinese economy faces downward pressure and many difficulties, including acute mismatch between excess capacity and an upgrading demand structure, lack of internal driving force for growth, accumulation of financial risks, and growing challenges in certain regions. We see these as temporary hardships that occur on the way forward. And the measures we have taken to address these problems are producing good results. We are firm in our resolve to forge ahead. China is the world's largest developing country with over 1.3 billion people, and their living standards are not yet high. But this reality also means China has enormous potential and space for development.
Looking into the future, guided by the vision of innovative, coordinated, green, open and shared development, with 900 million labor forces and more than 70 million market players, China's economy has tremendous resilience and great potential to leverage. We will adapt to the new normal of the economic growth, stay ahead of the curve, and make coordinated efforts to maintain steady growth, accelerate reform, adjust economic structure, improve people's living standards and fend off risks. With these efforts, we aim to achieve medium-high rate of growth and upgrade the economy to higher end of the value chain in the long run.
2. China-Lithuania Bilateral Relations Have Made Much Headway.
Last year, we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the establishment of China-Lithuania diplomatic relations. A quarter of a century is a short period of time in the long history of humankind. However, the past 25 years, which were quite unusual in the development of our bilateral relations, have witnessed continuous development of the friendly relations and mutually beneficial cooperation between our two countries on the basis of the five principles of peaceful coexistence.
During the past 25 years, there have been frequent exchange of high-level visits and meetings, which have enhanced mutual political trust between our two countries; trade and economic cooperation between the two countries have been accelerated, and cooperation in other areas has been expanded both in depth and scope, which have brought tangible benefits to our two peoples; there have been frequent people-to-people and cultural exchanges, which have promoted mutual understanding and friendship between our two peoples.
In early 1990s, there was not much trade between China and Lithuania. With the joint efforts of both sides, Lithuania has now become and maintained for many years China's largest trading partner among the Baltic countries, and China is the largest trading partner of Lithuania in Asia. According to the statistics of China's Customs, from January to November of 2016, the total volume of trade between China and Lithuania was about 1.3 billion US dollars (1.2 billion Euros), up by 8.51% over the same period of 2015, of which China's exports to Lithuania was about 1.15 billion US dollars (1.064 billion Euros), an increase of 7.92%, and Lithuania's exports to China was about 150 million US dollars (136 million Euros), a rise of 13.56%. This is a remarkable growth at the background of slowing down in global trade. Even though Lithuania has been experiencing a trade deficit, Lithuania's exports to China during the past three years have achieved double-digit growth annually.
What is worth mentioning is that substantial progress has been made during the past two years for the export of Lithuanian agricultural products to China. The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of China (QSIQ) issued certificates to 15 Lithuanian companies to export aquatic products to China in May, and to 17 Lithuanian companies to export dairy products to China in August, laying a good foundation for expanding Lithuania's exports to China, and promoting cooperation in agricultural sector between the two countries. 20 tons of Lithuanian cheese products were shipped to China a few days ago. This is the first shipment of Lithuanian dairy products to China this year, and it is certain that there will be more following.
Though the two-way investment of our two countries is not in large scale, yet it is developing relatively fast and expanding in new areas. The Chinese companies, such as Huawei Technologies, ZTE Corporation, leading mobile solutions companies, and GRG Banking Equipment Group, have established their offices in Lithuania, all being healthily operated. Last year, China Merchants Group set up an office in Klaipeda and Vilnius respectively and established a joint venture for logistics, China IBS Group established its first International Settlement Center of Europe in Vilnius. There are also a number of Lithuanian companies that have their business establishments in China.
The past few years also witnessed frequent exchange of visits of business delegations, such as the Chinese delegations to Lithuania attending the Conference of "Silk Road connecting China with Europe via Baltic", and "2016 Baltic Transportation Fair", and the Lithuanian delegations to China attending "The Investment and Trade Expo of CEEC" in Ningbo, and "China International Agricultural Trade Fair" in Kunming and so on. Some important business events were successfully held last year both in Lithuania and China, such as "China Hi-Tech Fair 2016 Lithuania Sub-Fair" in Klaipeda and Vilnius in June, and "China Textile & Garment Brand Show" in Vilnius in late September and early October, and "Lithuania-China Business Forum" in Beijing in March, which was co- organized by Lithuania-China Business Council and China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT). Besides, Lithuanian entrepreneurs attended "The Economic and Trade Forum" of China and Central and Eastern European Countries (CEECs) in Riga in November during the 5th Meeting of the Heads of Government of CEECs. I believe some friends present here today have witnessed and participated in those events.
3. A More Important Role Is to be Played by the Council.
Since the establishment of Lithuania-China Business Council three years ago, the Council has been making great efforts and important contributions not only in bringing the business communities of China and Lithuania together to have mutually beneficial cooperation, but also in promoting the mutual understanding and friendship between our two peoples. I wish to avail myself of this opportunity to express my deep appreciation to the Council and all members, particularly Ambassador Oswaldas Čiukšys, the founding Chairman of the Council. As the development of China-Lithuania relations is gaining a good momentum and the mutually beneficial cooperation in various fields between the two countries are broadening and deepening, I think that there are great opportunities for Lithuanian enterprises to have business cooperation with your counterparts in China. In this process, Lithuania-China Business Council has a more important role to play. I wish to share with you some of my thoughts.
(1) To Broaden the Channels for Mutual Understanding
China's "Belt and Road Initiative" and the mechanism of "China and Central and Eastern European Countries Cooperation ("16+1 Cooperation") provide good platforms for enhancing mutual understanding among 16+1. The year 2017 is designated as the year of China-CEECs Media Cooperation. Media from China and CEECs are encouraged to film videos, documentaries, and to explore cooperation in co-production of multimedia products. This is a good opportunity for Lithuania enterprises in this sector to present the charm of Lithuania to the Chinese people, and I hope that the Council will take the lead.
Besides, a number of business fairs, supported by the Chinese Government, such as "China-CEECs Investment and Trade Expo" in Ningbo in June and "China International Agricultural Trade Fair" in the second half of 2017, will offer favorable treatment for participants. The Council is encouraged to organize business delegations to participate in the above-mentioned fairs to explore business opportunities.
(2) To Move with the Times and Strengthen Cooperation in Innovation-Oriented Areas
"Innovation" is one of the five major development concepts. It plays a key role for high quality cooperation between China and Lithuania. China is moving toward the world's largest high-tech producer. The added-value and exports amount of China's high-tech industry is now ranking the top of the world, while Lithuania has many advantages in innovation-oriented areas, such as Life Science, Laser and Biotech. The two countries have strong foundation to cooperate in innovation sector.
Meanwhile, Innovation also means exploring new areas of cooperation. We have made progress in agriculture and transportation cooperation. If we further analyze the complementary advantages of both markets, I believe, more entry points will be found in various fields.
Besides, to explore new model of cooperation is also a way of innovation, especially financial cooperation model, which could bring into full play the role of the funds and credits in the framework of jointly building "the Road and Belt" and that of "16+1 Cooperation". The wisdom and ideas from Lithuania-China Business council and all of you present here today are indispensable for all kinds of innovation.
(3) To Take a Long-Term Perspective and to be an Envoy for Fair Trade
Today, the slow growth of global trade is inseparably related with the rise of trade protectionism. With technology progress and economic and social development in today's world, globalization is an irresistible trend. Trade protection measures are a short-sighted behavior. President Xi Jinping of China said at World Economic Forum in Davos about a week ago, "Pursuing protectionism is like locking oneself in a dark room. While wind and rain may be kept outside, that dark room will also block light and air. No one will emerge as a winner in a trade war." I hope that, on the basis of mutual political trust and mutual beneficial cooperation, China and Lithuania will work together to curb trade protectionism and strengthen cooperation for win-win results, which is the right way towards a healthy growth and common development. In would be very much appreciated if the Council could play an active role in strengthening dialogues with industries to resolve trade frictions through friendly discussions and sincere cooperation.
Last but not least, I am encouraged that the working relationship between the Chinese Embassy in Vilnius and Lithuania-China Business Council has been maintained and strengthened. I wish to assure you that the Chinese Embassy will continue to keep in close contacts with the Council and support the Council's development, as our common aspiration is to achieve as many fruitful results as possible in trade and economic cooperation between our two countries.
In conclusion, I wish, once again, to express my sincere thanks to the Council and Mr. Mr. Mindaugas Reinikis for inviting me to speak to such a distinguished audience, and I wish you all Happy Chinese New Year and every success in the years to come. Thank you.