|Chinese Ambassador ZHANG Xianyi's Interview with STA about China-CEE Countries Cooperation and Bilateral Relations|
1. Your Excellency, you came to Slovenia only a few months ago. What was your first impression about Slovenia and what will be priorities of your mandate here?
After having worked and lived in Slovenia for nearly six month, I was deeply impressed by the inner peace and beautiful sceneries of this country. Slovenian people are diligent, intelligent and warm. Remarkable achievements have been made in the area of economy and social developments since Slovenia's independence. Now she is bothered by a temporary economic crisis, but I still believe that, Slovenian people has the capability and wisdom to overcome the crisis and enable the economy's quick return to the track of sound progress.
I felt great honoured to be appointed as the Chinese Ambassador to the Republic of Slovenia. So far, our two countries enjoy a very good political relations, this allows me to dedicate more efforts into the promotion of the bilateral cooperation in the field of economy and trade. The summit meeting between the government leader of China and Central and Eastern European countries in Warsaw this April has greatly improved the interest of mutual cooperation, paved the way for a promising future. During the summit meeting, Premier Wen Jiabao has announced China's twelve important cooperational measures, which covered wide ranges regarding economy and trade, investment as well as cultural activities, and brought about a new situation for comprehensive cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European Countries. This will definitely inject fresh energy into the bilateral relations between China and Slovenia. In this case, I will keep on working hard to consolidate the good political relations, and actively promote the practical cooperation between two countries in the fields of economy, science and technology and culture in order to continously bear fruitful results.
2. This year we celebrate 20 years of establishing diplomatic relations between Slovenia and China. How would you assess relations between the two countries?
China and Slovenia relations have been developed very fast since 20 years ago, pragmatic cooperations in various fields have been positively enhanced . The high level exchanges are frequent, communication across different levels and fields are getting more active, mutual trust has been deepened. China and Slovenia have very good communication and coordination in international and regional affairs. We've seen steady and fruitful progress of bilateral economic and trade cooperation with trade volume hits new high year by year. Besides governments, parliaments and central agencies, local cooperations are also getting more close. Current three pairs of sister cities, Chengdu and Ljubljana, Yixing and Novo Mesto and Jiujiang and Koper have smoothly developed their relations. Moreover, the content of culture exchanges between our two countries have been increasingly enriched, in addition to exchanges of culture delegations and students, Faculty of Philosophy and Faculty of Economics and Confucius Institute in Ljubljana University become important platform for bilateral culture exchange. China views Slovenia as an important partner in former Yugoslavia region and in central and eastern European countries as well. I hope that under the framework of China-Europe relations and China-central and eastern European countries cooperation, we can comprehensively deepen our bilateral relations.
3. How would you assess economic relations between Slovenia and China?
In last 20 years, China and Slovenia economic and trade cooperation has been carried out smoothly. The two sides established a joint economic and trade committee mechanism and organize regular meetings. The trade volume of our two countries raised from 11 million dollars in the beginning of our diplomatic relations to 1.88 billion dollars in 2011, which is nearly 160 times increase. Now Slovenia has become China's biggest trade partner in former Yugoslavia. This April, our two prime ministers had a meeting in Warsaw, Premier Wen Jiabao stated that China welcomes Slovenian side to step into Chinese market and encourages Chinese companies to develop their business in Slovenia, China is willing to take part in the central and eastern European countries' infrastructure development by cooperate with Slovenia, the two sides can discuss about developing entrepot trade and regional market. Prime Minister Janša said China is an important partner of Slovenia, Slovenia is also willing to join hands with China to realize a balanced increase of bilateral trade, and enhance communication and cooperation in infrastructure, science and technology. I reckon that this is an extremely important signal to enhance our bilateral economic and trade cooperation and expand mutual investment. Slovenia has a good geographical position,our bilateral economic and trade cooperation are highly complementary, only if two sides grasp opportunities and explore potentials, there will be new breakthrough in our economic and trade cooperation.
4. Slovenia has been heavily affected by the economic crisis which has also affected bilateral trade between the two countries. How can Slovenia and China boost economic relations and bilateral trade?
Due to the development of European debt crisis, the market demand from Europe Union as Slovenia's main export market will go on being weak for a certain period. While at the same time, China's economy still remains the momentum of high growth. According to China's 12th Five-year Plan, China will strive to rise the domestic consumption, transform the economic growth mode. During next five years, China's total foreign trade volume will reach 8 trillion USD, and the yearly outward investment will exceed 100 billion USD. This is an opportunity for Slovenia to initiate a change in the direction of exportation, to exploit Chinese market as well as attract potential investments from China.
China and Slovenia are complementary to each other in cooperational fields like trade, construction of infrastructure facilities, investment and travel business. Both sides have their own advantages in technology and capital markets. For the past few years, more and more Chinese business group has come to Slovenia for investigation and seeking the cooperation chances. Slovenian enterprises have invested over 10 million USD in China. I feel very happy to see that Slovenia's elite companies like Gorenje, Krka, Pipistrel are now making effort to develope in China market.
Furthermore, in recent years, especially since European debt crisis, we can sense that the complementarity of cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European Countries are going up straightly, while the match points of cooperation are growing, the political will are strenthened profoundly. But the current cooperation and the actual demands for both sides differ considerably. Take for example, 16 Central and East European Countries has the size of one-third of whole Europe with 123 million population, their total annual trade volume with China is only 50 billion US dollars, which just equals to the one between Italy and China, and their total investment in China only equals to that of Austria. This signifies that the potential of cooperation are huge and still waiting to be digged out. Premier Wen Jiabao has announced China's twelve important cooperational measures for the friendly cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European countries in Warsaw summit meeting, including the establishment of a US$10 billion special credit line, the setting up of an investment cooperation fund between China and central and eastern European countries with the goal of raising US$500 million in the first stage, encouraging Chinese enterprises to cooperate with relevant countries to establish one economic and technological zone in each country in the next five years. All of these measures will provide valuable conditions and chances for the economic and trade cooperation between China and Slovenia.
In my way of thinking, Slovenia has gathered a lot of successful experiences during the process of self-development after gained independence, the current economic crisis won't last long, we are confident in Slovenia's beaking out the crisis, and keep faith in the bilateral economic and trade relations of China and Slovenia. As long as we are going to seize the opportunity, enhance the engagement and cooperation, the economic and trade relations between China and Slovenia will develope rapidly in the future.
5. Slovenia is in need of fresh capital and foreign investments. Are there any concrete talks of any Chinese investment in Slovenia? Which infrastructure projects in Slovenia are interesting for Chinese investors?
In recent years, several Chinese enterprises have come to Slovenia to seek investment chances, for example, the China Development Bank(CDB) is interested in investing in Slovenia. Mr. Gao Jian, the vice governor of CDB visited Slovenia in May 2012. Chinese side is willing to cooperate with Slovenia in all operational infrastructure projects, including railway, port and motor road.
6. China showed interest in investing in Slovenian railways and Slovenia's only sea port in the past. This interest still exists or has China decided to invest in infrastructure projects in Croatia instead?
As I mentioned above, Chinese side is willing to participate in any operational infrastructure projects including Slovenian railway and ports. As for success of related projects, it depends on particular business environment. We hope to achieve a win-win goal through projects cooperation, which will improve local infrastructure and regional interconnection, and set up good conditions for further participation of cooperation by Chinese enterprises .
7. After successful summit of leaders from China and Central and Eastern European Countries in April in Warsaw Chinese Foreign Ministry is now establishing Secretariat for Cooperation between China and CEE countries. What will be the main purpose of the Secretariat?
The Secretariat for cooperation between China and central and eastern European countries is established by Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry as an important organization for promoting cooperation between China and 16 central and eastern European countries. Chinese vice minister of foreign affairs Mr. SongTao is the first Secretary-General. The Secretariat consists of 18 member units including Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry, The International Department of the CPC Central Committee, Development and Reform Commission, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Railways, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Culture etc. The setting up of the Secretariat is an important step to implement 12 measures announced by Chinese Premier WenJiabao during Warsaw meeting. After Chinese side announced to establish the Secretariat, all 16 CEE countries promptly appointed national coordinators or relative competent departments and agencies to work with the Secretariat, which reflects great importance and high expectations attached by CEE countries to cooperation. The Secretariat is set up to coordinate among Chinese departments and agencies of CEE countries, implement the results of the Meeting between Chinese and CEE Leaders, identify the direction and priority areas of future cooperation and work to push cooperation forward. The establishment of the Secretariat marks that China and CEE countries' cooperation steps onto a mechanism track.
8. Do you think the Secretariat will help improving relations between China and CEE countries?
There is no doubt about that. This morning in Beijing,the Inaugual Conference of the Secretariat for Cooperation between China and CEE Countries and the first National Coordinator's Meeting was held in Beijing. At the invitation of Mr Song Tao, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of China and Secretary-General of the Secretariat for Cooperation between China and CEE Countries, National Coordinators or representatives from the 16 CEE Countries attended the meeting. On behalf of Slovenian side is Dr . Raščan, Director-General for Economic Diplomacy in Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia. The Chinese side and the 16 CEE Countries agreed that the working network for the cooperation between China and CEE Countries has been basically in place, which will help deepen cooperation in the long run. In the meeting the Chinses side introduced the progress that the various Chinese departments and agencies have made in the 12 cooperation measures in the economic, trade, investment, culture, educational, tourim and other areas since the Warsaw Meeting. Representatives of the 16 countries briefed the meeting on the actions their respective country has taken to step up cooperation between China and CEE Countries.Besides, the Chinese side briefed the meeting on its thoughts about how to put into practice in the next phase measures such as the $10 billion special credit line, the $500 million investment cooperation fund, sending Chinese trade and investment promotion missions to CEE Countries,the establishment of an expert advisory committee on the construction of transportation network between China and CEE Countries and Chinese enterprises working with CEE Countries to establish economic and technological zones, and announced the implementation plan for the research fund on relations between China and CEE Countries. The Chinese side plans to organise a tourism products promotion for China and CEE Countries during the China International Tourism Mart in November 2012 and hold a forum on cultural cooperation between China and CEE Countries in the first half of 2013 and the first Young Plitical Leaders Forum of China and CEE Countries and the first Education Policy Dialogue between China and CEE Countries in the second half of 2013.
In the future, the Secretariat will actively work around the implementation of the above measures as well as organization of related activities. So I believe, with the establishment of the Secretariat and its following work, China and Slovenia and other CEE countries will definitely welcome a new period of comprehensive, rapid and deep development.