By H.E. Mr. Jian Tan, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
It is a great honour as well as heavy responsibility for me to serve as ambassador of China to the Netherlands.
In my more than three decades of service in foreign affairs, I spent most of the years in multilateral development field. I worked in Geneva and New York. Yet my first posting was bilateral, in Indonesia. My previous one was ambassador to Ethiopia, the roof of Africa. So, I flowed from the highland to the lowland — the Netherlands.
Since my arrival on the Christmas day of 25th December last year, I have reached out to the government, business and academia in the Netherlands. I am quite impressed by the perseverance and openness of the Dutch people. With perseverance, they have turned the lowland into beautiful homeland; with openness, they are the driving force for multilateralism and free trade.
Although situated on the opposite side of the Eurasia continent, our two peoples share many similarities, and the two countries have been building the “Open and Pragmatic Partnership of Comprehensive Cooperation”. There are many bright spots of this partnership and cooperation.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, leaders from China and the Netherlands have been in close contact through telephone conversations and exchanges of letters. The two governments have worked together in establishing a special cargo air bridge to ensure essential medical supplies to the Netherlands, maintaining a stable industrial and supply chain, and promoting economic recovery.
Climate change is an important area of our close cooperation. In 2019, the Global Center on Adaption based in the Netherlands set its first overseas office in China. In January 2021, China’s Vice Premier Mr. Han Zheng virtually attended the Climate Adaption Summit held in the Netherlands. China has set the goal of peaking carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality before 2060. The job is hard, but our commitment is firm. The Netherlands has been a champion on sustainable development and our cooperation could make a difference in combating climate change.
Both countries support multilateralism. The Netherlands is a role model in international development cooperation. China is for North-South, South-South and Tripartite Cooperation. The two countries maintain consultations on major international and regional issues within the frameworks of the UN, G20, WTO and WHO. There are also practical exchanges and cooperation like on Mali peacekeeping and Somali anti-piracy operations. Together, China and the Netherlands could make important contribution to the international system with the UN as its core, the international order with international law as its basis, the multilateral trading system with the WTO as its corner stone.
Our bilateral trade last year, against all odds, grew by 7.8% to a historical high of 91.8 billion dollars, and Dutch export to China expanded by 14.2%. Our mutual direct investment is also larger than other EU countries. This extraordinary performance during the pandemic is a testament to the resilience and the potential of our economic relations. The sky is the limit. Last year, China was the only major economy registering a positive growth, and became the largest trading partner of the EU. This year it is projected to grow by more than 6%. More importantly, China’s reform and opening up will only be further deepened and widened.
While being optimistic, I am very sober-minded about the challenges ahead.
Both China and the Netherlands commit to protect human rights, though our approach may not be the same given the level of development. While acknowledging people’s political and civil rights, China attaches great importance to the right to development and people’s well being.
We prioritize the improvement of people’s living standard. Over the past four decades and more, China has lifted over 800 million people out of poverty, including about 100 million in the past 8 years. China has completed, 10 years in advance, the goal of poverty reduction set in the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This is a historical achievement for China and for humanity.
We prioritize the protection of people’s life. Faced with the sudden onslaught of Covid-19, the government took quick decision to lockdown Wuhan, a city of more than 10 million people; and Hubei, a province of about 60 million people. There was no hesitation in weighing the health and the economy. Life first.
Recently there have been intensive exchanges on issues related to Xinjiang and Hong Kong. Please allow me to touch each briefly.
The Constitution of the People’s Republic of China stipulates the protection of human rights, the protection of the spoken and written languages and the preservation of traditions and customs of all ethnic groups, the prohibition on discrimination against and oppression of any ethnic group.
Over the past two decades and more, Xinjiang was plagued by terrorism and violence. Thousands of terrorist attacks have caused huge casualties and property losses. Terrorism is the common enemy to the world. The UN Action Plan to Prevent Violent Extremism points out that, poverty, unemployment, lack of education, and distortion of religious belief, among others, are causes for violence and extremism. We therefore have taken measures to address the root causes by providing education and training to those affected, help them get jobs and stay away from violence and religious extremism.
Since 2014, over 3 million people in Xinjiang have been lifted out of poverty. The Uyghur population in Xinjiang increased by 25 percent between 2010 and 2018, and doubled over the past 40 years. China is firmly against forced labour. Besides, given the quality and quantity of Chinese labour force, it just makes no sense, politically or economically, to use forced labour.
Hong Kong has enjoyed a high degree of administrative, legislative and economic autonomy since its return to China in 1997. The implementation of “one country, two systems” is a big success. Still, with the lapse of 24 years after the handover, it’s time to take stock and improve. This is especially necessary given that over the past years, the anti-China radicals in Hong Kong committed vandalism, robbery and arson. They attempted to paralyze the Legislative Council, the government, and the airport, and went so far as to call for independence.
Riots are riots, be it in Hong Kong or other places. Those moves have crossed the bottom line of “one country, two systems”. The decision of the National People’s Congress of China to improve Hong Kong’s electoral system and uphold the principle of “patriots governing Hong Kong” are in line with the Constitution and the Basic Law of HKSAR as well as the established international practices. It is a common sense that a country’s citizens and public servants in particular should love their country and observe the Constitution. “Patriots” covers a wide scope and will not drive out diversity. For sure, Hong Kong’s tomorrow will be much better.
The year 2021 marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China (CPC). Under its leadership, China has realized the task of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, and will embark on a new journey toward fully building a modern socialist country. In its newly unveiled 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025), China aims to foster a new development paradigm for high quality growth. China is focusing on achieving its development goal, including that of the climate change. China is getting more and more connected with the rest of the world, now being the major trading partner for over 120 countries and regions. In 2019, there were as many as 155 million outbound Chinese tourists. As the most populous country, China is becoming the largest consumption market in the world. China’s development is a huge opportunity for other countries.
Recently, we have heard a lot of rhetoric about decoupling, isolation, containment, even a new cold war. It seems that China bashing has become a political correct in some countries. Our goal is to meet the growing aspiration of the Chinese people for a better life. To replace any other country is never our national strategy. We export goods, not political system. It is universally accepted that there is no one-size-fits-all development model and China will continue to develop in a way suited to its own national conditions. This is a diversified world. Countries may differ in civilization, culture, political system and level of development, but no one is to be excluded or isolated.
Developing countries have the right to develop, integrate into the global value chain, move up and have a place in high-tech. Of course they are required to play by the rules including respecting intellectual property rights. Alleging some hi-tech companies from China of spying without evidence is a far cry from free and fair competition. The unprecedented global challenges today require unprecedented cooperation. We aim to build a community of shared future for mankind. Climate change affects every country, virus respects no border. We are living in a global village, and share our fate in the same boat. International cooperation is the only way out.
Next year, China and the Netherlands will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of our ambassadorial diplomatic relationship. Our relations have withstood the changes in the international landscape over half a century. Our bilateral relationship is termed by our leaders as “Open and Pragmatic Partnership for Comprehensive Cooperation”. We have shared interests, no fundamental interest conflict. As ambassador, I am committed to enhancing understanding and promoting partnership.
The Netherlands is a beautiful place, the Dutch are great people. So, while working hard, I will find time to explore the country, know the people and have a good time.