|Ambassador Wen Zhenshun on 4th Summit Meeting of 16+1|
Before the Summit Meeting of the Heads of the Government between China and Central and Eastern European Countries, Mr. Wen Zhenshun, Ambassador to the Republic of Macedonia had an interview with the Euro-Times:
1.What do you think current circumstances say about the value and meaning of the China-CEEC summit?
Wen Zhenshun: Central and Eastern Europe is located in a transitional region which links Europe, Asia and Africa, making it an important strategic location. With the promotion of the the China-CEEC summit, the relationship between the two [blocs] is getting close[r], while cooperation in the areas of politics, economics, trade, agriculture, culture, health and tourism are deepening. The China-CEEC summit has not only become a driving force in the development of China and the CEEC, but also infuses new life into Sino-European relations. China and the CEEC have a traditional friendship. When the People's Republic of China had just been founded, some countries in Central and Eastern Europe began to establish diplomatic relations with China, which laid the foundation for this cooperation. The economies of the CEEC have been growing rapidly in recent years, and they have a great need to cooperate with other countries. At the same time, China has become a more open-minded country under the guidance of the "Go Global" policy. The cooperation between the two blocs is complementary and beneficial for pushing economic growth and improving people's lives. Cooperation between China and the CEEC is a significant element in the cooperation between China and Europe. It is beneficial for both sides and for the balance of development within the EU, playing an important role in regional integration. Compared with their counterparts within the EU, the economies of the CEEC are relatively backward. The 16+1 cooperation takes mutual benefit and win-win outcomes as core values, providing essential support for the improvement of the[se countries'] infrastructures and the connectivity, becoming a driving force in relations between China and the EU.
2.What achievements in the areas of trade, investment, culture and education involving both Macedonia and China have been reached in recent years, and wha does this reflect?
Wen Zhenshun: Through promotion by national leaders, cooperation between China and Macedonia in the areas of trade, culture and education are fruitful, giving the two countries their best era yet in terms of bilateral relations. Trade cooperation has seen new breakthroughs. Bilateral trade volume is increasing, reaching US$525 million in 2014, signifying year-on-year growth of 8.5 percent, making China Macedonia's seventh-largest trading partner of Macedonia for the third year in a row. In the first half of 2015, bilateral trade volume reached US$267 million, signifying year-on-year growth of 10.9 percent, even though Macedonia's total foreign trade volume fell by 11.8 percent [in the same period]. A 104-kilometer highway is being constructed in Macedonia by SINOHYDRO. The project, which was offered a loan of 579 million euros by the Export-Import Bank of China, has become the largest-ever Sino-Macedonian joint infrastructure project. A contract to allow CSR Zhuzhou to supply four diesel and two electric multiple-unit [trains] to Macedonian national operator MZ Transport was signed in 2014. This agreement, valued at 25 million Euro, makes Macedonia the first European country to import Chinese rolling stock. Cultural exchange is a new area of development. As bilateral relations are getting closer, more and more Macedonians, especially the young, are beginning to get interested in the Chinese language. The country's first Confucius Institute was founded in Skopje in 2013, providing opportunities and platforms for people-to-people exchanges between the two countries. The elementary school founded by the Chinese government in Rajko-zinky Fauve in 2014 has commenced classes as further proof of a bridge of friendship between China and Macedonia. Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine and the University of Stip signed a cooperation memorandum on founding a local TCM center, as a starting point for cooperation in the area of medicine. Future cooperation also has great potential. China and Macedonia have strong desires to cooperate in the areas of agriculture, energy and tourism. The quality of Macedonian lamb, for example, is high, and they have a need to export to China. Last year, both parties reached an agreement on quarantine and veterinary standards when exporting frozen lamb to China. Macedonia is open to China regarding new energy exploration and investment. And more and more Chinese tourists visit Macedonia, attaining a growth of 76 percent in the first half of 2015.
3.China is vigorously pursuing the Belt and Road Initiatives, which focuses on connectivity and cooperation among primarily Eurasian countries. Is Macedonia interested in joining, what are its expectations and what advantages does Macedonia have?
Wen Zhenshun: The Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road, also known as the Belt and Road Initiatives, has gained popular attention and wide support among 60 countries and their peoples, including positive feedback from Macedonia. The Foreign Ministry of Macedonia has already noticed China per Verbal Note that they are willing to participate in the strategy, and that they welcome cooperation in the areas of infrastructure, economic zones, investment and trade. During the Belgrade Summit in 2014, the national leaders of China, Macedonia,Hungary, and Serbia announced the building of a land-sea express corridor linking a Greek port with landlocked Hungary to speed up transportation between China and Europe. At the same time, they signed framework agreements on facilitating customs clearance. Macedonia is located in the center of Balkan Peninsula in southeastern Europe, and has a population of two million. It also located at the intersection of corridors 8 and 10 of the Trans-European Transport Network, meaning it has an important strategic location. The economy of Macedonia has grown rapidly in recent years, outpacing the rest of Europe. What's more, it has a relatively low cost of high quality labor, and a business environment that is suitable for investment. Macedonia has a need for and the potential to attract foreign capital and improve its infrastructure, and its government has stated on many occasions that they would like to open an exclusive industrial and technological development zone for Chinese investors. The idea that Macedonia welcomes Chinese companies to invest in infrastructures construction also attracts many Chinese entrepreneurs to visit Macedonia.
4. What are your expectations for future bilateral cooperation?
Wen Zhenshun: China and Macedonia have had diplomatic relations for 22 years. During this time, bilateral relations have gotten better and better, with cooperation in various areas getting closer and closer. In recent years, the national leaders of the two countries and their respective peoples have exchanged ideas frequently and intensely, laying the foundations of future cooperation. The common efforts of both parties and accumulation of rich experience has ensured future cooperation. The Belt and Road Initiatives proposed by China also offers new opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation. I wish and believe that through shared effort, future cooperation between China and Macedonia will be even better and more fruitful.