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Ambassador Zhang Zuo Gives Exclusive Interview on MRT

2019-10-11

On October 10, H.E. Ambassador Zhang Zuo gave an exclusive interview on MRT Interview of the Week hosted by Zoran Bogatinov. The full text is as follows.

Bogatinov: Welcome to be new ambassador in North Macedonia in this special year of the 70th anniversary of the Founding of the People’s Republic of China. What are your priorities?

Ambassador Zhang Zuo: As new Chinese Ambassador to North Macedonia in this special year, I sincerely feel my responsibilities are great and my mission honorable. China and North Macedonia have enjoyed good bilateral relations and profound traditional friendship. Since the establishment of diplomatic ties, our two countries have maintained close high-level exchanges, strong political mutual trust and fruitful practical cooperation. I will keep my original aspiration and mission firmly in mind, and work with the side of North Macedonia to promote our bilateral relations to a new level:

Firstly, we will deepen our political mutual trust, actively promote high-level exchanges, fully prepare for high-level events including the summit between China and CEE countries, and promote exchanges between political parties, legislatures and governments at various levels of our two countries, so as to consolidate our traditional friendship and political mutual trust.

Secondly, we will promote mutual benefits in economic field, deepen joint construction of “the Belt and Road” and “17+1 Cooperation”, actively expand space for mutual beneficial cooperation, and deepen bilateral cooperation in fields such as trade, investment, energy, agriculture and infrastructure.

Thirdly, we will enhance people-to-people exchanges and add new impetus for the development of bilateral relations. I will expand cultural exchanges and exchanges between local governments, continue to work on an agreement on Mutual Exemption of Visas for Ordinary Passport Holders, deepen exchanges and cooperation in fields such as culture, tourism, education, science and technology, and traditional Chinese medicine.

Fourthly, we will keep mutual learning in the security field, enhance dialogues and exchanges on national defense, expand cooperation in law enforcement, and jointly combat transnational crime, so as to safeguard common security and universal security.

Fifthly, we will maintain mutual support in multilateral affairs, respect each other’s core interests and major concerns, strengthen communication and coordination in international affairs, and promote dialogues and exchanges, so as to achieve win-win and multi-win.

Bogatinov: What results have been achieved after the establishment of the China-Central and Eastern European Countries (17+1) Cultural Cooperation Coordination Center in Skopje? In November 24-26 this year, the 17+1 Cultural Cooperation Forum will be held in North Macedonia. What are your expectations for this forum?

Ambassador Zhang Zuo: North Macedonia has a long history, splendid culture, beautiful scenery and friendly people. The 17+1 Cultural Cooperation Coordination Center and the 4th 17+1 Cultural Cooperation Forum will establish an important platform for cultural cooperation between China and the Central and Eastern European countries and bring new development opportunities to the CEE countries and inject fresh vigor for development into North Macedonia.

The “17+1” Cultural Cooperation Coordination Center was established in Skopje in March 2018 and operated by the Ministry of Culture of North Macedonia. The establishment of the Coordination Center opened doors for more cooperation between 18 countries. It has organized and coordinated the exchanges and cooperation in the cultural field among China and CEE countries, such as organizing the 3rd "16+1" Creative Culture Industry Forum in Poland in June 2018, the "16+1" Creative Industry Think Tank Forum in Brussels in February this year and so on.

The 4th "17+1" Cultural Cooperation Forum to be held in November this year will adopt the "17+1" Cultural Cooperation Declaration and the Guidelines for Cultural Cooperation 2020-2021, covering fields such as the creative cultural industries, cultural heritage, film, library alliance, symphony orchestra and others. During the forum, an online platform for communication and coordination between cultural institutions and artists of 18 countries will be presented. This platform will play a role in promoting the “17+1” cultural exchange and experience sharing.

Bogatinov: North Macedonia and China have good cooperation in fields like infrastructure construction and investments, and companies from both sides have benefited. So what projects and plans are to be expected?

Ambassador Zhang Zuo: China and North Macedonia are natural partners. Thanks to the “Belt and Road” initiative and “17+1 Cooperation” platform, we have carried out comprehensive cooperation in various fields. China is the largest non-European trading partner of North Macedonia, and North Macedonia is one of the destinations for Chinese tourists. As the landmark projects for our cooperation, KO and MS motorways will play significant role in promoting the economic and social development of North Macedonia as well as regional interconnectivity.

China is willing to work closely with North Macedonia to continue to promote joint construction of the “Belt and Road” with high-quality, enhance synergy of development strategies under the 17+1 cooperation framework, and deepen cooperation in the fields of interconnectivity, culture, tourism, information and communication, energy resource and power, and production capacity. We are also willing to vigorously expand innovative cooperation in the fields of digital economy, E-commerce, financial technology, smart cities and etc., support exchanges and cooperation between trade and investment promotion institutions and enterprises of our two sides, so as to better benefit our two countries and peoples.

Bogatinov: What is your comment regarding the recent statement of U.S. State Secretary Pompeo during his visit to North Macedonia that" North Macedonia should be careful on the Chinese influence in the country"?

Ambassador Zhang Zuo: In recent years, some public figures in Western countries often send off warnings to other countries not to cooperate with China by using the pretexts like corruption, non-transparency, debt traps, and risks of China’s investment in sensitive technologies. I want to point out that relevant countries will have their own judgments regarding whether it is in their own interest to cooperate with China. Those Western public figures who tried to discredit and even demonize the cooperation with China have overestimated their ability to disseminate rumors and sow discord, while underestimating people of all countries on their wisdom and capabilities to tell right from wrong.

China adheres to principles of being open, green and clean in “the Belt and Road” cooperation. Together with all parties, China combats corruption with Zero tolerance and pursues goals of meeting high-standard, improving people’s lives and being sustainable in each project. For example, the first phase of Education Network project built with the Chinese aid was highly praised by teachers and students in 23 high schools in Skopje. Therefore, we have launched feasibility study on the second phase of the Education Network project. Looking forward, China will pay attention to wider areas of people's livelihood, such as medical care, so as to bring benefits of Chinese development aid to more people in North Macedonia.

Bogatinov: North Macedonia will soon become a member of NATO and start accession negotiations with the European Union. What will be the changes in diplomatic, economic as well as other relations between our two countries?

Ambassador Zhang Zuo: China adheres to the path of peaceful development and pursues a win-win and mutual benefit strategy of opening-up. Together with peoples of all countries in the world, China promotes the construction of a community with a shared future for mankind. 12 members of the “17+1 cooperation” are EU members. China has enjoyed good cooperation with all of them. Therefore, North Macedonia has full potential to become a bridge between China and the Western countries, between Asia and Europe.

Our world now is undergoing profound changes unseen in a century. The most prominent features of the international situation are rising instability and uncertainties, as well as intensifying risks and challenges. Faced with global challenges, all countries in the world should work together to cope with them. China and North Macedonia are both at a key stage to pursue high-quality development, both at a critical period of development transformation and upgrading. The relationship between our two countries is open and inclusive. On the basis of peaceful development and win-win cooperation, our two countries could jointly promote the building of a community with a shared future for mankind, by becoming friends who treat each other as equals, partners who benefit from win-win cooperation and brothers who trust each other.

Bogatinov: China will host the China-Central and Eastern European Countries Summit next year. Last time when China hosted such summit was five years ago. What are your expectations for the practical cooperation between China and North Macedonia within the "17+1" cooperation framework?

Ambassador Zhang Zuo: Based on the concepts of equality, openness, pragmatism, innovation and win-win, the cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European countries has achieved comprehensive and rapid development. It has grown to be an important interface for the “Belt and Road” initiative to integrate into the European economic circle.

China will host the China-Central and Eastern European Countries (17+1) Summit next year. We will use this as an opportunity to discuss and agree on the key areas for cooperation in the next five years and the cooperation plan for 2020-2021, so that we will jointly draw blueprint for the future development of "17+1 Cooperation". We look forward to working with all parties to promote the development of China-CEEC cooperation mechanisms to be of wider range, broader areas and at higher level.

We are seeking opinions and suggestions of the side of North Macedonia regarding practical cooperation within the framework of the 17+1 cooperation. During the summit, Economic and Trade Forum will also be held. Enterprises from both China and North Macedonia can use this platform to find suitable partners.

China is also willing to take the opportunity of hosting the summit next year to discuss development plans with friends from North Macedonia to create a better future and promote the upgrading of China-North Macedonia cooperation.

Bogatinov: On this occasion, I would like to congratulate Your Excellency on the 70th anniversary of the Founding of the People’s Republic of China. Thank you for giving this interview.

Ambassador Zhang Zuo: Thank you. Tomorrow is the anniversary of Uprising against Fascism Day. I wish North Macedonia prosperous and its people at peace, and the friendship between China and North Macedonia last forever!

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